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For the last couple months, the city has been trying to figure out the best way to keep its options open for re-using a piece of the old 11th Street Bridge when cars are going over a new one. The Office of Planning floated a “recreation bridge” that would have all sorts of programming, creating an even stronger connection across the Anacostia River.

In order for the rest of the bridge to get finished, though, they had to make a decision last month about what to do with it. The outcome: The roadway will be demolished, and if a financial partner takes an interest, it could be rebuilt.

“The real clincher was the maintenance of something that’s steel and has corrosion and would have to be patched and repaired and over the decades, sandblasted and painted,” says OP’s Patricia Zingsheim. At the same time, however, taking off the old surface would allow for much greater flexibility in designing something lighter, newer, and more creative.

To that end, OP will launch a design competition sometime this fall. Zingsheim was inspired by a similar project in Providence, R.I., which also tore down an old bridge and solicited proposals for a new one. (To give a ballpark estimate of cost, Providence estimates its new bridge—-which is one third as long as the 11th Street span—-will cost about $5.5 million).

“It isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky ideas competition,” Zingsheim says. “We’re thinking it as a competition that would generate more than an idea, it would generate a buildable product.”

Then, of course, they have to go sell that buildable product to someone who’s willing to pay for it. Although Zingsheim says she’s received expressions of interest from recreation organizations interested in fostering active living, no large sponsor has yet stepped forward to finance the project.