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The new Frederick Douglass Bridge won't connect to the Suitland Parkway Trail

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is proposing a new Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge that will not connect to the Suitland Parkway Trail through Anacostia. The Suitland Parkway Trail's trailhead is only one mile from the proposed bridge.

DDOT will invest $600 million in a new South Capitol Street / Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge across the Anacostia River. This is the largest capital investment project in the DDOT's history and represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the design right for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Bridge engineers have been listening to the concerns of bicycling community over the last two years, and DDOT has made improvements to the bridge design for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The new span will have two 18-foot-wide multi-use trails, one on each side of the roadway. The sidepath space will be divided into an 8-foot sidewalk and a 10-foot-wide bicycle path. There will be direct connections from the bridge, around the traffic circles, to the street grid and existing or planned trail networks.

But there is a glaring exception: There is no direct connection to the Suitland Parkway Trail from the bridge. The Suitland Parkway Trail is a multi-use path that extends two miles east from Anacostia to the District's border with Maryland. Prince George's County is beginning plans to extend the trail another 3.5 miles east to the Branch Ave Metro Station. It is a preferred route for bicyclists because the trail is steady uphill grade; many nearby residential streets have very quick and steep climbs.

Bicyclists wishing to travel from the bridge to the trail will follow one of two routes. The first, on the south side of the bridge, follows the traffic circle around counterclockwise, underneath I-295, and ends at the intersection of Firth Sterling and the Suitland Parkway. This route crosses roads eight times, including two high speed interstate ramps. The second route begins on the north side of the bridge, follows the traffic circle around clockwise, and ends on Howard Road. Engineers would then paint bike lanes on Howard Road. Neither route ends anywhere near the Suitland Parkway Trail.

Residents who live just up the Anacostia River experience a similar roadway design every day. The unpleasant walk or bike ride from the Pennsylvania Ave Bridge underneath the freeway to Minnesota Avenue SE is nearly the same layout. Pedestrians and bicyclists must navigate a sea of crosswalks, high speed interstate highway ramps and numerous traffic lights. It's unsafe, unpleasant, and intimidating. DDOT should not repeat the same mistake.

DDOT engineers need to propose a direct connection from the new bridge to the trail. This connection should aim to keep pedestrians and bicyclists separated from car traffic, minimize crosswalks, and prioritize grade separated trail crossings. Trail users should not have to cross high-speed freeway ramps. The design should prioritize the experience of bicyclists and pedestrians. Most importantly, the trail connection should keep kids, adults, and seniors safe and be a direct, safe, and convenient connection of communities.

WABA has created a petition asking DDOT to design and build a safe trail connection from the South Capitol Street Bridge to the Suitland Parkway Trail.

Gregory Billing is Advocacy Coordinator at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.  


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In a section of the plan I did in Baltimore County, one was on freeways and bridges, and providing connections/crossings, although it didn't discuss trails super overtly. It discussed various Maryland policies and exemplary examples around the country. It was excised from the posted version (my boss said the plan wasn't supposed to be a design manual, I countered that there needed to be guidance on "experiential" aspects of various road design issues).

It is ironic, but not surprising that the city-state of Washington, DC is similarly indisposed to ensuring multi-modal elements of bridges that are barriers to connectedness, especially for biking.

by Richard Layman on Jan 7, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

Sort of related to the story, does anyone know why the the eastern interchange of the Frederick Douglas looks like an incomplete highway interchange? What was the big picture there? I have looked through countless old highway maps and plans of that area and I have found no hints.

by Rob on Jan 7, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

Sounds like the current plans are a step in the right direction, but they definitely need to make sure the connections are there beyond the bridge. For the waterfronts on both sides and Anacostia to develop there need to be safe pedestrian crossings. The streetcar is going to go on the 11 st bridge at least and there is metro but that would be a really roundabout trip coming from buzzard point. Some of the roundabout solutions might seem workable for drivers but walking 1500' out of your way is an extra 5 minutes at least to your trip and it adds up.

by BTA on Jan 7, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport


I don't know the plan regarding the region, but can only see on that the road was realigned in the late 1950's from an arrangement that swept to the northeast to one that stubs on a more northerly alignment that continues today.

