The new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge over the Anacostia River will open this week after years of construction and debate. The newly built bridge, which is supposed to help drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians cross the river, is set to open for outbound vehicle traffic on Friday, and then inbound vehicle traffic on Saturday.
Mayor Muriel Bowser held a special two-day celebration for the new bridge that kicked off with a 5K run on Labor Day and ended with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday. Congresswoman Eleanor Homes Norton, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and descendants of Douglass spoke at the event. “We are thrilled that this magnificent bridge will serve to educate the public about his legacy, connect DC to the neighborhoods where he worked and lived, and inspire future generations to agitate for change,” said Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., Douglass’ great-great-great-grandson. “My mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, represented the family when the original South Capitol Street Bridge was renamed for our great ancestor in 1965, and I’m honored to carry on that tradition and represent her and the entire Douglass family at the dedication of the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge.”
The Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will replace the old and steadily deteriorating Capitol South Street Bridge that was built in 1950. Despite the multiple repairs and renovations over the years, the maintenance was never enough to arrest the rapid deterioration that plagues the bridge. The bridge was also notorious for traffic congestion and being unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. The new bridge, which currently sits parallel to the old one, has six lanes and wider areas set aside for bikes and pedestrians. “This project was never just about getting people from Point A to Point B, it was about about building a more connected DC— connecting Ward 8 and Ward 6, connecting residents to jobs and prosperity, and connecting our entire community to the future of multi-modal transportation,” Bowser said.
There is still more work to come. By spring 2022, there will be two new traffic ovals on each end of the bridge and the Suitland Parkway/Interstate 295 interchange will be reconstructed. Once the construction of the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is completely finished, the old bridge will be demolished.