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Construction to Realign Columbia Pike and Expand Arlington National Cemetery to Start Soon

Map of the Arlington National Cemetery Expansion and Defense Access Road Project (Photo via US Federal Highway Administration)

Construction to realign the eastern end of Columbia Pike, which is part of the project to expand Arlington National Cemetery, is expected to start soon.

The Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads (ANC DAR) Project will realign Columbia Pike from east of S. Oak Street to Washington Blvd (Route 27). It will also modify the S. Joyce Street intersection, change the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd interchange, and replace Southgate Road with an added segment of S. Nash Street.

Because of this, and as of early last month, parking is now permanently prohibited on Southgate Road between S. Oak Street and Columbia Pike.

Construction is expected to start in the early fall and be completed within four years, by summer of 2025, a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) spokesperson tells ARLnow. This timeline is slightly pushed back from what’s listed on the FHWA project page.

The project will also add a new sidewalk and a shared-use trail, improve bicycle facilities, add street lighting, and put utility lines underground. FHWA’s project page also notes that the work done will be consistent with Arlington County Master Transportation Plan and Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project. No residents will be displaced, though construction may bring added noise and traffic disruptions to the nearby Foxcroft Heights neighborhood.

All of this is being done to accommodate a 70 acre southern expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. It will add about 60,00 burial sites, including an above-ground columbarium, which will allow the cemetery to continue burials through the 2050s. The expansion will also bring the Air Force Memorial within cemetery grounds.

This project, particularly the modification of the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd interchange, will also provide space for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center. Construction on that is expected to start late 2023 with a completion set for two years later.

Rendering of the planned Columbia Pike realignment and the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center (Photo courtesy of Pentagon Memorial Fund, Inc./Fentress Architects)

While this realignment project has been long awaited, it hasn’t happened without some proverbial bumps in the road. Initially, the Army proposed a land exchange agreement with the county where the federal government would acquire the land from the county that was needed for the expansion. In exchange, the county would get “all land south of a realigned Columbia Pike to meet a variety of public facility needs.”

But, in 2017, the Army decided against the land exchange agreement, leaving the county “disappointed.”

Then, last summer, the federal government filed a civil suit to claim through eminent domain nine acres of land from Arlington County. The feds offered the county $10 for the land, but Arlington County Attorney Steve MacIsaac told DCist/WAMU in November 2020 that wasn’t going to cut it.

However, in January 2021, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved an agreement with the state, the Army, and the U.S. Department of Transportation that essentially provided the needed land in exchange for the feds paying for nearly all of the $60 million project. The county is only responsible for $500,000 to design a multi-use trail along Washington Blvd.

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