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Part of Columbia Pike to close later this month for cemetery expansion

The Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads Project, set to be completed in 2025 (image via screenshot/FHWA)

(Updated at 12:40 p.m. on 8/16/23) A portion of Columbia Pike is set to close for more than a year later this month to help make way for Arlington National Cemetery’s expansion.

The half-mile section of Columbia Pike between S. Joyce Street and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) facility just east of S. Oak Street is expected to be shuttered starting Monday, Jan. 23.

It will remain closed until the summer of 2024.

The closures are part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads (DAR) project that’s being done to accommodate the 50-acre southern expansion of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC).

This will add about 80,000 burial sites, allowing the cemetery to continue burials through the 2050s. The expansion will also bring the Air Force Memorial within cemetery grounds as well as provide space for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center, with construction on that currently slated to start next year.

The overall expansion project remains on track to be completed by 2027, an ANC spokesperson confirmed to ARLnow.

Some detour specifics for the Pike closure are expected to be announced in the coming days, though the ANC spokesperson did share the general plan via email.

Traffic will be redirected to travel north on a new segment of S. Nash Street that will be opened between Columbia Pike and Southgate Road and one block east of S. Oak Street. It’s marked as a “new access road” on the map below.

The new road layout circumventing the closed portion of Columbia Pike over the next year (map via Arlington National Cemetery)

Then, to circumvent the closed portion of the Pike, traffic will be sent east on Southgate Road to the existing S. Joyce Street/Columbia Pike intersection, which will remain open.

For pedestrians and cyclists, there is set to be a “dedicated” sidewalk with a buffer zone and barricades. Those “are currently being constructed in anticipation of the 1/23 closure,” the ANC spokesperson said

At the moment, there is an established pedestrian and bike detour along the north side of Southgate Road as well as a temporary sidewalk to the east of S. Joyce Street that connects with the sidewalk under the I-395 bridge.

Vehicle, pedestrian, and bike detours along Columbia Pike through Jan. 23 (via Arlington County)
Vehicle, pedestrian, and bike detours along Columbia Pike through Jan. 23 (via Arlington County)

Last week, though, a reader reached out to ARLnow about how a portion of the pedestrian and bike detour has a “large patch of gravel” rendering it not accessible for some.

“While a wheelchair user might be able to make it across that patch, it wouldn’t be easy,” they wrote. The reader said that locals have reached out to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) about the gravel but, so far, little has been done.

Local officials told ARLnow that they have since addressed that patch of gravel.

“The safety of pedestrians and bicyclists is always our priority,” the ANC spokesperson wrote. “The gravel patch… was addressed by the Federal Highway Administration in November 2022 when it was brought to their attention and rectified by adding cold patch asphalt over the gravel patch to improve accessibility and address resident concerns.”

There was a “second smaller patch” of gravel laid down to cover a grated drainage structure that collected surface water and was open “for a short period of time.” However, that too has since been taken care of, they said.

“After discussions with Arlington County, the decision was made to keep it gravel longer to allow for drainage,” the spokesperson said. “The need for that structure to drain the immediate area is no longer required, and it has since been patched with cold patch asphalt as well.”

No additional work impacting residents is expected over the next few months.

However, the federal DAR project is not the only one currently being undertaken along the Pike as the area prepares for the cemetery’s expansion.

Streetscape upgrades to the Pike continue as part of the years-long Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvements project.

Work is set to begin later this year on the segment of road adjacent to the DAR project between S. Oak Street and S. Orme Street, a Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) spokesperson told ARLnow. The project will widen sidewalks on both sides of the Pike, with transit stations being added at Columbia Pike & S. Orme Street.

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