DC's AECOM-designed Frederick Douglass Bridge deemed 'too industrial'
- The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) has said AECOM's design for Washington, DC's new $441 million Frederick Douglass Bridge spanning the Anacostia River may be "too industrial," according to the Washington Business Journal — a review that could delay the project's construction.
- At the heart of the commission's negative review is the "appropriateness" of the 1,600-foot-long replacement span's three 114-foot-tall arches. That design, according to the Commission, conflicts with other DC bridges that feature below-deck supports.
- The CFA's design input is not binding on the bridge team, but, according to the Business Journal, it is difficult to move forward on a project without its approval. Even though the bridge, which is the largest project in DC's history, is scheduled to begin construction by the end of the year, the Commission suggested the project team consider which design elements are necessary and which can be "treated with more flexibility."
Replacement of the nearly 70-year-old Frederick Douglass Bridge also came into play during zoning discussions concerning the new $300 million Audi Field soccer stadium project nearby. At least one commissioner expressed concern at the potential for additional traffic headaches if the two were under construction at the same time.
And much like its nearby span, Audi Field had to overcome critical reviews from the DC Zoning Commission about its design. D.C. United team owners agreed to redesign some elements of the stadium after developers with property nearby said the overall aesthetic wasn't inviting to visitors. One commission member noted the proposed stadium was reminiscent of a prison.
In June, the Business Journal reported that the team secured two construction loans totaling $120 million — $95 million from Goldman Sachs and $25 million from Maryland-based Eagle Bank. The city is contributing the balance via a package of land, site work and infrastructure improvements, plus, if necessary, up to $10 million in cost overrun funding.
Though design issues are at the forefront of the Frederick Douglass Bridge's struggle to get off the ground, the span's construction would mark a major milestone for much-needed infrastructure repairs in the nation's capital. At 63.67%, Washington, DC, hosts the nation's highest percentage of functionally obsolete bridges. While the number of deficient bridges in the DC-metro area has declined in recent years, a growing population of residents and visitors stands to put more strain on the region's infrastructure, increasing the need for further repairs.
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