Government of the District of Columbia
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Mayor Gray Unveils Design for New Frederick Douglass Bridge
Unless Replaced Within 5-15 Years, Old Bridge May Need to be Closed for Rehab
(Washington, D.C.) Today, Mayor Vincent C. Gray unveiled plans for the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, heralding the new structure as a linchpin for the revitalization of the Anacostia waterfront.
“The time has now come to replace this 63-year-old bridge,” said Mayor Gray. “While the new bridge and necessary improvements to adjacent areas on land will be expensive, in the long run it’s cheaper and safer than continuing to make ever-more-costly and ever-more-frequent repairs to the old bridge.”
An Environmental Impact Study (EIS) has been completed and preliminary engineering and land acquisition have begun for the new bridge. The Mayor shared a video animation and renderings showing early design concepts of the new bridge, which are available on the South Capitol Street Corridor project page of AnacostiaWaterfront.org.
“By better connecting both sides of the river, the new crossing will be the single largest physical embodiment of my ‘One City’ governing philosophy of bringing the District together across geographic, income and ethnic boundaries,” the Mayor added. “This graceful new bridge will be a welcoming gateway to the center of Washington, while also serving as an anchor for the revival of the Anacostia waterfront.”
Construction for the new bridge and needed landside improvements is estimated to cost $660 million. The improvements include constructing a traffic oval and circle on either end of the span and reconstructing the Interstate 295/Suitland Parkway interchange. These improvements are part of a larger South Capitol Street Corridor Project that will promote economic development, multi-modal travel, neighborhood accessibility and safety.
Mayor Gray identified a way to reduce the cost by an estimated $140 million: build a fixed bridge instead of a drawbridge. Because limited federal funding is available for the project, almost all of the $140 million in additional funds required to build a drawbridge would come from District residents. Beyond the cost of construction, the District would save an additional $100,000 per year by not having to operate and maintain a drawbridge.
Maritime traffic requiring a bridge opening is very rare: Since 2006, the existing bridge has opened only twice for tall vessels, and there are no plans for additional large-vessel traffic in the foreseeable future. The District has initiated discussions with the Washington Navy Yard and the United States Coast Guard about the bridge design, recommending that a fixed bridge be built instead of a drawbridge.
“We look forward to working with our federal partners to ensure the project meets the reasonable needs of navigation,” Mayor Gray said.
While safe for travel now and in the near-term future, the existing bridge continues to deteriorate, requiring repairs of increasing frequency, cost and traffic impacts. Unless it is replaced in the near future, major bridge repairs costing an estimated $110 to $120 million will be necessary within the next five to 15 years. Among those repairs is the replacement of the swing span, which would force 70,000 daily bridge crossers onto lengthier and more time-consuming routes for more than a year. Within the next five years, the bridge’s deterioration may require a ban on heavy trucks; already, heavy trucks are restricted from the right inbound lane.
Recognizing the future need for a new bridge and related South Capitol Street Improvements, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) embarked on a series of planning studies more than a decade ago to advance the goal of creating a world-class sustainable waterfront through the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. These efforts identified a host of improvements in multi-modal transportation, community accessibility, economic growth, residential redevelopment and safety on both sides of the Anacostia River that would result from replacing the bridge and transforming the corridor into a grand boulevard. In spring 2011, a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was approved by federal agencies, validating the need to replace the old Douglass Bridge as part of the South Capitol Street Corridor Project.