Revamped Douglass Bridge to Reopen Tomorrow

The Douglass Memorial Bridge has been closed for repairs since July 6, causing motorists to use detours. Additional work will continue until spring.
The Douglass Memorial Bridge has been closed for repairs since July 6, causing motorists to use detours. Additional work will continue until spring. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
By Delphine Schrank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The renovated Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will reopen before tomorrow morning's rush hour, officials announced yesterday, providing relief for commuters eight days ahead of schedule.

For nearly eight weeks, the span across the Anacostia River has been closed, creating headaches for motorists who use South Capitol Street. Many were forced to take detours of as long as a half-hour during construction.

The $27 million project is meant to help extend the life of the bridge for 20 years until a new one is built, said Emeka C. Moneme, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation. The entire project, which includes streetscape improvements along South Capitol Street, is scheduled to be finished by April, in time for the opening of the new Washington Nationals ballpark nearby.

The bridge was shortened about 400 feet, and a section was lowered about 10 feet on the approach to Potomac Avenue. The span was also resurfaced, and streetlights and guardrails were added.

The goal, DDOT spokesman Erik Linden said, was to create "a much gentler, more appealing gateway" into Washington. Linden said the renovation "creates a more urban boulevard experience instead of driving on a freeway that just flies over a neighborhood of the city."

The closure of the bridge July 6 forced about 77,000 vehicles onto other Anacostia crossings each weekday. One driver yesterday hailed the reopening, which is scheduled to occur overnight, before the morning rush.

"That would make a big difference, a real big difference," said Terron Whitehead, a limousine driver from District Heights, as he drove passengers in Maryland. Whitehead said the closure added 20 minutes to his commute each way from his home in Prince George's County to his office near the Washington Navy Yard.

Instead of shooting straight over the bridge, Whitehead said, he has had to detour each morning through a winding mess, hitting traffic at every turn:

"You take Suitland Parkway, which runs to a dead end before you take the bridge. Then you have to take [Interstate] 295 north to the 11th Street Bridge and have to take it all the way round to the Department of Transportation at Seventh Street [SW], like a horseshoe, and then come back, then M Street by the inspection station."

To spare himself on his way home, Whitehead would stay at work later in the evening.

"I never used to leave work late," he said. "I used to leave right after work."

Although the major renovations are complete, motorists should expect temporary lane closures in the area and along the bridge on some weekends as the phase that includes streetscape work begins, officials said.

Corman Construction, the contractor on the project, received a 4 percent bonus for finishing the project early. DOT had offered the incentive to speed the project ahead of its scheduled completion Sept. 7.

"We knew they were working extremely efficiently and were anxious to win the incentive award," Moneme said. "They were successful in doing it. We're thankful and excited."

The summer dry spell also helped.

"We planned to get it done ahead of Labor Day weekend," Moneme said. "So it did help that we had a lack of rain."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company