By Melissa Silverman
On a sunny Labor Day in Southwest, community members gathered to celebrate a transportation and infrastructure milestone: the completion of the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge.
Located between Audi Field and South Capitol Street, the new bridge will ferry pedestrians, cyclists and motorists across the Anacostia River. The first to cross the new bridge were participants in D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge 5K Community Celebration.
“It’s an amazing view, the architectural design is nice,” said lifelong Southwest resident Arnice Mack, who attended the bridge opening with family and friends. “The weather was gorgeous, with a nice breeze off the water.”
According to the Executive Office of the Mayor, construction began in February 2018 to replace the existing Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and reconstruct the Suitland Parkway/I-295 interchange. The official website of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge Project states that the new bridge includes three above-deck arches, four pedestrian overlooks, and two piers. The project also created a new traffic oval west of the Anacostia River that connects South Capitol Street, Potomac Avenue and Q Street SW.
“It’s like a new gateway,” said Vernon Gudger, who completed the 5K in summer sandals. “It’s a revitalization of this area, it’s going to bring more vibrancy to the city, from Navy Yard all the way to the Wharf, the entirety of M Street.”
The community celebration featured music, dancing and food trucks, as well as historic resonance, honoring the legacy and contributions of the bridge’s namesake, DC’s most famous abolitionist. Event attendees included the great-great-great grandchildren of Frederick Douglass, Hailee, Kevi and Joseph Greene.
“It’s cool to see the legacy carrying on today,” said Joseph Greene. “A lot of people don’t know their history, so for us to have that opportunity, we’re very grateful.”
The Greenes paused to take a photo with Sean Moore, dressed for the day in full Frederick Douglass regalia.
“It’s a monumental project,” Moore said. “The District has invested a lot of money in this bridge. It’s a fitting replacement for the old bridge, it’s something that’s connecting the communities. All the features of this project are built to connect Ward 6 and Historic Anacostia to the rest of the city. It’s wonderful to build something so grand to honor the legacy of Frederick Douglass.”