(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) The National Park Service has approved more than $200 million in funding to repair and rehabilitate Arlington Memorial Bridge.
NPS announced today (Friday) it will spend $227 million on the repair contract. U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) helped secure the funding, alongside U.S. Reps. Don Beyer (D-8) and Gerry Connolly (D-11) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
Construction will begin next fall on the 85-year-old bridge, with the project set for completion in 2021. At least three lanes of traffic will remain open at all times during construction, which — thanks to the project now being fully funded — NPS will finish in one phase rather than two, to save $35 million.
Officials estimate the repairs will increase the bridge’s lifespan by 85 to 100 years. Last year, the bridge won a $90 million federal transportation grant to help with repairs, matched by $60 million from NPS, after years of deterioration and neglect led to worries it could close by 2021.
Beyer, who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, said earlier this year he would push hard for federal money to fund repairs on a bridge that carries 68,000 vehicles each day from the county into D.C.
“After years of work to secure funding to fix Arlington Memorial Bridge, today’s announcement gives us hope that the bridge will remain safe and serviceable into the 22nd century,” Beyer said in a statement. “Our tour of the bridge and press conference in 2015 crystalized the dire need for this funding. Since then I have worked together with my colleagues in Congress, leaders from Virginia and the District, and two Administrations to secure the money for these structural repairs. This truly is great news, and I thank everyone whose efforts brought us here.”
Federal officials are scheduled to discuss the project during a press conference in the District at 3 p.m. this afternoon.
The full press release is after the jump:
Trump announced the new travel ban Sunday night. The administration’s previous efforts to implement a travel ban targeting certain countries deemed a security risk were hindered by legal challenges and met with widespread protests.
In a statement, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says the new version of the ban is little improved from the previous versions.
Donald Trump cannot camouflage his Muslim Ban by adding new countries to it. Its discriminatory roots are still plainly visible. This policy is an attempt to use racial and anti-religious animus to divide people for political ends.
As with previous bans, the Administration provides no evidence that they enhance public safety. Meanwhile, the ban continues to stigmatize millions of Muslim Americans, as well as our key allies in the war on terror.
This policy has been wrong from the start, it is wrong still, and I will continue to oppose it.
Also issuing a statement last night was Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who weighed in on the latest effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Warner said the bill, which faces long odds in the Senate, would do more harm than good. He called for a bipartisan effort to lower healthcare costs and stabilize the health insurance markets.
This evening, the CBO released a score concluding millions of Americans would lose healthcare under this latest partisan repeal plan. Just hours before, S&P released a report finding that the Graham-Cassidy bill would cost our country about 580,000 jobs and $240 billion in lost economic activity over the next decade. There’s a reason why this bill is opposed by non-partisan groups from every sector of the health industry, including the American Medical Association, health insurers, hospitals, patients, the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association. With even the center-right think tank AEI panning both this bill and the process under which it is being rammed through Congress, it is time for the Senate to put this bill aside and recognize that we must work in a bipartisan way to stabilize the health insurance markets and put in place permanent fixes to lower costs and expand health care options for Americans. I stand ready and willing to work with any Senator, Republican or Democrat, who seriously shares that goal.
President Donald Trump’s decision to end a program that protected younger undocumented immigrants from deportation was sharply criticized by various Arlington leaders today.
Trump announced his administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months to give Congress time to act and find an alternative plan through legislation.
The program protects some children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents from immediate deportation, and instead allows them a renewable two-year deferral and eligibility for a work permit. It is estimated that 800,000 people who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16., also known as “Dreamers,” have been shielded from deportation by DACA.
Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and a portion of Fairfax County, criticized the decision as an “act of malice.”
“President Trump’s decision to end DACA and begin deporting our Dreamers betrays nearly one million young people who grew up with this country as their own and made so many contributions to it,” Beyer said in a statement. “This act of malice will tear apart hundreds of thousands of American families and inflict serious economic damage on the country. Congress has no choice but to act immediately, and it should begin consideration of the American Hope Act to protect Dreamers.”
