When the neighborhoods and communities surrounding Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (WTNP) needed a safe way to cross the Dulles Access and Toll Road, they contacted public officials to gain support for the installation of a pedestrian/bicycle bridge. This new bridge would provide safe and unavailable access not only to WTNP but also to numerous other parks, schools, churches and trails in the area.
In 2004, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) initiated a feasibility study for this bridge. The project involved coordination between three federal agencies — National Park Service, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) — two Congressional districts, two Fairfax County Magisterial Districts (Hunter Mill and Dranesville) and several community/neighborhood groups. Because the bridge provides access to and across Federal Lands, the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division of the FHWA designed and constructed the bridge for VDOT.
The existing Trap Road Bridge over the Dulles Access and Toll Road was for vehicles only and did not provide safe access for pedestrians. With Fairfax County being one of the most heavily congested traffic areas in the country and WTNP one of the few existing urban national parks, pedestrian/bicycle access was a must. New pedestrian overpasses will provide an alternative to using motorized vehicles while also relieving congestion, reducing air pollution and encouraging children and adults to exercise. Additionally, since the project is part of the Tysons Corner Multimodal Access Plan (which promotes pedestrian and bicycle access to the proposed Metro Stations), it will help make Tysons Corner a livable community. Lastly, through these increased connectivity and multi-modal options, WTNP will be visited more often for non-concert related uses.
Overall, three Connector® / modified Capstone®-style, Continental® truss bridges were installed in the following sizes and locations: a 149’-11” x 16' over Eastbound VA-267, a 170’-2” x 16' over Dulles Access and a 138’-7¼” x 16' over Westbound VA-267. Each bridge was delivered to the site in half sections, assembled on site in a parking lot, loaded onto a tractor trailer and driven adjacent to their final locations. The truss bridges were then lifted via crane off the trailers — parked on top of an existing bridge — and into place. In this manner, the bridges were installed after being temporarily situated on top of another bridge. The bridges were set on three consecutive nights with little disruption to traffic. In fact, the pre-fabricated trusses were selected by FHWA for this specific reason. Each span of the bridge was installed in the middle of the night in just 15 minutes.
The appearance of the bridge was guided by the National Park Service and the Wolf Trap Foundation with FHWA developing plans to transform their ideas into reality. In the end, a modified arched Capstone bridge style was selected for the central span of each pedestrian crossing, with a Connector style utilized on either side. This style complemented the natural surroundings, while also providing an architectural impact.
Due to other construction in the area, extensive coordination between FHWA and MWAA was required throughout the project. It was imperative that any disruption to traffic be minimized on all eight lanes of the Dulles Toll Road as well as the four lanes of airport access. The contractor, Shirley Contracting Company (SCC), was required to attend weekly meetings with the other construction project’s teams to discuss, foresee and negotiate potential conflicts.
SCC chose to work with Contech Engineered Solutions over other bridge manufacturers for three main reasons. First of all, Contech was familiar with the project. Secondly, the design of the Continental trusses featured large sub-assemblies reducing overall erection and field fabrication time. Lastly, since SCC had recently installed a similar structure on a different project nearby, they were confident that their bridge crew would be in good hands with the same Contech field team and overall quality of the truss bridges.
In June 2012, the local community was invited to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony in which Congressman Jim Moran spoke and formally opened the bridges. This project met the timeline, budget and community’s expectations while providing safe passage for the pedestrians attending activities at the amphitheatre.
“With roughly 500,000 visitors expected to visit Wolf Trap this season, the new pedestrian bridge is a welcome addition to the area,” stated Moran. “Beginning today, Wolf Trap patrons, cyclists and pedestrians can safely travel between the Barns and Filene Center. Today’s opening shows what government can do for a community when local officials listen to and work with their constituents.”