by A. P. on Jan 7, 2014 11:33 am • linkreport

What did the NEPA document say in this regard? Direct connection to the Suitland Parkway in? Out? TBD?

by Some Ideas on Jan 7, 2014 12:52 pm • linkreport

^^ err... Suitland Parkway Trail...

by Some Ideas on Jan 7, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport


Thanks...I see now. Also you have have ruined the productivity for the rest of my week...I did not know about this historical aerial imagery site and now I will spend days on it. I thought I was only limited to Google Earth...

by Rob on Jan 7, 2014 1:13 pm • linkreport

love the bridge but hate the traffic oval. Why are we building the traffic oval again?

by Richard on Jan 7, 2014 2:04 pm • linkreport

"The design should prioritize the experience of bicyclists and pedestrians. "

You're asking way too much...

That aside, it costs $600 B today, but $800 B tomorrow...just wait. Seems steep considering it's a bland, utilitarian design (hopefully the Commission of Fine Arts can convince DDOT to consider other options). Any idea why the price tag is so high?

by Burd on Jan 7, 2014 2:19 pm • linkreport

The old bridge seems sound. Can't it be redecked?

by Steve on Jan 7, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport


How many people do you actually see walking across the bridge; in fact the only bridges in DC that I actually see people walk over are the Key Bridge, Alabama Ave bridge over Suiltand Parkway, Southern Ave bridge over Suiltand Parkway, MLK bridge over Suiltand Parkway and the bridges over Rock Creek Park.

I have never seen anyone walk over the 11th Street Bridge, Benning Road bridge over the Anacostia, Benning Road bridge over the rail tracks, Young Memorial (East Capitol over Anacostia) bridge, Sousa (Penn Ave over Anacostia)bridge. Brentwood Road bridge over New York Ave & rail tracks.


Out of curiousity has there ever been talk about putting 295 underground atleast near Anacostia Station or near major roads that cross it ?

by kk on Jan 7, 2014 4:15 pm • linkreport

Admittedly, apples and oranges but thousands of people bike or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge every day. Not as many surely, good my impression is a good number of people use the Key Bridge on bikes/ on foot. Nothing about bridges makes them inherently inhospital IF there are bike/ped connections that makes it possible. If DC truly wants to make Navy Yard/Waterfront the Downtown 2.0 for the city this should be a consideration, plus it would be good for development EOTR.

by BTA on Jan 7, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

People walk and run over the 14th street bridge, getting in the way of cyclists. For the cyclists themselves, there are times there are enough of them that its actually uncomfortable, though not as bad as Key Bridge. People walk and cycle over the Memorial Bridge, and I beleive over the TR bridge. Some folks walk or cycle over the Wilson bridge.

I would like to investigate the Anacostia River bridges - my general sense is some people do bike/walk over them.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 7, 2014 4:39 pm • linkreport

The old bridge seems sound. Can't it be redecked?

It isn't sound (it is both structurally deficient and fracture critical). It's been redecked. It needs to be replaced.

The concerns about the project aren't so much about the bridge itself, but about the roadways the new bridge will connect to on either end.

by Alex B. on Jan 7, 2014 4:56 pm • linkreport

How many people do you actually see walking across the bridge

I see a few people do it and there will likely be more with more development along the river. There might be more if it didn't suck to walk across.

by David C on Jan 7, 2014 5:08 pm • linkreport

@kk I have walked or run or cycled over two of the bridges you cite, many many times (in the 100s of times). I used to use the 11th St bridge to bike commute to work, and now use it for rides or runs along the lovely Anacostia Riverwalk trail. It's particularly nice now that they've rebuilt it. The Sousa bridge is a direct connection from Capitol Hill & the Potomac Ave metro station to Anacostia, and I know that local ultimate frisbee league players (myself included) use the bridge heavily on weekends to get to playing fields in Anacostia Park. I also cross it at other times for non-ultimate reasons. I've encountered many other people using both of these, although I wouldn't qualify either as "heavily trafficked", as compared with the 14th St bridge or the Key Bridge.

