Arlington Memorial Bridge Rehabilitation

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

NPS

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 was degrading until the National Park Service began a full rehabilitation project in fall 2018. The bridge was reaching the end of its design life and required extensive rehabilitation, to include full replacement of its center span.

Background

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

Arlington Memorial Bridge originally included a center bascule span, or drawbridge. Counterweights housed below the bridge’s deck (driving surface) raised and lowered 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;
  • Arlington Memorial Bridge is a vital route identified in the Washington, D.C. emergency evacuation plan.

Necessary Repairs

The ongoing rehabilitation of the Memorial Bridge involves:
  • 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

History of interim repairs

Arlington Memorial Bridge was listed as structurally deficient during a regularly scheduled biennial inspection that happened in 2015. The bridge was rated deficient because of severe corrosion of the steel in the bascule span and because some support stringers (bridge floor beams) and framing were missing altogether. This raised concerns that the bridge's draw span might unexpectedly fail and fall six to eight inches (engineers did not anticipate the bridge woudl fall into the Potomac River).

At the time of its inspection, the bridge’s sidewalks showed de-lamination and spalling (crumbling) of the concrete surface and its granite curbs curbs were displaced. In order to protect pedestrians from falling through the sidewalk, engineers recommended installing temporary, aluminum structures to carry them across deteriorated parts of the sidewalk.

Several of the bridge's concrete arch spans appeared deficient as well. These require extensive rehabilitation. Core samples from the bridge deck showed that the concrete there was rapidly deteriorating.

The National Park Service began interim repairs to keep the bridge open in winter of 2015 and continued its work into winter of 2016. This work allowed NPS to reopen parts of the bridge that had been closed due to deterioration, but did not fundamentally change the need for a full rehabilitation. In order to ensure users' safety and preserve the bridge, the NPS instituted a 10-ton weight restriction (eliminating bus traffic from the bridge) that will remain in place until the rehabilitation is completed in early 2021.

Last updated: June 19, 2019