Recipe for a bottleneck: Build a six-lane bridge, then an eight-lane interstate. The new Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge is 12 lanes to match the 12-lane beltway around the nation's capital. This 2006 photo looks from Virginia to Maryland. Photo: Trevor Wrayton, Virginia DOT

By the time it was decommissioned, the original Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge connecting Maryland and Virginia to Washington, D.C., was carrying 167% more trips per day than it was designed to. Its $2.4 billion replacement has earned a different distinction: as the American Society of Civil Engineers' Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement, awarded annually since 1960 to projects that contribute to both the civil engineering profession and the local community.

Soil conditions required the use of precast and post-tensioned V piers that support variable-depth plate girder spans, creating the arch appearance without the large horizontal thrusts of conventional arches. Sixty thousand tons of debris from the old bridge was used to create or enhance reefs in Chesapeake Bay, part of a massive environmental mitigation effort to restore 26 miles of fish spawning.

Selected from 26 entries, the merit finalists include:

  • A sustainable resolution to removing arsenic from India's drinking water
  • San Diego's Mission Valley East Light Rail Transit project
  • Pasadena City Hall's seismic upgrade in California
  • The Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington.