Arlington Memorial Bridge Repair & Reconstruction

blue sky, memorial bridge crosses the potomac river
Arlington Memorial Bridge has carried traffic across the Potomac River and into Washington, DC since 1932.


Beginning of Construction

The National Park Service began work to rehabilitate Arlington Memorial Bridge in spring 2018. We anticipate the work will take until early 2021 to complete. If you want to learn about the work we are doing now, read the Arlington Memorial Bridge Rehabilitation page.

To learn about why we are rehabilitating the bridge, read the legacy article here.

Project Description

The condition of Arlington Memorial Bridge is degrading quickly. The Memorial Bridge has reached the end of its design life and requires extensive rehabilitation, to include full replacement of its center span. Corrective measures are needed now to keep the structure open to the public until the rehabilitation can be performed.


Symbolically connecting the North and the South, the Bridge was constructed in 1932, crossing the Potomac River between the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington Cemetery.

The Memorial Bridge, of neoclassical design, contains a center bascule span, or drawbridge. Counterweights are housed below the bridge’s deck surface to raise and lower the center span.
This iconic bridge, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, plays several important roles:
  • It serves as a significant vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian route for commuters, residents, visitors, and dignitaries on a daily basis;
    • It is one of only five bridges connecting Virginia and the District of Columbia across the Potomac River;
    • It is part of the National Highway System,carrying more than 68,000 vehicles each day, in addition to thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians;
    • The Memorial Bridge is a vital route identified in the Washington, D.C. emergency evacuation plan.

Necessary Repairs

The rehabilitation of the Memorial Bridge will require:
  • replacement of the steel draw span (bascule span);• repairs to deteriorated portions of the abutments, piers, and concrete approach spans;
  • replacement of the concrete bridge deck;
  • repair or replacement of all the other systems that make it a safe, functional bridge, including: lighting, drainage, pedestrian access, and safety features.
A rehabilitated Memorial Bridge would ensure a safe, long-term entrance into our
nation's capital.

Current Status

The Memorial Bridge structure was listed as structurally deficient in its most recent biennial inspection. This is due primarily to severe corrosion of the steel in the bascule span; some support stringers and framing are missing altogether. In the event that the bascule span fails, the center section is not expected to fall into the Potomac River, but could suddenly settle, creating an abrupt six to eight inch drop in the roadway on the bridge’s center section.

The bridge’s sidewalks show de-lamination and spalling of the concrete surface, and displacement of the granite curbs. Aluminum structures have already been placed across sections of the bridge’s sidewalks to protect pedestrians from falling at deteriorated areas.

There is also significant deterioration of the concrete in the arch spans, several of which are deficient as well. These will require extensive rehabilitation. Finally, there are widespread areas of patching and rutting throughout the deck surface, and recent core samples indicate that the deck concrete is rapidly deteriorating.

As of February 2016, interim repairs begun in FY 15 have nearly been completed. The outer lanes that were previously closed due to accelerated deterioration have since been reopened. However, a 10-ton weight restriction (eliminating bus traffic on the bridge) will remain in place until a full rehabilitation is completed.

As the list of deficiencies increases, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) may recommend additional load restrictions, and could eventually recommend complete closure.

The FHWA has recommended an additional interim project to shore up the bascule span’s trunnion posts (the columns which hold up the center span) to guard against a partial failure. This is an example of the costly work necessary to keep the Memorial Bridge open and safe before the extensive rehabilitation work can even begin.

Last updated: April 3, 2019