About the Study

This project identified best practices for inter-jurisdictional operational procedures for bridges that cross borders between states and regional/local jurisdictions. The final report documents the process, methodology, lessons learned, and results of the inter-jurisdictional work that has been done between Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. regarding incident management on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Focus was placed on protocols for incident response, location, identification and verification; cross-border Dynamic Message Sign (DMS) coordination; bridge jumper protocol; quick clearance strategies; responder safety; towing guidelines; and coordination of weather-related or emergency maintenance services.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is a drawbridge over the Potomac River within the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. Located on I-495/I-95, the bridge connects Northern Virginia (City of Alexandria) with Maryland (Prince George’s County). More than 200,000 vehicles per day cross the bridge and congestion is a daily problem. An effective incident management program is necessary for the WWB, which currently operates at capacity during peak travel periods and is classified in the top 10 high accident locations on the Capital Beltway. A new 12-lane bridge structure is currently being built to replace the original Woodrow Wilson Bridge. When the new WWB is completed, it will accommodate 300,000 vehicles per day on two parallel structures containing local, express, and HOV/transit lanes in both the northbound and southbound directions.

An overview of the project tasks involved:

Task 1 – Identify and Collect Information / Documentation from Agencies and Staff involved in the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Incident Management Process

Coalition Member Agencies and consultant staffs associated with the Incident Management Program at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge were interviewed to collect information and documentation for this project. Over a two-month period, eight interviews were conducted. Interviewees included transportation and emergency management staff.

In addition to conducted interviews, an extensive review of documentation related to the Woodrow Wilson Incident Management Program was also conducted.

Task 2 – Develop Sample “Boiler Plate” Documents for use by Coalition Partner Agencies

Documents discovered in Task 1 were reviewed and used to develop sample documents that could be provided to member agencies as a sample agreement. These sample operational agreements are provided in Appendix A of the final report.

Task 3 – Produce Final Report

The final task of the project consisted of producing a final report, which includes a descriptive problem statement and best practices write up of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge incident management process from start to finish.

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Key to Safety

States have bridges which frequently span multiple jurisdictions, and coordinated incident response by these multiple jurisdictions is key to safety.

The objective of this project will be to identify Best Practices for inter-jurisdictional operational procedures for bridges that cross borders between states and regional / local jurisdictions and prepare a final report documenting the results of the work done on this project.

This project will provide for a source of information / reference for Coalition Members on Best Practices regarding inter-jurisdictional border crossing incident management.

This project effort will include coordination with incident management staff assigned / associated with the WWB and the responsible coalition agency members for the WWB.

Successful incident management entails a series of activities carried out by personnel from a variety of transportation and emergency management agencies. These agencies typically include police, fire, 911 dispatch, towing and recovery, emergency medical service (EMS), transportation agencies, and the regional media. Cooperation, coordination, and communication between these agencies are vital to the success of the incident management program.

In cases where incident management must transverse state boundaries the number of agencies involved in the program increases significantly. Transportation and emergency management agencies from all states near the border must be involved in responding to incidents. This is especially the case at border bridges, such as the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which connects the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the District of Columbia along the Capital Beltway.

This I-95 Corridor Coalition Project documents the process, methodology, lessons learned and results of the inter-jurisdictional work that has been done between Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. regarding incident management on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. In doing so, special attention will be placed on protocols for incident response, incident location identification and verification, cross-border Dynamic Message Sign (DMS) coordination, bridge jumper protocol, quick clearance strategies, responder safety, towing guidelines, and coordination of weather-related or emergency maintenance services.

In addition to discussing border bridge incident management activities, the final report also provides several sample Operational Agreements, based on those from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, are provided in this Appendix. These agreements include:

  • Incident Management Agreements
  • Regional Aid Agreements
  • Border Towing Agreements
  • Hazard Removal Policies
  • Safety Service Patrol Incident Management Agreements
  • Lane Closure for Truck Accidents Agreements
  • Law Enforcement Services Agreements
  • Vehicle Removal Agreements
  • Memorandum of Understanding for Bridge Jumpers

Deliverables:

A brief Technical Memorandum was provided and included the results of the research pertaining to WWB programs in the areas described in this task. This Memorandum was delivered in hard copy and electronic form to the Project Manager and Coalition Staff, and included a list of regions within the corridor that would benefit from this information.

A list of and draft “boiler plate” document was submitted to the Project Manager and Coalition Staff. The consultant then modified the list and documents as instructed. Once finalized, the documents were then utilized in Task 3 as supporting documentation for the final report.

A total of 40 hard copies plus one electronic copy of the Final Report was delivered to Coalition Staff. The report contained an executive summary project findings, results, analysis, recommendations and supporting documentation (collected from WWB and developed in Task 2).

For the most part, incident management operations for border bridges are similar to those on non-border bridges, although they usually include require additional cooperation and coordination because the process requires agencies from adjacent states to work together. This report documented the best practices from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge incident management program in order to help other states in the I-95 corridor deal with border bridge issues.

A successful border bridge incident management program requires a champion(s) to lead the program. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge incident management program was led by three agencies working together to develop the program. These champions included Alvin Marques (MDSHA), Pete Todd (VDOT), and Jim Austrich (DDOT). These champions have taken a proactive role in establishing the incident management program for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and have engaged other transportation and emergency management agencies into the program. The success of the program can be attributed to the efforts placed by these and several other individuals.

A mix of high-tech and low-tech solutions is also important for the success of the program. Major deployments such as transportation management centers, dynamic message signs, highway advisory radios, interoperable information sharing systems, and freeway service patrol units can provide several benefits for an incident management program, albeit at a high cost. At the same time, low-tech solutions such as developing operational agreements, providing training sessions, and exchanging telephone numbers can be equally as important to the program.

Regardless of the activities taken, breaking barriers between agencies and building relationships between transportation and emergency management counterparts is the most vital aspect of developing a border bridge incident management program. Coalition staff interviewed for this project all agreed that cooperation, coordination, and communication are the building blocks for the program. They emphasized that a successful incident management program relies on trust and understanding of all agencies and personnel involved.