End of an Era at Interchange

End of an Era at Interchange

After eight years of construction, officials celebrate completion of ‘Mixing Bowl’ interchange.

At a ceremony last Wednesday, July 18, celebrating the completion of the Springfield Interchange, county, state and federal lawmakers hailed the eight-year, $676 million construction project as a solution to what was once a major traffic choke point with a high collision rate.

Gov. Tim Kaine (D) recalled a time when the state was having difficulty meeting schedule and budget targets for the construction of the interchange, commonly known as the "Mixing Bowl." "That really has turned around dramatically since 2002," he said.

Kaine noted that well over 400,000 vehicles per day traverse the Springfield Interchange, which is located at the intersection of the Capital Beltway, Interstates 95 and 395, and Route 644. "We owed them a better working interchange than what they were experiencing, and we brought it to them," he said. He called the timely completion a victory not only for the project but also for government at a time when the political climate is "tough" and partisan.

U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11) noted that 90 percent of the new interchange's budget was federal money, but he gave the local politicians credit for taking "most of the flack" from area residents. Davis congratulated the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for sticking to the budget despite the rising costs of concrete, steel and labor.

"This is much better than the Wilson Bridge ceremony," said U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8), adding that he had been stuck "in the peanut gallery" at that celebration. He agreed with Davis' remark commending the local politicians for their work with the project. "So much of this has to be done at the grassroots level," said Moran. He noted that the construction had faced many obstacles, and he added that he thought one of the biggest impediments to its progress was former Gov. James Gilmore's decision to borrow a large portion of its budget in order to balance the state's ledgers.

"Somebody once said the purpose of local government is to satisfy the annoyed without annoying the satisfied," said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly. He noted that the supervisors' fulfillment of this purpose, with regard to the Mixing Bowl construction, had begun as a "daunting challenge" and ended as a "singular accomplishment."

VDOT Commissioner David Ekern pointed out that tearing down and rebuilding the Springfield Interchange was one of the largest transportation projects in the nation, requiring 43,000 tons of steel, 100,000 cubic yards of concrete, 750,000 tons of asphalt and 25 pounds of grass seed. At its completion, he said, the Mixing Bowl now contains 80 miles of traffic lanes. Ekern pointed out that the success of this massive project was not due to the efforts of a single person or department but to "continued leadership through several administrations."

James Ray, acting deputy administrator and chief counsel for the Federal Highway Administration, had some more numbers crunched. Traffic congestion — the sort that was caused by the old interchange — costs the country $200 billion each year, he said, and he assured that everyone present at the ceremony lost $1,200 a year in fuel and wasted time sitting in traffic. "Today, we say goodbye to one of the biggest chokepoints on the East Coast," said Ray.