Bishop Michael Burbidge, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington since December, said in a statement he is “disheartened” by the decision to end DACA:
I join my voice with those who are disheartened by the news that President Trump will rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Standing with my brother Bishops, I urge Congress and the President to enact legislation that will safeguard those currently protected by this important program.
While the issue of immigration is complicated — and our government has many considerations to balance in responding to the influx of those who seek safety, and personal and economic security in our country — offering special protection to those who only know the United States as home is a reasonable measure of compassion.
This news is undoubtedly troubling for the hundreds of thousands approved through DACA. I ask all Catholics and people of good will in the Diocese of Arlington to keep these individuals, as well as our government officials, in prayer. May we as a country be considerate of our neighbors and defend those whom we have offered protection and safe harbor.
U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Trump’s decision could have enormous economic repercussions too, and urged Congress to act quickly.
In a statement, Warner said:
The DACA program was a promise to protect certain children of undocumented immigrants, who came to this country through no fault of their own, so they could safely come out of the shadows, attain legal status and realize their full potential. Over the years, the DREAMers have shown us their true character–working hard to become this nation’s next generation of students, entrepreneurs, and military men and women. And while Congress has a responsibility to enact comprehensive immigration reform that provides them with a fair path to citizenship, which the Senate passed in 2013, we cannot let the Trump Administration’s disgraceful anti-immigrant policies leave nearly 800,000 DREAMers in limbo. Going back on our word threatens their safety, harms our economy and speaks volumes about who we are as a country.
On Twitter, Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, said lawmakers must work to make health care “better together.”
A so-called “skinny repeal” fell short of the votes required to pass after GOP Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against it, defeating the measure 49-51.
Now it's time to turn the page and cast this terrible process aside.
Let's make our healthcare system better together. https://t.co/7igkDipIiI
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) July 28, 2017
The “skinny repeal” bill would have removed requirements that most Americans have health insurance, and that companies with more than 50 employees must offer health benefits. But the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would lead to 16 million more people without insurance in the space of a decade.
After the bill’s failure, U.S. Sen Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement that the process to improve health care must be more open and bipartisan.
“Thanks to the help of countless Americans who shared their stories and made their voices heard, we were able to stop a bill that would have taken health care away from millions of people,” Kaine said. “There is a better way. Let the public into the process. We shouldn’t be kicking millions off of their health insurance or increasing families’ health care costs. Tonight we put people over politics, and going forward we all need to work together to improve health care for all Americans.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) thanked the American people for raising their concerns about Obamacare repeal, and agreed with Kaine that improvements must be made in an open way.
“Thank you to all Americans who made their voices heard. You did this,” Warner said in a statement. “It’s time to drop this partisan repeal process for good and work together on ways to improve health care for all Americans.”
Local representatives in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives sharply criticized the Senate’s vote Tuesday (July 25) to begin debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
The Senate voted 51-50 — with Vice President Mike Pence called on as a tie-breaker vote — to open debate on repeal, with three possible plans to be discussed in the coming days.
Those plans are the Senate’s own plan to repeal and replace Obamacare; a 2015 House bill that would have repealed the law; and a bill that passed the House earlier this year.
U.S. Sens Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) both released statements strongly condemning the vote on the Senate floor.
“As one of my colleagues has said, not a single one of us came to the United States Senate to hurt people, but that is exactly what Republicans have set in motion with today’s forced vote on a secret bill. For many of my constituents in Virginia and millions of people across America, this bill likely means losing insurance or paying much more for health care.
“I spent Friday volunteering at the RAM Clinic in Wise County, where thousands of people had traveled far from their homes–many of them sleeping in their cars and outside in the heat–to get care. The magnitude of the need was heartbreaking, and the message from these families was clear: ‘help us, don’t hurt us.’ As the wealthiest and most compassionate nation in the world, we must make our health care system better, not worse, for these families. We have to do our jobs to protect the health care of the kids whose parents who have been writing to me and asking Congress to stop this heartless bill.
