11th Street Bridges
The 11th Street Bridges are a pair of one-way bridges across the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. The southbound structure is officially named the Officer Kevin J. Welsh Memorial Bridge, while the northbound structure is officially named the 11th Street Bridge. The bridges convey Interstate 295 across the Anacostia to its northern terminus at the unsigned Interstate 695. The bridges also connect the neighborhood of Anacostia with the rest of the city of Washington. In 2004, the bridges carried 86,000 vehicles per day, the second-largest volume of the four "middle Anacostia River" bridge crossings.

The first bridge across the Anacostia River in this area was the Eastern Branch Bridge, a privately owned toll and drawbridge built between 1795 and 1800 about a quarter of a mile (0.4 kilometres) upstream from 11th Street SE (at the site of the current John Philip Sousa Bridge). The Eastern Branch Bridge was blown up and partially burned by retreating American soldiers in August 1814 during the War of 1812. It was rebuilt, but burned completely in August 1846. In 1820, the privately owned "Upper Navy Yard Bridge" was built over the Anacostia River at 11th Street SE. Also a toll bridge, this second bridge became a "free" bridge in 1848 after it was purchased by the federal government. From the city's founding until 1854, the area known today as Anacostia was primarily sparsely populated farmland. But Anacostia was platted in 1854, and development slowly began to turn the agricultural land into businesses and residences. The destruction of the Eastern Branch Bridge in 1846, however, significantly slowed growth in the area for five decades. A second bridge was built in the same location in 1872-1873. This bridge was replaced in 1905-1907 by a stronger, wider span (the "Anacostia Bridge") which accommodated streetcars. It was this span which the Bonus Army fled across on July 28, 1932, when attacked by the United States Army. The 1907 span was replaced by a modern structure four-lane bridge carrying one-way northbound traffic in 1965 as part of the development of the "Inner Loop" (see below). A second four-lane bridge was added in 1970, with one-way traffic over the span of each bridge. Both are beam bridges: " are two-girder systems with steel composite construction and a central drop-in span on pin supports. The main girders are riveted and welded, and both have reinforced wall type piers with granite facing, supported by steel H piles." Each span is about 63 feet (19.2 metres) wide. Each bridge has roughly five sections"four sections of about 170 feet (51.85 m) in length, with a center section about 234 feet (71.4 m) in length. Both spans are considered "fracture critical," which means that if one girder in the span fails the entire bridge is likely to collapse.

The Inner Loop
In 1956, federal and regional transportation planners proposed an Inner Loop Expressway composed of three circumferential beltways for the District of Columbia. The innermost beltway would have formed a flattened oval about a mile in radius centered on the White House. The middle beltway would have formed an arc along the northern portion of the city, running from the proposed Barney Circle Freeway (whose terminus would have been near Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium) through Anacostia Park, cut northwest through the Trinidad neighborhood along Mt. Olivet Road NE, followed the Amtrak rail line north to Missouri Avenue NW, along Missouri Avenue NW to Military Road NW, along Military Road NW across Rock Creek Park to Nebraska Avenue NW, down Nebraska Avenue NW to New Mexico Avenue NW, and down New Mexico Avenue NW and across Glover-Archbold Park until it terminated near 37th Street NW at the north end of Georgetown. Two decades of protest led to the cancellation of all but the I-395 and I-695 portions of the plan. The unbuilt portions of the project were finally cancelled in 1977. Several ramps allowing traffic on the 11th Street Bridges to access I-295/Anacostia Freeway and I-695 eastbound remained unbuilt because of these cancellations, creating severe traffic problems on both ends of the bridges.

