The federal government awarded a $90 million grant to the National Park Service's efforts to repair the Arlington Memorial Bridge, local lawmakers announced Tuesday.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation is only a fraction of the $250 million needed to keep the bridge open to the 68,000 cars that drive on it every day. Lawmakers previously asked Congress to fund up to $150 million of the repairs, according to WTOP.
"While additional funding 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," read a joint statement released by several lawmakers, including Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.); Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.); and Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.).
After a tour of the rotting and rusting underside of the structure, Kaine, Warner and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced in late June they would have to close the bridge by 2021 if funding for repairs was not secured.
Officials plan to repair the bridge in two phases, the first of which will focus on the areas of the bridge that connect the retaining wall to its main spans, which is the area most in need of repairs. This area will be the target of the $90 million grant, after some of the money is used for planning, the lawmakers said in the statement.
The bridge could remain open until 2030 with the completion of phase one, which is expected to cost $166 million, the officials said.
"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," the lawmakers said.
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Built in 1932, the 84-year-old bridge has already surpassed its expected 75 year lifespan. Officials hope repairs could give the bridge another 75 years as a vital route for the region.
If a lack of repairs forces officials to close the bridge, they said it would amount to about $168,000 per day in transportation costs for local governments and would also create a major traffic gridlock on other bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge.
A yearlong, $4 million emergency repairs project was completed in May.