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D.C. marks construction milestone on new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge

Six iconic arches are up, and the $480 million project is on track for completion next year.

Workers put the finishing touches on the arches over the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

The coronavirus pandemic has not slowed construction on the largest public infrastructure project in the District’s history.

The new $480 million Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is rising over the Anacostia River and is on track to open next year, D.C. officials said Thursday, as they marked the completion of six arches on the new span.

“These beautiful arches will serve as a tribute to Frederick Douglass and a reminder to all Washingtonians to continue the fight to end Taxation Without Representation for his adopted hometown,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said in a statement Thursday, alluding to the city’s push to become the nation’s 51st state.

The project will replace the busy 70-year-old crossing that connects D.C. neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River to the seat of the federal government. It was designed to improve pedestrian and vehicular travel.

The project on South Capitol Street is also viewed as a major step toward the transformation of the shores of the Anacostia. Officials said it will better connect both sides of the river and be more in line with the growing development in the area, which has transformed from industrial and military uses into thriving mixed-use communities and employment centers.

The South Capitol Street Corridor Project also includes a remake of part of South Capitol Street into a scenic boulevard and major improvements on the Suitland Parkway and Interstate 295 interchanges.

It will feature two piers, which will appear to float in the river, and four pedestrian overlooks. A multiuse path will facilitate more crossings on foot and bike.

The new, wider bridge is being built parallel to the old one, near Nationals Park. Most of the construction has been over the river, limiting the impact on traffic on the existing bridge. But as work advances, travel patterns are shifting. More lane closures in nearby roadways have been announced recently as crews work on improvements on interchanges.

The current crossing carries about 70,000 vehicles daily and has been deemed structurally deficient for years.

Crews completed the parallel arches Thursday afternoon. In recent days they installed temporary bridges that facilitate construction of the new bridge over the water. Construction will now begin on the new bridge deck, and completion is expected in late 2021.