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Mayor Bowser Celebrates Opening of the New Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge

Tuesday, September 7, 2021
The District’s Biggest Infrastructure Project in Modern History Will Create a More Connected DC

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Acting Director Everett Lott cut the ribbon on the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. They were joined by federal and local officials including Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, as well as descendants of the bridge’s namesake and guests of the family.

“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,” said Mayor Bowser. “Today, we celebrate all the federal, regional, and local partners who helped get us here, including our champions in Congress, Congresswoman Norton and Majority Leader Hoyer, the Douglass family, and the teams at the District Department of Transportation and South Capitol Bridge Builders.”

The two-day celebration of the new bridge kicked off on Labor Day with a 5K attended by approximately 4,000 people. It was immediately followed by a community day on the bridge deck with music, food, and a pop-up vaccination site. The Tuesday ribbon cutting continued the community spirit, as the Duke Ellington Marching Band led a lively processional, a local soloist Bonnie Burnett performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and a medley of spirituals, Rev. William H. Lamar, IV – the pastor of Metropolitan AME Church where Douglass attended – gave a blessing, and Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., a descendent of Douglass, kicked off remarks. After the ceremony, a luncheon was held by the construction team to recognize workers.

“Washington, DC has been a very special place for the Douglass family since Frederick Douglass moved his family here nearly 150 years ago,” said Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass and Co-Founder & President of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. “We are thrilled that this magnificent bridge will educate the public about his legacy, connect DC neighborhoods where he worked and lived, and inspire future generations to agitate for change. My mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, represented the family when the original South Capitol Street Bridge was renamed for our great ancestor in 1965, and I’m honored to carry on that tradition and represent her and the entire Douglass family at the dedication of the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge.”

Mayor Bowser broke ground on the project to replace a more than 70-year-old bridge in February 2018 on the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth. The project represents strong local and federal partnership to invest in the District’s infrastructure, with the majority of its $440 million funding coming from federal grants combined with more than $250 million in local taxpayer dollars. At least 200 DC residents were hired to build this bridge; and at least 45 minority and women-owned businesses were part of the project, representing $91 million in contracting opportunities.

“The ribbon cutting for the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge marks a historic occasion for the District, particularly for Wards 7 and 8, which were previously cut off from much of D.C.,” said Congresswoman Norton. “That is why I, in my role as a senior member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, along with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, spent more than a decade piecing together funds in each appropriations bill until we got the 60% federal funding for it.”

“I am glad to join in celebrating the opening of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and thank Mayor Bowser for her leadership on behalf of the thousands of workers and families who will benefit from this critical infrastructure priority,” said Majority Leader Hoyer. “I’ve been proud to work alongside the Mayor and my colleagues in Congress to secure more than $200 million in federal funding for this project. This bridge represents how important it is to invest in infrastructure that not only connects communities but also creates new opportunities for local economic growth and good-paying jobs. Today is a wonderful day for our families and workers in the National Capital Region who will use and enjoy this multi-functional bridge for generations to come.”

The bridge design includes three above-deck arches that capture the District’s arch history, two piers that will appear to float in the river, and four pedestrian overlooks. The bridge is part of the South Capitol Street Corridor Project. DDOT, in partnership with South Capitol Bridge Builders, will begin phase two of that project, which is expected to be completed in Spring 2022. Major remaining elements of phase two include:

  • deconstruction the original Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge;
  • completion of the traffic oval west of the river that connects South Capitol Street, Potomac Avenue and Q Street SW;
  • completion of the east traffic oval that connects South Capitol Street, Suitland Parkway and Howard Road SE; and
  • reconstruction of the Suitland Parkway/Interstate 295 interchange.

“This dramatic bridge is a shining example of Mayor Bowser’s commitment to sustainable, resilient transportation options that serve not just the District, but the entire region,” said DDOT Director Everett Lott. “It will significantly improve the mobility of the more than 70,000 vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians who cross the bridge daily. Thanks to the DDOT and South Capitol Bridge Builders teams for getting this project to the finish line—a few weeks early!”

The South Capitol Street Corridor Project is one in a series of transportation, environmental, economic, community, and recreation projects developed by the larger Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI) program. The 30-year, $10 billion AWI program is transforming the shores of the Anacostia River into a world-class waterfront and enriching nearby communities.

For more information about the project, please visit