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South Capitol Street/Frederick Douglass Bridge

Plans underway to design/build a replacement for the Anacostia River bridge crossing
Preliminary design work and land acquistion began in 2012; RFQ for the first two phases released in spring 2013

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1244 South Capitol
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1111 New Jersey
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250 M St.
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909 Half St.
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Traffic modeling flyover of the new Douglass Bridge and its approaches, released by the DC government in December 2012.

As part of the plans to revitalize South Capitol Street from its intersection with I-395 south to Firth Sterling Avenue in Anacostia, the city will be building a new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, situated slightly to the southwest of the existing Douglass Bridge's location (see top of page). The city unveiled a slightly modified design in late 2012.

This new bridge will intersect with the western side of the Anacostia River via a traffic oval (seen below), where South Capitol Street, R Street, Potomac Avenue, and the new bridge would come together. The rotary would be big enough to include a park ("South Capitol Commons") in its interior. The plans would also include more public space between the south and east sides of the rotary and the river. (See the July 2013 update for views of the bridge's east-of-the-river approach.)

Some initial funding has now been appropriated, and land acquisition and design work is underway on the bridge. The cost of the bridge, along with constructing a traffic oval and circle on either end of the span and reconstructing the Interstate 295/Suitland Parkway interchange, are expected to cost $660 million. However, this price is dependent on the US Navy agreeing to a fixed-span bridge, instead of the expected drawbridge. No agreement with the federal government on this point has yet been announced. A Request for Qualifications from contractors for design-build construction of this section was issued in June 2013.

In summer 2007, the northern approach to the existing Douglass Bridge was altered considerably with the demolition the 800 feet of bridge that ran from O Street to Potomac Avenue, and the lowering of an additional 580 feet of the bridge so that it reacheed street level at Potomac Avenue.

The current Frederick Douglass Bridge, in August 2005. (08/05)
An overhead view of the revamped Douglass Bridge ramp and intersection at Potomac Avenue, as seen from Nationals Park, in May 2008. In the new design of this intersection, the traffic oval's northeast edge will meet with the ballpark's promenade entrance at far right. The new bridge itself will be "behind" (to the southwest) of the ramp seen here. The industrial area at left is the Florida Rock/RiverFront project, which will eventually also occupy the land where the current bridge arrives on the western shore. (5/26/08)
Looking northward on South Capitol Street at R Street/Water Street, in October 2005, before the demolition of the viaduct north of Potomac Avenue. This location would be the southern tip of the traffic oval in the new configuration, with the new bridge meeting the oval just to the right of this spot. (10/05)
Looking to the southeast at Water and South Capitol, where the new bridge would arrive from across the Anacostia. (10/05)
Someday there will be miles of waterfront amenities along the Anacostia; right now, not so much. (This is at South Capitol, north of S Street, right where the new bridge will arrive on the north shore.) (10/05)
South Capitol's terminus, at S Street. Plans call for parks or some sort of public use from this spot south to the river. (10/05)


In July and August 2007 DDOT undertook a $27 million major reconfiguration to dismantle the existing 400 feet of raised viaduct from Potomac Avenue north to O Street, with an additional 200 feet of the bridge from south of Potomac Avenue to the river's edge being lowered using jacks, allowing the bridge to come to street level at Potomac Avenue.
 

Want even more photos of the changed face of South Capitol Street? See the Extended Photo Archive.

