District of Columbia officials this week formally broke ground on the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, kicking off a $441 million project that will help transform the southeast section of the city.
The bridge, which connects Anacostia to Capitol Street to the north, will be built parallel to the existing bridge. It is part of a broader effort that includes a reconstruction of the Suitland Parkway/I-296 Interchange.
It has been hailed as the largest public infrastructure construction project in the history of the city. The bridge carries more than 70,000 vehicles daily, but that number has been rising.
“We’re adding 1,000 people to our city each and every month,” D.C. Mayor Bowser said in public remarks Wednesday. “We have to make sure that our transportation infrastructure evolves to support the many people that live here, work here, and visit here.”
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said the current 68-year-old bridge “was being eaten alive by rapid corrosion” but said it is “an indispensable connection to the city.”
Norton said the Douglass bridge has taken on new importance due to redevelopment along the city’s southwest waterfront, which has included the construction of Nationals Park, the new stadium for D.C. United, and large mixed-use project known as The Yards, among others.
“You can’t have first-class waterfront developments without a first-class bridge,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). “This is a real workhorse crossing that really holds our city together. It’s also a gateway to our economy.”
The existing Douglass Bridge will remain open until the new bridge opens in 2021. However, drivers should be aware of potential new traffic patterns and lane closures due to the construction.