“This is about what’s right and wrong. This is about who we are as Senators. This is about what thinking, feeling, breathing, believing human beings in positions of leadership will do to help people, not hurt them. Americans–healthy and sick–need us to get this right, but Republican Senators got it wrong with today’s vote. In the coming days, I hope we’ll change course, move to a more open process, and get back to helping people.”
“Today’s vote will have very real and disastrous consequences for millions of Americans. The only question is how many people will be harmed, since Senate Republicans voted to move forward on a bill no one has yet seen but which we already know will raise costs and kick millions off their health insurance, including millions of children, elderly and disabled Americans who depend on Medicaid.
“There is still time for reasonable Republican senators to abandon this partisan process. It is long past time for Republicans to sit down with Democrats and work on a bipartisan solution that actually improves our healthcare system.”
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the House, had not released a written statement as of the time of writing. On Twitter, Beyer also criticized the vote, and the uncertainty surrounding the Senate’s next steps.
This is really happening. No GOP Senators know what they are about to vote on.
They really do have to pass it to find out what's in it. https://t.co/NbfRxd8Bei
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) July 25, 2017
They did it. Motion to proceed passes 51-50.
All those complaints about the secrecy, partisanship, and broken order.. they still voted yes. https://t.co/Enw6pUdcSt
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) July 25, 2017
Minutes after President Trump announced his decision to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement, Virginia elected officials began to share their disapproval.
Trump said his decision to withdraw from the pact, signed by 195 nations, would help preserve American jobs and avoid placing heavy burdens on the country’s taxpayers.
Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, highlighted how Trump’s decision to withdraw will negatively impact the United States’ foreign relationships.
“Trump’s decision will be a self-inflicted wound on our allies’ trust in American leadership,” Beyer wrote in a statement alongside fellow members of the House Safe Climate Caucus. “The Paris Agreement was a vision reflecting decisive action, hope, ingenuity, and the ideals with which we would define our country’s place in the world. Withdrawal from that agreement represents a triumph of ignorance, nativism and political pandering, and the message it sends to other countries will be disastrous for the relationships which have built and sustained our prosperity.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) released a statement condemning the president’s decision. He wrote that despite the withdrawal, Virginia will continue to do its part to fight climate change.
“The President’s dangerous action today will have a devastating impact on our environment, our economy, and our health,” McAuliffe said. “The United States economy is dependent on leadership in the world, yet the President seems inclined to sit back and let other nations pass us by. Climate change is a threat to our way of life. If President Trump refuses to lead the response, Virginia will.”
McAuliffe also detailed how his own actions have differed from Trump’s. He wrote how in early May, he signed an order to reduce carbon emissions in the Commonwealth.
“The President seems to think that the U.S. commitment to cut about [one quarter] of our carbon pollution by 2025 is beyond the grasp of the country that won World War II and put men on the moon,” Kaine said in a statement.
Kaine added that he wants to be able to tell his future grandchildren that the US met the environmental challenge “head-on and triumphed over it, not shrank and cowered from it.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called the president’s announcement a “rejection of settled science.” He also highlighted how this historical decision will impact Virginians in the future.
“It poses a direct threat to Virginia’s environment, economy and way of life,” Warner wrote in a statement.
But Kaine managed a few optimistic words amid the swirl of pessimism and condemnation.
“I am confident that our nation’s optimistic, can-do spirit will eventually prevail over this short-sighted dereliction of America’s leadership role,” he said.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has released a statement on the resignation of Gen. Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor.
Warner, who serves as the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that he will continue to push to investigate Gen. Flynn and “any other campaign official who may have had inappropriate and improper contacts with Russian officials prior to the election.”
The full statement is below.
