The Frederick Douglass Bridge has been a vital transportation route across the Anacostia for 70 years, carrying 77,000 cars per day. This year, the old bridge was replaced with a new bridge offering improved transportation for cars, bicycles, and pedestrians and connection with parkland and trails along the riverfront.
The three gleaming white arches of the bridge have created a new landmark for D.C. that looks spectacular at all times of day.
Just before sunrise
The bridge is visible from many places in D.C., and stands out against the city landscape. Here’s a view from a couple of miles away, across the Potomac River at Arlington Cemetery:
Crossing the bridge
The bridge is designed for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as for cars, with an 18-foot-wide walkway on both sides of the bridge.
There are great views while walking across the bridge. This view is looking across the Anacostia River where it joins the Potomac, with the George Washington Masonic Temple in Alexandria on the far side.
Watching it being built
For a seemingly very long time, the white arches remained tantalizingly unconnected.
Finally the last arch was connected in August 2020. In a tradition dating back to ancient times, a tree was hauled to the highest point on the structure.
Still under construction
While the bridge is now open, there’s still a lot of construction around the entrances to the bridge. The bridge is going to connect a network of public spaces along the riverfront on both sides of the river, with trails and parkland.
The new bridge replaces a 70-year old bridge which was 20 feet away. Now that the new bridge is open, the old bridge has been dismantled and is still in the process of being fully removed. There’s a staging area for hauling away the old bridge parts on the west side of the new bridge (the old bridge was actually on the east side of the new bridge, so the dismantled parts are being floated under the new bridge to the staging area).
Cutting the old bridge cables into small enough sections to be hauled away:
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. 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.”Mayor Muriel Bowser
If you’ve been in D.C. for a few years, you may remember the Display Ship Barry, which first went on display in the Anacostia River by the Navy Yard in 1983 and had popular on-board tours. The Barry was a destroyer commissioned from 1956 to 1982, operating in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. It supported the landing in Beirut in 1958, and the quarantine of Cuba during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
It’s the new Frederick Douglass Bridge that caused the Barry to have to leave the Anacostia. The old Frederick Douglass Bridge had a drawbridge and the Barry could be taken out for periodic repairs. But the new Frederick Douglass Bridge is a fixed span without a drawbridge and would not have been high enough for the Barry to go under. So the Barry would have been trapped in the Anacostia, which was not safe for the river if the Barry aged without access to repairs. The Barry was towed away in 2016 and scrapped in Philadelphia.