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D.C. Pedestrian Bridge Collapse Intensifies Infrastructure Debate

Recent Tragedy in Miami Further Evidence that Congress Must Act

In the aftermath of a pedestrian bridge’s collapse on DC-295, several city officials have called for an investigation into the cause of the catastrophic event and the immediate repair of bridges that ensure pedestrian access across the Kenilworth Avenue corridor.

However, some Ward 7 residents contend that the entire Kenilworth Avenue corridor, long-neglected, remains in serious need of repair.

Since the bridge’s collapse on Monday, June 23, D.C. resident Sherice Muhammad has been in contact with Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office to garner federal support for what she described as a vast infrastructure project.

Upgrades which Muhammad recommends include additional lanes and exits allowing for easier vehicular access to portions of Ward 8, the inclusion of bike lanes,and other access points for pedestrians.

She said that these suggestions have been in place for nearly a decade since the formation of a transportation and infrastructure committee in ANC 7D.

“The Kenilworth corridor was left out of the 11th Street Bridge project, so the question is why,” Muhammad said. “The bridge collapse calls into question the state of the entire corridor. We need funding to bring the infrastructure to code from Eastern Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue. That portion is in dire need of complete remediation.”

The recent collapse, caused by the collision of a truck passing under the bridge, occurred one day before the partial buckling of a building in South Miami that, as of Monday, has claimed 11 lives with 150 still missing.

President Joe Biden (D) and a bipartisan cohort of senators recently reached a deal on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that focuses on roads, bridges, railways and broadband. On Monday, after Biden confirmed the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill would stand on its own, Republican leaders in the Senate continued to encourage its separation from a spending bill that has support along party lines and includes the president’s policies on child care, education and health.

Meanwhile, in the District, DC Fire and EMS reported at least five injuries from the bridge collapse near the Benning Road/Foote Street exit of DC-295.

Authorities initially mentioned that the bridge passed a February inspection. But a report then surfaced which revealed that the bridge received a “poor” rating one month ago. Still, authorities remain cautious in exclusively blaming the bridge’s structural challenges on the collapse, although they did credit the truck with exacerbating decades of wear and tear.

In a statement, D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) called for a full investigation into the circumstances of the bridge collapse and cited the need for funding infrastructure upgrades in communities in the eastern part of the District.

The Informer could not secure an interview with the council member.

DC-295, also known as the Anacostia Freeway, starts at the split between I-695 and I-295 at the 11th Street Bridge and goes along the Anacostia River to the D.C-Maryland border. It, along with I-295 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, takes drivers to the Capital Beltway, or I-495.

Maryland state officials approved constructions of the corridor in the early 1950s and construction wrapped up in the mid-1960s.

In the process, surrounding communities like Kenilworth-Parkside became isolated. Decades later, residents, nearly half of whom do not own a car, have come to rely on the pedestrian bridges as a main connecting point from their homes to other parts of the city.

Even so, city officials have neglected to divert attention and funds to the community’s infrastructure needs as Kenilworth-Parkside resident Justin Lini told The Informer.

Lini, a onetime ANC official and member of the ANC 7D transportation and infrastructure committee, recounted testifying before the D.C. Council, taking D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on neighborhood tours and courting officials within the D.C. Department of Transportation for nearly a decade.

He said this all counts as part of an initiative to highlight a problem that much of the world saw firsthand on June 23.

“Our lifeline for all those decades has been pedestrian bridges like the one that was hit by the truck,” Lini said.

“We have a bridge at Hayes Street that is used by thousands of people during normal hours and that’s a lifeline. Bridges like that are really key but they’re not new. We’re fortunate that we have a new pedestrian bridge coming but the work has been long in coming. We rely on infrastructure but it doesn’t even seem to be a priority.”

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