Angry Commuter Blows Up Washington Bridge

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Washington, D.C., beltway has enraged drivers for years with its notorious traffic jams. That changed early Tuesday morning when it was blown up. One especially bitter driver got to detonate the explosives.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Here in the nation's capital shortly after midnight there was a moment of legalized road rage.

(Soundbite of crowd noise)

Unidentified Man #1: 5, 4, 3, 2...

Unidentified Man #2: Set off detonation.

Unidentified Man #1: 1 - go.

(Soundbite of explosions)

INSKEEP: That was the sound as a man representing millions of long-suffering commuters blew up a portion of the Washington Beltway. Daniel Ruefly of Maryland won the right to detonate explosives that brought down the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Since it was built 45 years ago, the drawbridge was responsible for many a mind-numbing traffic jam. Officials held an essay contest in search of the most nightmarish story about the Wilson Bridge and the winner would get to exact revenge on the structure.

More than 300 people wrote in. Daniel Ruefly's experience was deemed the best of the worst. Seven years ago, he smashed into an illegally parked truck, then the ambulance taking him to a hospital found itself stuck in traffic for more than 30 minutes waiting for the drawbridge to lower.

INSKEEP: Okay, that's a good story. But our favorite story comes from Stewart Roy(ph) of Alexandria, Virginia:

Mr. STEWART ROY: Almost three years ago I was crossing the Wilson Bridge. A truck was coming in the opposite direction with an industrial-sized pitchfork mounted on the side. The pitchfork came loose going 60 miles and hour, it came forks first or tines first right into my windshield and shattered it. And had it had come all the through the windshield, (unintelligible) my hands on the steering wheels.

INSKEEP: Mr. Roy was not injured, though this car suffered severe puncture wounds. We think it was just a coincidence that at the time of this accident Roy was working for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

MONTAGNE: Other Wilson Bridge tales: a snowstorm in 1987 stranded motorists on the bridge overnight; and most charmingly, a livestock truck once crashed and it's little heard of horses roamed free. The old Wilson Bridge was blown up to make room for the second of a pair of new bridges that everyone hopes will provide for a smoother ride across the Potomac.

INSKEEP: And in Washington, D.C., a city where people do not agree on much, representatives from both inside and outside the Beltway are pleased with the disappearance of a scourge that lit so many short fuses.

(Soundbite of crowd noise)

Unidentified Man #1: 5, 4, 3, 2...

Unidentified Man #2: Set off detonation.

Unidentified Man #1: 1 - go.

(Soundbite of explosions)

INSKEEP: Just can't listen to it enough, can you? It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

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