- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

The federal government has agreed to work with the District to repair and replace bridges in the city.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding providing a framework for cooperation on several projects along three miles of the Anacostia River.

The centerpiece of the project is a new Frederick Douglass Bridge, also known as the South Capitol Street Bridge. It would replace a 57-year-old span that serves as many as 77,000 vehicles each day.

“It will help serve as a gateway for the southern approach to the capital of the world,” Mr. Williams said.

The bridge provides foreign dignitaries arriving in Washington from Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland with their first glimpse of the city, Mr. Mineta said. Estimated costs of a new bridge are expected to top $300 million, as part of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.

The effort is part of a strategy to revitalize the blighted neighborhoods surrounding the bridge, which stand in stark contrast to the dome of the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument, both visible in the distance.

“The rebirth of Southeast and Southwest Washington will provide an Anacostia waterfront that will only be rivaled by the Capitol and our monuments as a place of destination for visitors to Washington, D.C.,” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

Mr. Hoyer warned that delays in replacing the bridge could stall planned commercial development in the area.

Preliminary funding for de-sign, engineering and environmental studies for a new bridge is included in a six-year highway-funding proposal pending in Congress. The House version would make $20 million available, while the Senate version has authorized $62 million.

“The Anacostia Waterfront Initiative and the replacement of the South Capitol Street Bridge are vital parts of the nation’s revitalization,” said Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent and the ranking minority member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Mr. Jeffords cited statistics from the Federal Highway Administration indicating that 28 percent of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and need replacement.

The agreement also pledges federal support for future repairs on four other Anacostia bridges, and a possible Massachusetts Avenue tunnel under the river near Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, joined Mr. Williams in calling the projects vital to the region’s ground transportation network serving the U.S. Capitol, the White House and several major military bases located in or near the city.

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