Standing in the middle of the South Capitol Street/Potomac Avenue intersection, looking south, in July 2007. The old bridge didn't reach ground level until three blocks further to the north, at O Street, and the Potomac Avenue intersection was a scary dark spot. (07/07)
February 9, 2008 - The same spot, reopened.  Click to see all available photos of this location.
A stitched-together view looking east toward the South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue intersection, in January 2007. (01/07)
And the same location, six months after the reopening of the bridge, on the day of its rededication. (3/13/08) Click to see all available photos of this location.
An overhead view of the new Douglass Bridge ramp and intersection at Potomac Avenue, as seen from the Nationals Ballpark, in May 2008. (5/26/08)
The new iron railings between the right-of-way and the sidewalk were in place by the time the bridge reopened, though the bridge's new side railings still awaited installation. The historic "globe" lights across the length of the bridge are visible here. (8/29/07)
Looking south down the new South Capitol Street from the ballpark, in May 2008. The old viaduct used to begin at the bottom center of the photo. (5/26/08)
Looking north up South Capitol Street from south of Potomac Avenue, in October, 2005, gives a good idea of how the old viaduct split the boulevard down the middle. (10/05)
March 23, 2008 - The same spot, with the viaduct gone and South Capitol Street reopened.   Click to see all available photos of this location.
This was the view for many years from underneath the current Frederick Douglass Bridge, looking north, on Potomac Avenue. (09/04)
April 11, 2008 - The same spot, reopened.  Click to see all available photos of this location.
A view north on South Capitol Street from south of O Street, up on the viaduct, in January 2006. (01/06)
November 11, 2012 - The same view, now at grade.  Click to see all available photos of this location.
Standing on the Douglass Bridge looking to the north-northeast, a few days before the July 6, 2007, closure. (06/07)
The same location, five weeks after the bridge was closed for demolition and lowering. To see the changes, follow the bridge from the far left in both photos to see how the viaduct is now gone, and the ramp to street level starts much earlier. You can see at left the iron pieces where the new railing will be built--the old green railing at right will also be replaced with a new wrought-iron structure. (The Nationals' administration building is now under construction at rear right, next to the ballpark.) (8/15/07)
The new ramp, leading up from Potomac Avenue, now connected to the original bridge structure. (8/15/07)
This is what you saw if you stood in the "center" of South Capitol Street at P Street, looking south, until July 2007. (10/05)
August 3, 2008 - The same location, slightly different. Click to see all available photos of this location.
... And turning to look north, standing in the "center" of South Capitol Street at P Street, just before the demolition. (06/07)
March 14, 2013 - Exactly the same spot. Really, honestly, truly. It just about makes me cry. Click to see all available photos of this location.
The start of the South Capitol Street viaduct, looking south from about O Street, in January 2007. (Don't worry, the street was closed that day, I wasn't about to be killed.) (01/07)
March 23, 2008 - The same location, now slightly different. Click to see all available photos of this location.
If you're a commuter affected by the summer closure of the Douglass Bridge, take one moment out from your justified grousing to give thanks that you don't live in the 1400 block of South Capitol Street; this is what the view out their front doors looked like for years and years, and they dealt with construction 20 hours a day seven days a week during the eight-week closure of the bridge. (7/1/07)
Hopefully they think the noise and dust and clamor was worth the new vista they're about to get. (8/18/07)
A lot of people were inconvenienced by this bridge demolition, but it should be remembered that the goal was to change from a gritty industrial speedway to an urban boulevard showcasing the Capitol dome and a new ballpark. (6/16/07)
Yeah. Like that. (10/21/07)
The bridge in mid-demolition, at South Capitol and P, looking at the north side of P Street under the bridge. (7/8/07)
... And looking southward down South Capitol under the bridge from south of P Street. (7/8/07)


The Lowering, July 19

On July 19, the northernmost 200 feet of the remaining bridge was lowered two inches every hour on hydraulic jacks, from a few inches at the shoreline to 51 inches at its northern edge. (This shot is about 15 hours into the lowering. I can't believe I didn't think to take it during my morning visit!) (7/19/07)
This is the bridge's northern edge one hour into the process; the new earth-fill ramp up from Potomac Ave. is at left. (7/19/07)
The same location, seven hours later, about 90 minutes before the lowering was completed. Not a dramatic difference, but a difference nonetheless. (7/19/07)
The underside of the northern edge of the ramp, at the two-hour mark; you can see the hydraulic jacks, with four feet of lowering still to go. (7/19/07)
The same angle, seven hours later, and about 90 minutes before the lowering was completed. Look at the silver hydraulic jacks to get a feeling for the amount the bridge has been lowered. (7/19/07)
A closer view of the configuration of the jacks and the new columns, one hour into the lowering. (You can see one of the sheared-off old columns still hanging from the bridge in the center.) (7/19/07)
The same spot, seven hours later. Look at the silver jacks to tell the amount the bridge has been lowered. The new columns are in place as well. (7/19/07)
Looking south at the two other sets of jacks in place beneath the bridge, one hour into the lowering. The new columns in the foreground show the final height of this portion. (7/19/07)
A system of pulleys helped to keep the bridge in place during the lowering. (7/19/07)
(Top left) The configuration of the Douglass Bridge before July 2007 as it came across the north/west shore of the Anacostia River. Potomac Avenue ran underneath the viaduct at the rear of the image.
(Top right) What the South Capitol and Potomac intersection will look like after the makeover is finished. (The stadium will be at the upper right, on the northeast corner of the intersection.)
(Bottom left) An envisioning of what the intersection will look like when the stadium is finished and with other possible potential development.
Portion of a Washington Post graphic detailing how it will be accomplished; See the complete graphic for additional details.
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