The South Capitol St bridge is also one I used to commute on by bike and I'm not sad that they'll be rebuilding it. It wouldn't take much to improve the pedestrian experience, and hopefully the connections on the south end will be decent. Except for the kinda creepy path that doubles back underneath the bridge and connects to the Riverwalk Trail, there isn't much pedestrian infrastructure in the area (in any direction) and to go south I generally just biked alongside 55 mph traffic on S Capitol. What fun!

by Ampersand on Jan 7, 2014 5:26 pm • linkreport

Looks like the crosswalk is missing at the south end of the bridge.

by AndrewJ on Jan 8, 2014 6:29 am • linkreport

I think that the new Douglass bridge should be functional and accessible to all who use it. It's not under construction yet, so there's still time to consider a direct connection to the Suitland Parkway trail.

by Roy J. Johnson on Jan 8, 2014 8:43 am • linkreport

No matter how they configure the I-295 interchange at Suitland Pkwy, it will be a traffic sewer and detrimental to bikes and peds. The best bet for a connection between the new Douglass Bridge and the Suitland Pkwy path is to add facilities along Howard Rd and around the Anacostia Metro station. Agree that such facilities should be included in the bridge project.

by Froggie on Jan 8, 2014 9:15 am • linkreport

I live in Congress Heights and ride the Suitland Parkway Trail just about every day on my commute to work.

I have been ranting and raving (with DDOT/Parks Service/City Council) over the last year or so to get the Trail upgraded and made safer to ride.

Quite frankly, the only organization that has done anything to make to the Trail better is WABA.

Forget DDOT. They are MIA when it comes to the Trail. In order for the Trail to get any attention from them it needs to be located in downtown DC like around L or M streets!

Physically, fixing the Trail is easy. The problem is the politics of the will, as far as I can see.

My experience in living in DC is that Ward 8 (Trail main location) gets next to nothing when it comes to fixing a Trail like Suitland, - as well as for most other things, for that matter.

Even more reason to keep up the good fight to get Trail the proper respect it deserves.

As that once famous Ward 8 resident Frederick Douglas put it: "Without struggle there is no progress."

Indeed, without struggle, there will be little or no progress for the Suitland Parkway Trail.

Bravo to WABA for keeping up the fight!

by Christopher on Jan 8, 2014 10:24 am • linkreport

Do the future phases of the South Capitol Street Bridge / Frederick Douglass Bridge include this connection? Without having read the updated plan, do the later phases with the reconstruction of the Suitland Parkway / I-295 Interchange area include any connection to the trail?

by CityGal26 on Jan 8, 2014 12:26 pm • linkreport

I'm rooting for the second route that ends on Howard Road because the route crossing "two high speed interstate ramps" sounds scary as heck (folks coming off ramps seem more likely to blow through a light, but I have no data to back up that hunch). Bike lanes on Howard Road would be useful since a sizable part of that road is uphill (nothing like riding uphill and praying the cars behind you see you/give you enough space).

by Alan P. on Jan 10, 2014 12:57 pm • linkreport


If they build a more pedestrian-friendly bridge, you'll see more people walking across it.

by Alan P. on Jan 10, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

My experience in living in DC is that Ward 8 (Trail main location) gets next to nothing when it comes to fixing a Trail like Suitland

Well, as trails go, Ward 8 gets more attention than any other ward. Major trail projects that DDOT is working on include the Anacostia Riverwalk, Oxon Run Trail and the South Capital Street Trail - all of which run through Ward 8. They also completely rehabbed the Marvin Gaye Trail which is in Ward 7. No other ward can point to three major trail projects on the radar (and Suitland is also on the radar). The fact is that trail work in DC is moving slow everywhere (Met Branch Trail, Rock Creek Park, etc...) If Ward 8 has it bad, I wonder who you think has it better?

The main reason that DDOT ignores the Suitland Parkway Trail is that they feel like it doesn't have much utility until PG County extends it to the Metro (right now it dead ends at the DC/MD boundary). Now that may or may not be a good idea, but it has nothing to do with ignoring

by David C on Jan 10, 2014 10:36 pm • linkreport

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