Platform Construction Begins (2/4/16)

In my last Construction Note, I told you that steel beams and precast concrete planks would be arriving in February to begin the construction of the I-395 platform and tunnel. February has arrived and sometime during the next two weeks, these construction materials will arrive also, along with a huge crane to lift the steel beams. The beams that will cross the highway will be 90 feet long, between four and six feet tall, and will weigh between 80,000 and 160,000 pounds. The Manitowoc 2250 crane that lifts the steel girders will weigh 300 tons. It is so large it will take twenty-five tractor truck loads to bring all of its parts to the construction site.

Once the parts are here, the crane will be assembled on site, using another crane and laborers to put it together. This huge crane has a 300 foot latticed heavy-lift boom (the lower part of the boom) and a 370 foot fixed jib on the end of it. It has a 500 horsepower engine, rides on tracks, and can lift 300 tons. You have probably never seen a crane this big before.

Unfortunately for us at Georgetown, platform construction brings the resumption of night work on Monday, February 8th. Night work is necessary because the highway must be closed to traffic in order to position the crane in a way that allows it to lift the girders onto the columns at the east and west sides and down the middle of the highway. The same is true when the walls between the columns are built with precast concrete slabs. As I mentioned some time ago, the D.C. Department of Transportation will not permit the highway to be closed during the day. Because of the size of the beams and the crane, and the inherent danger of moving such large girders, traffic must be rerouted or halted for the work to take place.

Starting Monday, February 8 or shortly thereafter, traffic on the highway will be altered between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 5 a.m. Every night for many months, drivers heading north on I-395 will find traffic diverted to the 2nd Street exit ramp as they exit the existing tunnel under the Tax Court Park. Cars and trucks will exit the highway and then follow detours as they proceed north. Traffic heading south on I-395 will be subject to a crossover from the south-bound lanes into the north-bound lanes but only when the crane is setting girders over the south-bound lanes. When that occurs, drivers entering I-395 at New York Avenue NW going south will be directed onto the current northbound lanes which will be closed to north-bound traffic. Drivers will continue heading south on the north-bound lanes until they are redirected back to the south-bound lanes as they approach the tunnel under the Tax Court Park. The entrance to the south-bound lanes at 3rd and D Streets will remain open, as will the current entrance at 3rd and Massachusetts Avenue. Speeds will be reduced along the highway, in some places down to 25 miles per hour, and fines will be increased for speeding. Needless to say, please be very careful when using the highway at night and drive slowly.

As the mounting of the steel proceeds southward, girders must be fastened to other surfaces. Although fastening the girders to other structures with bolts can be noisy, it is unlikely the noise will affect our Gewirz residents because work will begin at the Massachusetts Avenue end of the highway and will not reach G Street until June.

Work will also continue during the day. Utility work will continue on 3rdStreet NW so traffic detours remain in place. Concrete mats will continue to be poured on the 2nd Street exit ramp, retaining walls will continue to be built, new columns will be formed and poured, and the floor of the project’s east concourse, located under the east side of the building, will be poured. The day work is relatively quiet and is usually masked by the ambient sounds of the highway users. By the end of the year, the tunnel will be largely complete and construction will have begun on the first building, located at the Massachusetts Avenue end of the platform.

There will be more construction adventures to write about as the materials and equipment arrive and the girders and concrete planks are set in place. In the meantime, pay attention to where and how you drive around the Law Center at night. Keep an eye out for the first beams to arrive and for the crane to emerge from the truckloads of parts; if you loved playing with Legos, erector sets, or Tinker Toys, you are in for a real treat.

Wally Mlyniec

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