This Tuesday, groundbreaking began for the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, a project set to be the District’s largest construction project in history. Mayor Muriel Bowser attended the event, which celebrates the replacement of the 1950-built Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and reconstruction of the Suitland Parkway/I-295 interchange.
When the designs for the bridge were first revealed in August 2017, Bowser described the new designs as “tremendous,” “iconic,” and “a fitting memorial for a remarkable American icon.” Not everyone was in agreement, though. In November 2017, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) questioned the appearance, describing it as “lack[ing] grace” and “too industrial.” Despite this, construction has begun with a delivery slated for the fall of 2021.
The new $441 million bridge will be located on the same site as the old one. It will connect South Capitol Street, Potomac Avenue, and Q Street SW, while crossing the Anacostia River. Along with a new bridge, a new at-grade traffic oval will be constructed east of the river, while a new diamond interchange will be located on Suitland Parkway at Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue.
The newly redesigned Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will be wider and built parallel to the old one. At the end of each bridge, there will be traffic circles. Drainage and storm water management will also be improved. Sections of South Capitol Street will be redeveloped as a scenic boulevard. There will also be a two-way crossing dedicated for pedestrians and cyclists with a median blocking vehicular traffic.