~ New bridge named Freedmans Village Bridge, honoring historic local community ~
RICHMOND - Governor Terry McAuliffe dedicated today a new bridge that carries Washington Boulevard (Route 27) over Columbia Pike (Route 244) in Arlington, as the “Freedmans Village Bridge,” in honor of Freedmans Village, a historic community that once occupied the surrounding land and was a refuge for freed and fugitive slaves during the Civil War. Transportation, community and local leaders, and descendants of Freedmans Village families, joined the Governor in celebrating the new transportation asset, while paying tribute to the historical significance of the Freedmans Village Community.
“Today’s dedication ceremony celebrates the completion of a new bridge that connects a vibrant and busy travel area in Northern Virginia, connects communities, and connects the present time with a rich, historical past in Arlington,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Community input and partnership was critical to this project’s development, and resulted in adopting the best available design options, and most importantly, led to the naming of the bridge as the Freedmans Village Bridge. The bridge is a model for the ommonwealth of how partnership and cooperation can produce positive results and critical improvements to our infrastructure.”
Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne added, “The new Freedmans Village Bridge is a great example of Virginia’s commitment to replacing aging and deteriorating infrastructure. Through the efforts of our project team, federal, local and contractor partners, and the local community, the new bridge and interchange accomplish our operational and safety goals, enhance travel for vehicles, buses, bicyclists and pedestrians, and preserve access to the local neighborhoods.”
The new bridge was built in an historical area where the federal government established the Freedmans Village in 1863 for newly freed slaves. On April 16, 2009, the Commonwealth Transportation Board designated the bridge as the “Freedmans Village Bridge.” The new bridge has features that reflect the historical significance of the area including bronze medallions depicting a house and a family from Freedmans Village.
The bridge has four 12-foot lanes, improved shoulders and an open area separating the westbound and eastbound spans, allowing natural light to illuminate Columbia Pike below. The bridge is built wide enough to accommodate growth, and bicyclist and pedestrian paths, along Columbia Pike.
The original bridge, built in 1942 as part of the Pentagon Roadway Network, was deteriorating to the extent that it rated as structurally deficient. Planning for the new bridge began in 1996, but faced budget delays and constructability challenges. A citizens’ task force was created in 2006 to address the aesthetics and accessibility of the bridge, as well as safety and operational issues. VDOT engineers worked with the task force and surrounding community to keep local South Queen Street open with full access to and from Columbia Pike.
Construction on the design-build project began in 2011 by Shirley Contracting Company. Landscaping around the bridge and interchange is scheduled to occur this fall.