Reports that the White House may have been briefed weeks ago on the nature of Gen. Flynn’s calls raise deeply troubling questions. The American people deserve to know at whose direction Gen. Flynn was acting when he made these calls, and why the White House waited until these reports were public to take action.
These developments underscore how many questions still remain unanswered to the American people more than three months after Election Day, including who was aware of what, and when. This reinforces both the urgency and the significance of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russian interference, which will include a thorough examination of contacts between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns, as well as interviews with current and former government officials.
Nothing about this resignation, or resignations that could occur in the future, precludes the Senate Intelligence Committee from continuing to investigate Gen. Flynn, or any other campaign official who may have had inappropriate and improper contacts with Russian officials prior to the election.
It is clear that our task is more urgent than ever.
Update at 12:35 p.m. — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has also weighed in with a statement (after the jump).
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.
Rep. Don Beyer, County Board member Katie Kristol and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — all Democrats — today praised the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision to strike down a Texas law that greatly restricted abortion providers there.
Beyer called the decision a victory for “common sense and justice for women” in a statement:
Common sense and justice for women and families prevailed at the Supreme Court today. This decision once again affirms our nation’s longstanding policy that women have the right to an abortion until viability, and that efforts by anti-choice forces to deny that right through lack of access imposes an undue burden. Anti-choice forces in Virginia apply the same tactics, and have also failed. We will continue every effort to maintain and expand women’s healthcare access in Virginia.
Cristol echoed Beyer’s praise in a tweet:
Thank you, SCOTUS! W/o access, there is no right to choose. "Each [restriction] violates the Federal Constitution.” https://t.co/0qCj9aBS1t
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) June 27, 2016
Warner also released a statement praising the decision:
Today the Supreme Court sent a clear message that all women have the right to make their own reproductive health decisions, no matter where they live. This is a victory for women’s health in Texas, in Virginia, and across the country.
As did Kaine:
I applaud the Supreme Court for seeing the Texas law for what it is – an attempt to effectively ban abortion and undermine a woman’s right to make her own health care choices. This ruling is a major win for women and families across the country, as well as the fight to expand reproductive freedom for all.
The Texas law is quite similar to arbitrary and unnecessary rules that were imposed on Virginia women after I left office as Governor. I’m proud that we were able to successfully fight off such “TRAP” regulations during my time in state office. I have always believed these sort of rules are an unwarranted effort to deprive women of their constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.
File photo of Supreme Court
But Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said today, after a lunchtime meeting with Garland, that he’s hopeful Republicans will change their mind. He is pressing for Garland to get “the hearing he deserves,” followed by an up or down vote on his confirmation.
“I have to remain an optimist in this business,” he said. “I hope that public pressure maintains that some of my colleagues will rethink their position and go ahead and hold the hearing.”
Warner didn’t specify what he thinks may finally sway Republicans from their position, that in a presidential year it should fall to the next president to make the nomination to the nation’s highest court. The resolve of those lawmakers is made even stronger given that Garland, who’s widely considered a moderate, would be replacing the late Antonin Scalia, a staunch conservative.
Could the outcome of the presidential nomination process — say, if the general election race turned out to be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — be the turning point?
“To me that would be kind of whacky,” Warner said. “Although this has been clearly a kind of whacky election year.”
Warner said he hopes the nomination process can be de-politicized.
“I think it is terribly important that the process proceeds,” he said. “The Constitution is explicitly clear that the president shall nominate. He did his job on March 16 when he nominated Judge Garland, now it’s up to the Senate to advise and consent. I strongly hope that my Republican colleagues will take this out of the realm of politics and do their job.”
“The notion that we’re going to use political gamesmanship about decision-making on the Supreme Court would be a further deterioration of our political process in this country,” Warner added. “That’s not what the country wants.”
Update at 6:10 p.m. — The federal government is open tomorrow. Federal workers has the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework, says the Office of Personnel Management. Arlington County government is also open with a telework option.
