Baltimore-area residents traveling south this weekend are being urged to avoid the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, where transportation officials are planning to close three lanes as part of the mammoth project to replace the span that carries Interstate 95 over the Potomac River.
The inner loop of the Capital Beltway from Interstate 295 in Maryland to U.S. 1 in Virginia will be reduced from four lanes to one. The lane closings, which will let construction crews pour asphalt, will begin at 8 p.m. today and continue until as late as 5 a.m. Monday.
Officials predict that even if the bridge's normal traffic loads are down 75 percent, the remaining motorists could face backups of 10 to 15 miles and delays of one to 1 1/2 hours.
Similarly dire predictions were issued last month when transportation officials closed the outer loop for repaving. So many motorists took the warning to heart that severe backups were avoided.
Officials in charge of the 11-year, $2.43 billion project said they hope drivers will be equally diligent in finding alternate routes this weekend.
Those headed toward Richmond, Va. or the Carolinas should take U.S. 301 south from U.S. 50 through Southern Maryland, officials said. For Washington-area traffic, they recommended using the American Legion Bridge on the west side of the Capital Beltway or Interstate 395 through the District of Columbia.
Project officials also plan to close several ramps - one at I-295 in Maryland and the others in Alexandria, Va.