What to Know
- The bridge could close to vehicle traffic in the next five years if funds aren't allocated, the NPS has said.
- The steel supports of the 84-year-old bridge are rusting through, and its concrete decking has been reduced to gravel.
- The bridge needs $250 million in repairs.
The National Park Service (NPS) and the District of Columbia have applied for a grant that would help fund the restoration of the Arlington Memorial Bridge.
Last month, the NPS announced the bridge could close to vehicle traffic within the next five years if funds aren't allocated to cover $250 million in repairs.
If NPS wins the U.S. Department of Transportation FASTLANE grant and gets contributions from the District of Columbia and Virginia, that would be enough to pay for the reconstruction. Otherwise, Congress would have to make a special appropriation to keep the bridge from closing.
The steel supports of the 84-year-old bridge are rusting through, and its concrete decking has been reduced to gravel.
The bridge is falling apart, NPS spokewoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said.
"The deck that people drive on, that's just crumbling," Anzelmo-Sarles said. "When we pull out a core of the deck, it should be 11 inches of concrete, and that's just turning to gravel."
The NPS has a $3 billion annual budget, and only $268 million is currently budgeted for transportation infrastructure projects across the country. In addition to the bridge, the NPS has another 5,000 miles of paved roads to maintain.
The bridge connects the Lincoln Memorial with Arlington National Cemetery and the Robert E. Lee Memorial and was built to commemorate the reunification of the United States after the Civil War. It also figures prominently in some major events on the Washington calendar: the "Rolling Thunder" tribute to missing soldiers; the July Fourth celebrations on the National Mall; and the Marine Corps Marathon.
Even with a 10-ton limit on the weight of vehicles permitted to cross the span -- tractor-trailers can't use it -- the bridge carries 68,000 to 70,000 vehicles a day. It's one of six Potomac River crossings for vehicles in the Washington area.