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Deteriorating Memorial Bridge Receives $90 Million for Repairs

It appears that the threat of Memorial Bridge closing by 2021 due to deterioration and neglect has been averted.

The Northern Virginia and D.C. congressional delegation announced today that a proposed Memorial Bridge restoration project has been awarded a $90 million federal transportation grant.

“While additional federal resources will be needed to complete this $250 million project, this funding will allow [the National Park Service] to move forward with planning and contracting immediately so that construction can begin early next year,” lawmakers said in a joint statement (see press release, below.)

“This is a wonderful step forward,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) told ARLnow.com shortly after the announcement Tuesday afternoon. “It is certainly enough to get started, enough for the people who drive over that bridge every day to feel like the government can actually work and we can actually respond to some of the most important infrastructure projects.”

Beyer said the National Park Service, which is responsible for maintaining the bridge, has committed $50 million for the project. Another $30 million is in the works from a U.S. Senate appropriations bill, Beyer said, thanks to Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

(While it connects Virginia and D.C., Memorial Bridge is technically located entirely within the boundary of the District of Columbia, which begins at the western shoreline of the Potomac River.)

Built in 1932, Memorial Bridge is well past its 75-year life expectancy, yet it is a vital, heavily-traveled link between the District and Virginia. That it has taken such a concerted effort to arrange financing for an extremely necessary project is symptomatic of both congressional gridlock and the current, deteriorated state of transportation infrastructure throughout the United States.

“It’s taken a lot mostly because there are so many infrastructure projects around the country,” Beyer said. “But I think we were ultimately effective in saying closing down the major route between the north and the south in Virginia and D.C. would be a disaster for the country and certainly a disaster for the effectiveness of the federal government.”

“We still have to get the other 80 million or so… once the project is rolling we have all the credibility we need to get the rest of the money,” Beyer added. “Now all we have to do is get Metro all fixed and we will be happy campers.”

The full press release on the grant funding, from Sen. Warner’s office, is below.

Congressional representatives from Virginia and the District of Columbia today announced that the National Park Service (NPS), jointly with the District Department of Transportation, has been awarded a $90 million FASTLANE Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for repairs to Arlington Memorial Bridge, which carries 68,000 vehicles daily. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly and Barbara Comstock jointly issued the following statement:

“We are very pleased to announce that the Department of Transportation has selected Arlington Memorial Bridge to receive a $90 million FASTLANE grant. While additional federal resources will be needed to complete this $250 million project, this funding will allow NPS to move forward with planning and contracting immediately so that construction can begin early next year. This significant federal investment will go a long way towards ensuring that Memorial Bridge remains open, which is welcome news for the region’s commuters.”

“We are proud that the entire National Capital Region delegation worked together to make sure that the National Park Service submitted a strong application for this FASTLANE Grant. This would not have been possible without the crucial support of Mayor Bowser and the District Department of Transportation.”

“The congressional delegation looks forward to working with all local jurisdictions and our colleagues in Congress to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to fully repair the Bridge and keep this 84-year-old icon of American infrastructure standing strong.”

Today’s funding announcement will go toward Phase 1 of the reconstruction of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The Memorial Bridge, which was originally built in 1932, has exceeded its 75-year design life and is structurally deficient, having never undergone a major rehabilitation. It is currently posted with a 10-ton load limit and buses are prohibited from crossing. Without a major overhaul, the project will be closed to vehicular traffic in 2021. Phase 1 will focus on the approach spans, which are the most in need of repairs, at a total cost of $166 million. Completion of Phase 1 will allow the bridge to remain open until 2030 while additional actions are taken to complete Phase 2, the reconstruction of main bascule span.

Closing the Memorial Bridge would cost local governments a projected $168,000 per day ($75 million per year) in transportation outlays alone, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Transit studies suggest that traffic from the bridge would spill over onto other area bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge.

In April, the congressional delegation wrote to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to endorse the FASTLANE application. Last month, Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined NPS on a tour for a firsthand look at the rapidly deteriorating state of Memorial Bridge.

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