On Friday, December 4, 2020, the National Park Service completely reopened the rehabilitated Arlington Memorial Bridge to drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. The $227 million rehabilitation project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in NPS history, is a momentous accomplishment for the Department of the Interior and its federal partners that will extend the bridge’s useful life for 75 years.
More than a bridge
Arlington Memorial Bridge has served as a monument to the sacrifices and valor of our nation’s military personnel since its dedication in 1932. Now that it is nearly 90 years old, the National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration are rehabilitating the bridge for service in its second century. As one of the largest transportation projects in National Park Service history, the rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge will give new life to our capital’s ceremonial entrance while respecting its character, history, and national significance.
How the National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration managed the repair and rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge
|Year||Temporary Emergency Repairs||Cost ($)|
|2012||Environmental Assessment, Planning, Design||3,370,963|
|2012||Bridge Roadway, Load-Bearing Columns, Stringers||1,319,205|
|2015||Bridge Roadway, Load-Bearing Columns, Support Beams, Stringers||4,022,365|
|2017||Trunnion Posts||Est. 5,000,000|
Since 2009 when significant deterioration was discovered during a routine FHWA inspection, the NPS has conducted outreach to raise awareness of and support for rehabilitating Arlington Memorial Bridge. This outreach has included conversations, meetings, and bridge tours with elected officials, members of the Virginia and District Departments of Transportation partner agencies, and press.
Arlington Memorial Bridge is a key component of the Greater Washington Area transportation network, with an estimated 68,000 vehicles from Virginia (58 percent), Washington, D.C (21 percent), Maryland (14 percent) and out of town visitors (7 percent) crossing the bridge daily. The bridge is also designated as an emergency evacuation route for the nation’s capital..
According to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, the result of a full bridge closure would directly impact the three nearby Potomac River bridges: 14th Street Bridge, Roosevelt Bridge and Key Bridge, which already carry more than 400,000 vehicles daily. The planning board estimates a full Arlington Memorial Bridge closure could result in a 22 percent increase in traffic congestion levels along the Potomac River corridor. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments says a full bridge closure would have a negative economic impact on the region to the tune of $74.5 million/year in traffic delay costs alone.
As the NPS continues its longstanding commitment to keep Arlington Memorial Bridge open and safe, other critical regional transportation projects have been postponed, including Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Fort Davis Drive, and Fort Dupont Drive. These projects, which are not new, are victims of diverting transportation funds to conduct emergency repairs on Arlington Memorial Bridge, and continue to lack the funds for repairs they desperately need.
Planning for the Rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge
The rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge was one of the National Park Service’s (NPS) top priorities and one of the largest transportation projects in NPS history. Since 2013, the NPS was been making emergency, yet temporary, repairs to the bridge while planning a full rehabilitation. In February 2016, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) informed the NPS that despite these emergency repairs, without a complete rehabilitation, the continued and accelerated deterioration of the concrete deck would require a full bridge closure in 2021.
Designed as a memorial symbolizing reunification of the North and South after the Civil War, Arlington Memorial Bridge links the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, in Arlington, Va. The bridge also serves as the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, our nation’s most hallowed ground and the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their family members.
Plan to fund the project
In 2017, members of Congress notified the NPS that the Department of Transportation recommended a $90 million FASTLANE grant award for the Arlington Memorial Bridge rehabilitation project. USDOT grant recommendations are subject to a congressional review period before official notification. As part of the FASTLANE grant award, the NPS secured a percentage of matching funds from its neighbors.
The $90 million grant was a huge boost to the rehabilitation project, and the NPS Federal Lands Transportation Program also obligated funds to cover the cost of repairs.
Until the work was done, the NPS and USPP managed a 10-ton load limit education campaign, followed by targeted enforcement. The NPS installed additional load limit signs, place variable message boards near the bridge, contact step-on tour guides and bus drivers near Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, and conducted additional outreach to the tourism industry.
At the recommendation of FHWA bridge engineers, the 10-ton load limit on Arlington Memorial Bridge remained in effect until a full rehabilitation was complete.
Last updated: April 2, 2021