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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Culminates Her Decade-Long Effort with Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge Groundbreaking

Feb 13, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today at a groundbreaking ceremony for Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge with District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and other local elected officials said that “the Frederick Douglass bridge is the most important bridge in the nation’s capital” because it connects all the wards of the city, as well as commuters as tourists.

Norton struggled for over a decade to squirrel hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds for the project over the course of several appropriations.  The bridge will come just in time to enhance two economic development projects Norton has brought to the city—the Wharf and the Capitol Riverfront.  Norton said that she is particularly pleased the groundbreaking is today because the Congress is hosting a congressional ceremony honoring the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass on February 14, his adopted birthday.  Norton said, “for the District, though, there is no better way to celebrate the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass than to begin construction of the bridge named in his honor.”

Norton remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

“When the Founders built our city on two sides of a river, the Frederick Douglass--or South Capitol Street-Bridge became perhaps the most important bridge in the nation’s capital. The Douglass Bridge not only connects residents in wards 7 and 8 to the city’s other six wards, but commuters and revenue-producing tourists as well.  The importance of the bridge as the connective tissue to the region is clear from the efforts of my colleague Representative Steny Hoyer, who has always been helpful in securing funding for the bridge.  The Frederick Douglass Bridge is not only the largest construction project in our history, it is the workhorse crossing that holds our city and our region together, and is a gateway to our economy.  That is why as a subcommittee ranking member and a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have spent more than a decade seeking and squirrelling away the 60% federal funding for this bridge.

“It took so long to accumulate the total funding for the bridge, appropriation by appropriation, that we were forced to build the current temporary South Capitol Bridge structure.  The thick steel beams of the Frederick Douglass Bridge were being eaten alive by rapid corrosion.  However, the Douglass Bridge is such an indispensable connection to Southeast D.C., the region, and the South that we could not afford to be without a bridge while we awaited funding.

“I am particularly grateful that the bridge is coming just as my legislation has brought two major projects to the city on either side of the bridge. On the Southwest Waterfront, we opened phase one of The Wharf last month, in January.  On the Southeast Waterfront, the Capitol Riverfront and the Yards have been underway since late 2009.  Both of these development projects will continue for at least a dozen years, providing a continuing stream of good-paying construction jobs.  The new Frederick Douglass Bridge as a gateway bridge leading to The Wharf and the Capitol Riverfront is nothing short of a necessity if we are to have a world-class waterfront.  Like all great infrastructure projects, the Frederick Douglass Bridge will build jobs as well as infrastructure, 1,300 during construction of this bridge. 

“Most satisfying, construction will begin this year as we celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass.  The Congress will commemorate the Douglass bicentennial in a ceremony tomorrow, February 14, his adopted birthday.  For the District, though, there is no better way to celebrate the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass than to begin construction of the bridge named in his honor.”