Those of us to lived near the site spent ten years of our lives dealing with the delays and headaches associated with the replacement of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. For those of you who don’t live in Washington, the Wilson Bridge carries I-95, the main north-south interstate on the east coast, across the Potomac river. It is also part of the famous Washington Beltway. The old bridge was built in the early 1960s and was literally falling apart. You could see holes in the concrete decking, erosion of the support pillars, and rust on the steel structure.
The new bridge is about twice as wide and is visually quite appealing. And as a bonus it has a multi-use path on its north side affording views of Alexandria city and DC. The path isn’t perfect (expansion joins make for a jarring ride) but it is a terrific addition to the bicycle route network in the area. There is one problem with the path: it doesn’t connect to much on the Maryland side. You ride across the river, take a switchback to a deck over the highway, spin down a spiral descent on the south side of the road and follow a long curving path to and dirt path paved in a manner of speaking with shells. FAIL.
You can ride this sketchy path directly to National Harbor which looks for all the world like Sodom on the Potomac. It is a development dominated by a massive hotel and convention center with a faux village at its glass and brick feet. The village has many of the usual cookie cutter eateries and shops that I do my level best to ignore. The development also has the statue of the Awakening, Prometheus emerging from the ground. For many years it made the desolation of Hains Point in DC a destination for tourists. Now it is crammed into a narrow riverfront looking for all the world like it was dropped there by a passing aircraft.
National Harbor is growing. Massive townhouses are sprouting from the hill above this off little downtown. It is all fenced in, to set it apart from the run of the mill adjacent suburb known as Oxon Hill. If you want to ride to Oxon Hill, you take a left at start of the shell path, pass through a tunnel made from a corregated steel tube and climb a long steady half-mile hill to Oxon Hill Road.. OHR is not much to write home about but, for the last few months, it has been torn up by construction. About 1/2 mile of the road is now open for use. It features bike lanes on either side. I decided to check the new road out yesterday.
The completed section of road leads to a new outlet mall that attracts an appalling amount of car traffic. Cars are parked all over the place and herds of shoppers need assistance from a dozen police and rent a cops at the intersections. Lovely.
As for OHR, it leads to Fort Washington and other sites rarely explored by most DC-area bicyclists. To really enjoy checking out this area, cyclists are going to have to wait a while. As I found out yesterday, road construction continues past the outlet mall for at least a half mile. I gave up when I had to cede the narrow road to fire trucks and police cars. From the looks of things (sorry no pictures, I was busy trying to stay alive) the renovated OHR will be a pretty nice ride. For now, you should probably avoid the area. Unless you’re in the market for cheap clothes.