Barney Circle Freeway
In 1975, federal, regional, and city transportation planners proposed an extension to I-695/Southeast Freeway to be called the "Barney Circle Freeway" to help alleviate the problems created by the failure to complete the Inner Loop. In part, the project was also designed to encourage commuters currently traversing Capitol Hill to use the Southeast Freeway as their primary route out of the city. The freeway would extend I-695 past its existing terminus at the Barney traffic circle, and travel along the western bank of the Anacostia River (through Anacostia Park) to East Capitol Street and Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. A new bridge over the Anacostia River at Burnham Barrier would provide vehicles easy access to the Anacostia Freeway. The project would also upgrade I-295 by adding bus and carpool lanes. The combined bridge and freeway project was ready for construction to begin in 1981, and its cost was estimated to be $93.5 million. But after protests from residents of Capitol Hill (who feared the Barney Circle Freeway would cause more traffic to flow into the area) as well as environmentalists, the District of Columbia agreed to reduce the number of lanes on the Barney Circle Freeway to two from four. The protests and legal and regulatory challenges to the proposed freeway did not end, however, and by 1992 the freeway's cost had ballooned to $160 million and it remained unbuilt. By 1993, costs for the project had increased to $200 million, but D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly gave her approval for construction to begin. But construction was delayed yet again when the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Anacostia Watershed Society, Committee of 100 on the Federal City, Citizens Committee to Stop It Again, D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, Friends of the Earth, Kingman Park Civic Association, the Barney Circle Neighborhood Watch, Urban Protectors, and American Rivers threatened to sue unless the city scaled back the freeway even further, agreed to add exit ramps at the junction of Pennsylvania Avenue SE and I-695, and altered traffic patterns (e.g., creating more one-way streets) on Capitol Hill. The groups could not reach an agreement with the city, and filed suit to stop construction in May 1994. The groups claimed that federal and city officials had covered up how much hazardous waste lay under the construction sites; claimed the roads and bridge would add pollution, traffic, and noise to existing neighborhoods; pollute the Anacostia River; destroy much-needed city parkland; and benefit out-of-state commuters and affluent Capitol Hill residents while harming the poor, African American neighborhoods in Anacostia. City studies in 1991 and 1992 discovered large amounts of lead waste (from a former smelter) on the west bank of the Anacostia River, but city officials said the amount of pollution was not enough to warrant any change in plans (a conclusion the groups disagreed with). A second lawsuit was filed days later by the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, the National Audubon Society, and the Citizens Committee to Stop It Again alleging that planning officials did not consider all reasonable alternatives to the project. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials agreed to delay the start of construction by four months to allow the suits to be heard by the courts. In August 1994, FHWA administrators agreed to conduct an additional environmental impact assessment regarding the project. The study, released in October 1994, showed that 15,000 (25.6 percent) more tons of polluted soil would need to be disposed of, at a cost of $5 million. Nonetheless, the federal government said that the environmental assessment's findings did not alter its earlier conclusion that construction of the roadway and bridge project was economically feasible, technologically appropriate, and environmentally sound. On the basis of these findings, federal highway officials refused to seek a large-scale, more complete environmental impact assessment for the project. The D.C. City Council had the final say on whether to proceed with the project or not. The Council began debating the project on November 6, 1994. In December 1994, the City Council bowed to neighborhood opposition and voted overwhelmingly to reject the project.

2009 rebuilding
The District of Columbia assessed the bridges in 2002. The Welsh Memorial Bridge was rated "satisfactory" (superstructure rating of 6; substructure rating of 6) while the 11th Street Bridge was rated "fair to poor" (superstructure rating of 5; substructure rating of 4). Both superstructures are near maximum life expectancy. Without improvements to traffic patterns across the Anacostia River, the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) estimated in 2005 that traffic over the 11th Street Bridges would significantly expand to 105,100 vehicles per day by 2030, an increase of 22.2 percent over 2004 and more than 40.3 percent higher than the next-busiest bridge (Sousa Bridge). DDOT undertook a major study of the bridges in 2004 which concluded that both bridges should be replaced. DDOT and the FHWA issued notices to proceed with further assessments in September 2005, a draft environmental impact assessment published in July 2006, a final environmental assessment published in September 2007, and a decision to proceed promulgated in July 2008. Public hearings were held in September 2005, December 2005, and July 2006. Because of design changes, the environmental impact study was re-evaluated in July 2009 and found to still be sufficient. The goals of the project are:
  • to reduce traffic congestion on the both the 11th Street Bridges and on local streets;
  • to increase the safety of all types of traffic on local streets;
  • to replace the current bridges;
  • to provide an improved emergency evacuation route for the nation's capital; and
  • to provide routes for security personnel in and out of the nation's capital.
The entire replacement project is expected to cost $365 million. Demolition of a portion of the bridges began in July 2009 (a portion of M Street SE and I-295 access ramp at 12th Street SE were closed for two weekends to permit demolition of bridge ramps), and construction is scheduled to end in 2013. On-ramps from Anacostia to the northbound span of the 11th Street Bridges were closed on December 20, 2009, for five and a half hours after heavy snow blocked the approaches during the North American blizzard of 2009, with the snow removal disrupting automobile traffic and forcing the temporary closure of several Metrobus routes which use the bridge. Lane closures on the bridges, as well lane closures and other traffic restrictions on nearby local roads and on- and off-ramps, began October 26, 2010, as the construction moved from the middle of the Anacostia River toward the shore. City engineers estimated that the project was 25 percent complete by late October 2010. The project was on track for completion in 2013. On November 5, 2010, construction crews began driving piles east of the bridge on its northern side to begin construction of the ramp connecting the new bridge to east-bound Southeast Freeway.