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Arlington leaders, Sen. Warner push for bridge funding

The Mount Vernon Avenue bridge is a vital link between Alexandria and Arlington, but it’s in rough shape and in desperate need of a refit.

This morning (Friday) Sen. Mark Warner and local leaders met with engineers to review the state of the Arlington Ridge Road/Mount Vernon Avenue bridge and advocate for it to get a significant boost from federal funding. Federal funding for bridge infrastructure is currently in the hands of state leaders who will allocate funding to bridge projects around the state.

Greg Emanuel, director of the Department of Environmental Services for Arlington County, led Warner and other leaders on a tour of the bridge and highlighted where the issues are. Beneath the Arlington side of the bridge, where the Four Mile Run trail runs, Emanuel said the superstructure will require replacement to the tune of around $28 million.

The nearby West Glebe Road Bridge is in a similar state of disrepair and Emanuel said Alexandria and Arlington are working together for bridge replacement over the course of this year and into 2023. Once that’s completed, Emanuel said Arlington and Alexandria will turn their attention to the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge in the 2024-2025 timeframe.

Emanuel said the current bridge is comprised of stacked slabs of concrete that are difficult to inspect without taking the bridge apart. While the piers and abutments holding up the bridge will remain, an inspection in 2018 found that parts of the roadway superstructure have deteriorated and need to be replaced with a steel bridge — which Emanuel noted will also be easier to inspect.

As part of a new infrastructure bill, Virginia is receiving $537 million for bridge repair. Of the bridge replacement’s $28 million estimated budget, up to 80% of that can be paid for from that federal funding that the state is currently divvying up.

“What we don’t want in Virginia is what happened in Pittsburgh a week ago,” said Warner. “Help is on its way for additional funding.”

Local leaders said more state and federal support for the bridge repair projects would be greatly appreciated.

“Bridges are about connecting communities,” said Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “We do have a plan to address [the bridge repair] but could use federal support. This project will make a big difference and improve connectivity between low-income communities.”

Alexandria City Council member John Chapman said he grew up around the area and saw little difference as a local between the Alexandria and Arlington sides of Four Mile Run. Chapman said residents on both side of Four Mile Run need to be able to move seamlessly from one side to the other.

“This is a great opportunity to show we caught something before it became a problem,” said City Council member Sarah Bagley. “Inspections are vital.”

Emanuel said localities are currently waiting for more announcements from the state on how the federal funding will be allocated, but Emanuel said the bridges that are in poor condition — which the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge qualifies as — will be first in line for funding.

Despite Gov. Glenn Youngkin getting a less-than-warm reception in Alexandria yesterday, Jennifer Deci, Youngkin’s Deputy Secretary of Transportation, was a welcome presence at the tour and said that state leadership was eager to work with federal and local partners to fund bridge projects and seek more infrastructure funding from the federal government.

Deci said the timeline for allocating the bridge funding is still being worked out, but will likely be sometime in the first half of this year.

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