Taft Bridge

Sunday, September 18, 2011 |

Today was a great, early autumn-like day to take a walk across the Taft Bridge in Washington, DC. A true urban bridge, the Taft Bridge carries Connecticut Avenue over Rock Creek Park, traversing the Rock Creek gorge with the park (and yes, there is a creek) way below. The bridge was completed in 1907, and was originally called just the Connecticut Avenue Bridge. But William Howard Taft, as an ex-President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, apparently walked over the bridge often, and it was named after him in 1931, the year after he died. (A bridge walker marvels about the presidential election of 1912, which pitted Taft against Theodore Roosevelt--namesake of the nearby bridge across the Potomac River--and the winning Woodrow Wilson--namesake of the area Beltway bridge over the Potomac.)

The Taft Bridge is a concrete arch bridge and is about one-quarter mile long. It is reportedly about 130 feet above the park below, quite believable given how small things looked down there. There is a great description of the history of the bridge from the Streets of Washington web site (http://www.streetsofwashington.com/2009/11/million-dollar-bridge.html), describing, among other things, how the bridge was originally called the "Million Dollar Bridge" because of its price tag (though it was actually 15% below that amount). There are also the great lion sculptures at each end of the bridge (2 on each side), which were replaced recently with replicas.

Walking over the bridge was surprisingly interesting, as the gorge opens up below and you can see quite a ways into the distance. Certainly worth the trip if you happen to be, say, at the nearby National Zoo. We walked on both sides of the bridge. You can see the Washington Cathedral in the distance off one side, and the nearly Duke Ellington Bridge off the other side. The railings are fairly open, and about upper-arm high (on me), thus allowing for the nice views or not providing a lot of protection, depending on your perspective. As for scariness rating, I'd give it a 12, with a 2 (out of 10) for length, 6 for height, and 4 for width (somewhat high, though open railings). Yes, height counts.