Frederick Douglass Bridge Opens With 5K, Music and Celebration

The bridge will open to vehicle traffic beginning Wednesday

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Thousands of runners and walkers crossed the new Frederick Douglass Bridge in Southeast D.C. on Monday to celebrate its opening.

A 5K held Labor Day morning was part of a two-day kick-off event for the bridge, which finished construction ahead of schedule. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser invited residents to come to the bridge for a family-friendly celebration with food and live music.

“It is only fitting that we come together to celebrate a bridge that will connect our city and pay tribute to a great Washingtonian,” Bowser said in a news release. “The Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is the biggest infrastructure project in the history of Washington, DC, and it represents the best of our city’s past and future.”

The bridge doesn't open to vehicle traffic until later this week. Southbound traffic is expected to be allowed starting Wednesday. Northbound traffic will follow on Thursday.

The bridge opened a full month ahead of schedule, according to project leaders and the mayor's office.

"We’ve seen the progress on the bridge go ... and it’s exciting to hear that a project is ahead of schedule," D.C. resident Ashley Bruggemann said.

Bruggeman has lived in the area for a year. She’s hoping this project not only changes trips across the Anacostia River but also changes the streets around the base of the bridge.

"Crossing as a pedestrian over at Potomac Avenue and South Capitol is risky," she said. "So hopefully, it helps with pedestrians and for bikers and not just for cars."

(L-R) Director of the District Department of Transportation Everett Lott, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tour the construction site atop the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge on May 19, 2021. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Also known as the South Capitol Street bridge, it carries South Capitol Street across the Anacostia River.

Haley Beath, who lives nearby, is hopeful that the notorious traffic that used to crawl across the bridge pre-pandemic doesn’t come back.

”I don’t think traffic is going to be as bad as it was in the past, because I think a lot of people are going to have flex schedules and be able to work from home more," Beath said.

The old Douglass bridge is still standing right next to the new bridge. It will need to be deconstructed piece by piece. That process will start in the coming weeks.

The work on the new bridge started back in 2017.

"This is a $441 million initiative," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said at the time. "It is the largest construction project in the history of the District of Columbia."

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