Next week, District residents will be able to drive east across the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge (FDMB).
Officials cut the ribbon on the $440 million-dollar project Tuesday, Sept. 7. It’s the largest infrastructure project in the District history, said Mayor Muriel Bowser, a project that has spanned more than three mayors and even more directors of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) –many of whom were on hand.
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass, spoke at the dedication, just as his mother Nettie Washington Douglass represented the family when the old South Capitol Street Bridge was renamed for his ancestor in 1965.
“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,” Morris said.
The new Frederick Douglass Bridge replaces the 70-year-old South Capitol Bridge, which connects Capitol Hill to Anacostia and Hillsdale. 70,000 vehicles use the bridge every day. Its importance is hard to estimate, said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-D). who worked for a decade to get federal financing for the project. Norton said that she had to help find money to repair the old bridge while the new one was under construction.
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) called the new Frederick Douglass Bridge “iconic and beautiful.”
“Great cities have great bridges, they just do,” Allen said. “When you look at other cities, you know them by their bridges, and no disrespect to that piece of concrete there, but this is a great bridge.”
Allen said that from now on, national television audiences will associate the bridge with the District. “They’ll do the shot of the dome, absolutely, first. Then they’re going to cut to this. And what i’m excited about this is it will not just be the picture –but they will say: here is the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. They will say his name.”
In his remarks, Councilmember Trayon White, Sr. (Ward 8-D) noted that while Douglass was born in Maryland, he chose to live in Ward 8. His Cedar Hill home is now the Frederick Douglass Historic Site. Douglass also owned a home in northeast Capitol Hill, and the two are now connected by his bridge.
White said that Douglass was a connector, but also a fighter, characterizing the structure as a reminder to continue the fight for residents, especially those who feel like the city is no longer theirs.
“As we build these bridges, we must also remember that we have to build the people up in Washington, DC,” White said, “so that as the city thrives the people of Washington DC thrive as well.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said that the bridge is a means of transportation and connection, but also of commemoration.
“The new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is a fitting tribute to an iconic Washingtonian, a forefather of Black excellence who we continue to emulate and who helped build Washington, DC into the city we are today,” Bowser said.
“This project was never just about getting people from Point A to Point B, it was 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,” the mayor said at the event.
Completed Early, But Still More
Bowser broke ground on the project to replace the old bridge in mid-February 2018, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth. On Monday, Sept. 6, thoursands participated in a 5K walk and community celebration.
The bridge was completed earlier than scheduled, but it will still be several weeks before traffic can go in both directions. With the completion of the new, circular traffic lanes on the east side as early as this weekend, the new bridge will open to eastbound traffic. Westbound traffic will proceed on the old bridge until the west traffic lanes are complete,
Both traffic circles will wrap around park-like lawns. While the east oval is expected to be fully finished in a month-and-a-half, the west oval will not be fully completed for a few months, said land site manager Ed Davis. That’s because the west side of the bridge will be used by construction crews during the demolition of the old South Capitol Bridge, which is expected to take several months.
Get details about the project and the road to completion by visiting www.newfrederickdouglassbridge.com