Arlington’s congressional delegation is weighing in on tomorrow’s complete closure of the Metrorail system for safety inspections.
Rep. Don Beyer (D):
Our office has been in contact with the Office of Personnel Management. We have urged them to allow unscheduled leave for federal employees, and I urge other employers in the region to be equally flexible, allowing employees to take unscheduled leave or to work from home if at all possible.
I have confidence in the new leadership of Paul Wiedefeld and look forward learning more about the technical details behind this decision. We must overhaul this critical public transit system, and we must continue our federal investment in Metro in order for that to happen. Tomorrow we will get a glimpse of what our nation’s capital will look like without this essential system.
Sen. Mark Warner (D):
“It’s sad that it’s come to this, but hundreds of thousands of people depend on the safety of the Metro system. We need to take it seriously. I’m glad that Metro’s new leadership is treating system safety with an appropriate sense of urgency.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D):
“While this is an unprecedented step and a major inconvenience for thousands of daily commuters, it’s also the type of tough call that signals WMATA’s new management team is doing whatever it takes to ensure the safety of Metro riders. Employers across the region — including OPM — should offer their employees flexibility tomorrow as they face limited transit options.”
Word that the Memorial Bridge is deteriorating faster than expected and could close by 2021 without a complete overhaul has prompted a response from Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation.
Lawmakers issued the following joint press release today (Thursday), promising to work together to get the quarter-billion dollars in funding necessary to keep the bridge open.
The National Park Service (NPS) today announced that Arlington Memorial Bridge will need to close by 2021 absent funding for a full rehabilitation. The bridge has been undergoing emergency repairs since last year. Northern Virginia Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly, and Barbara Comstock, along with Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, reacted to the news with urgent calls to fund repairs, estimated to cost as much as $280 million.
“Memorial Bridge was built to symbolize the coming together and reunification of a fractured nation following the Civil War. Today, unfortunately, it also symbolizes the neglect of our nation’s transportation system.” said Rep. Don Beyer. “The prospect of a shuttered Memorial Bridge is one we cannot live with. This challenge demands a solution and the regional delegation will work together to find it.”
NPS devotes much of its $20 million D.C. area transportation budget for repairs to the aging Memorial Bridge. This continued funding allotment severely hinders its efforts to sustain other regional transportation and infrastructure projects.
“To the tens of thousands of Virginians, D.C. residents and visitors who travel across the Potomac River every day, Arlington’s Memorial Bridge is a critical piece of our regional transportation system,” said Sen. Mark Warner. “The extended closure of this major commuter artery will be devastating to the economy and quality of life in the capital region. We will work together as a delegation to identify the necessary resources so the National Park Service can keep Memorial Bridge open.”
“Arlington Memorial Bridge is a key transportation link for thousands of daily Northern Virginia commuters as well as visitors to our nation’s capital,” said Sen. Tim Kaine. “It speaks to the state of our nation’s infrastructure that replacing this National Park Service-owned bridge would cost as much as the entire yearly budget for Park Service bridges across the country. My colleagues and I in the National Capital Region’s congressional delegation took steps in last year’s transportation bill to make it easier to fund major projects like this. It is critical that we take the next step toward a new bridge before we reach the point at which it becomes unsafe to use the current one.”
Over 68,000 vehicles cross the bridge between Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA every day. Closing the Memorial Bridge would cost local governments a projected $168,000 per day ($75 million per year) by 2021 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. The impact on an already-strained transportation system could likely produce new, extreme levels of gridlock in the nation’s capital and its Northern Virginia suburbs.
“The potential closure of Memorial Bridge, a major commuter route for many Northern Virginians, will have a profound negative effect on all our regional roadways,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly. “It is disheartening this announcement comes as we celebrate the National Park Centennial. I can think of no better way for Congress to celebrate the Park’s 100th birthday than to redouble its efforts to invest in our Park system. This is a federally-owned bridge, and thus a federal responsibility that Congress must address.”
“Arlington Memorial Bridge is a national treasure as well as a major thoroughfare for Northern Virginia commuters,” said Rep. Barbara Comstock. “It’s used every day by 68,000 vehicles as well as people coming and going to our airports, local landmarks, and work. We must ensure proper funding for the bridge so that this critical piece of infrastructure remains safe and usable. The alternative would cause serious traffic problems for my constituents and the region and harm the local and national economy.”
Arlington’s members of Congress are touting wins for federal workers, veterans, Metro and the Virginia economy in a new federal spending bill.
The bill, a rare bipartisan budget compromise, passed both houses of Congress this morning. It includes a raise for the federal workforce, $150 million for WMATA, $30 million for Arlington National Cemetery, and billions for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and various other military spending priorities.
The office of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) described it as “good news for federal employees” in a press release.
There is finally some good news for federal employees in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this morning. The $1.1 trillion spending package included a pay raise for federal employees and service members, as well as significant additional funding for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), some of which is earmarked for cybersecurity.
“Federal employees suffered through enough with years of wage stagnation, furloughs and shutdowns, and, perhaps most egregiously, the theft of their personal information as a result of the OPM hacks,” said Rep. Beyer. “In addition to cybersecurity investments to prevent future breaches, this deal gives our federal workforce a modest 1.3 percent pay raise for the second year in a row.”
“These efforts will help improve the recruitment and retention of federal employees to help our government grow the new American economy,” Beyer added.
The agreement provides $272 million for OPM and the OPM Inspector General, a $132 million increase over the previous year. The legislation also provides $21 million for critical upgrades to OPM’s cybersecurity infrastructure and to ensure protections to prevent similar security breaches are installed. Individuals affected by the OPM data breaches will be provided with identity protection coverage for 10 years — much more than the previous commitment — and identity theft insurance in the amount of $5,000,000.
After the jump, a joint press release from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, including details of specific spending and tax provisions of note for Virginia residents, businesses and federal workers.
Metro announced yesterday that Paul Wiedefeld, the former CEO of BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, has been selected as the agency’s next General Manager and CEO.
Following a lengthy search process, the WMATA Board of Directors is expected to make Wiedefeld’s appointment official on Nov. 19.
With Metro in turmoil due to ongoing rail service reliability problems and financial challenges, state officials and lawmakers welcomed the appointment of an experienced executive to Metro’s top post.
From Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.):
“Today’s news concludes a period of uncertainty for Metro. Paul Wiedefeld’s transportation and executive experience gives him the tools to provide WMATA with the leadership a first class transit system needs. I look forward to working with him to ensure a safe, reliable future for Metro as a critical part of the national capitol area’s transportation infrastructure.”
From Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe:
“I am pleased to see that the WMATA Board has unanimously chosen Paul Wiedefeld to lead the agency as its General Manager and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Wiedefeld’s significant experience in managing safety and operations in the transit industry will surely serve him well as he steps into his role with Metro. I am hopeful that this appointment, though overdue, will give WMATA the stability and expertise it needs to produce meaningful change across the agency. I look forward to Mr. Wiedefeld’s formal confirmation by the Board on November 19th.”
A joint statement from U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.):
“We’re pleased to finally see this progress in bringing on new management for Metro after a year-long search.
“As federal lawmakers, we have been strong advocates and effective partners for Metro. In his years of service to BWI, Mr. Wiedefeld has proven himself to be a creative and successful infrastructure manager in the public sector. We are eager to meet with him to emphasize our shared commitment and steady focus on turning-around the troubled Metro system.
“We’re prepared to work with Mr. Wiedefeld as he accepts the challenge of improving the safety and reliability of this pivotal regional investment for Metro passengers and visitors to the national capital region.”
After a jump, a press release from the recently-formed WMATA Riders’ Union.
Arlington’s representatives on Capitol Hill are calling for action after additional restrictions were put in place on the structurally deficient Memorial Bridge.
Starting this morning, both outside lanes of the Memorial Bridge were closed to traffic and a 10-ton load limit put in place, closing the bridge to bus traffic. That follows an inspection that found corroding support beams and “significant deterioration” of the bridge’s concrete deck.
The 83-year-old, 2,100-foot-long bridge opened in 1932. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and — since it connects the Lincoln Memorial with Arlington National Cemetery and Robert E. Lee’s Arlington House — it is considered a national symbol of reunification of the North and the South following the Civil War.
The National Park Service, which oversees the bridge, is planning 6-9 months of emergency repairs starting next month. It says that with the restrictions, the bridge is safe for drivers and pedestrians. The load limit will “help extend the life of the deck for passenger vehicles,” NPS said.
The Park Service is currently seeking $250 million from Congress for permanent repairs and rehabilitation.
Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Rep. Don Beyer, called the state of the historic bridge the “latest evidence of federal neglect.” In strong statements, the lawmakers said it’s time for Congress to fund crucial transportation infrastructure projects.
From a press release:
Senator Mark Warner (VA), Senator Tim Kaine (VA), Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) and Congressman Don Beyer (VA-8) called for stronger federal infrastructure investment, citing the closure of a second lane on the iconic and congested Arlington Memorial Bridge as the latest evidence of federal neglect.
“There is nothing more emblematic of Congress’ failure to invest in our nation’s infrastructure than the bridge that brings people into our nation’s capital, a national memorial, falling apart. Memorial Bridge has already been labeled ‘structurally deficient’ and one lane was closed just last week due to safety and infrastructure concerns. Today, we have news that another lane will be shut down. It’s time for Congress to stop kicking the can down the road and pass a federal transportation bill to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, starting right here in DC,” said Rep. Beyer.
The National Park Service (NPS) announced today that it will close a second lane of traffic on the bridge, which stretches from Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial and is a major artery across the Potomac. The rush hour effects of the six-month closures will be dramatic.
“Unlike other infrastructure, NPS roads and bridges like the Arlington Memorial Bridge are 100 percent funded by the federal government, and there are almost no alternative sources of funds for maintenance and improvements other than federal funds. With a cost of up to $250 million to replace the Memorial Bridge, it is no wonder that NPS is unable to do this work when it only receives $15 to $20 million for its transportation projects in the National Capital Region and only $240 for the entire nation. Our region must offer leadership and work with Members of Congress as far away as the western states that are also deeply affected. Beginning with our region, we must create a coalition of Members of the House and Senate determined to begin the uphill climb of rescuing priceless and essential federal assets like the Memorial Bridge that bring millions to the states by providing everything from workplace corridors to tourist sites,” said Del. Norton.
Nearly 68,000 vehicles cross the 83-year-old bridge on a typical work day. The cost to fully repair the bridge is estimated at more than $250 million over several months. Memorial Bridge is just one of more than 70,000 US bridges deemed “structurally deficient.”
“Today’s announcement that we have to close yet another lane of the Memorial Bridge highlights the decrepit state of our infrastructure,” said Senator Kaine. “This additional lane closure will cause unbearable congestion and delays for the approximately 68,000 drivers who use theMemorial Bridge to travel between Virginia and Washington every day. Today’s frustrating news represents a nationwide issue. It’s estimated that there are 4,800 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in Virginia alone. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and address our nation’s crumbling infrastructure by passing a bipartisan, long-term transportation bill.”
“How can Congress fail to act while the Memorial Bridge – which is not only a vital artery for local commuters, but also the entrance to our nation’s capital - is literally falling apart? This is not just embarrassing – it’s outrageous,” said Sen. Warner. “We have to get serious about fixing and upgrading our roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure. Until that happens, Virginia commuters will be stuck sitting in even more traffic – and crumbling and inefficient infrastructure will remain a serious drag on our economic growth.”
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman