- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2016

Virginia and D.C. lawmakers announced Monday plans to keep open the crumbling Arlington Memorial Bridge, which will have to close in 2021 if it is not repaired.

U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Virginia Democrats, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser toured the bridge Monday morning before making their announcement.

“We just took a pretty sobering tour of America’s most iconic bridge,” Mr. Warner said at a press conference. “Arlington Memorial Bridge was built for a 75-year lifespan, and it is currently 84 years old, so no one should be surprised that it is in need of significant rehabilitation.”

The bridge needs massive reconstruction to make paths safer for drivers and pedestrians comes at the price of $250 million.

The National Park Service, which owns the George Washington Parkway between the Lincoln Monument and Arlington National Cemetery, hopes to pay for half of the restructuring costs with grant funding.

In April, the Park Service applied for a $150 million grant. The Park Service, which has a $268 million budget to manage roads, intends to spend the entire $150 million grant, if approved, on the Memorial Bridge.

The bridge connects Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial. It carries 68,000 vehicles daily and is one of five parkways that cross the Potomac River, and a total shutdown would force traffic onto the 14th Street Bridge and the Roosevelt Bridge — snarling traffic, causing headaches for commuters and costing nearby businesses about $168,000 a day in lost revenue, according to a congressional fact sheet.

“A bridge closure would be an economic and traffic nightmare,” Mr. Warner said.

Both Mr. Warner and Miss Bowser expressed determination to find a way to repair the parkway without a total closure.

“D.C., Maryland and Virginia has developed a local solution to repair Memorial Bridge. The safety of our residents is [first],” Miss Bowser tweeted shortly after Monday’s press conference.

Members of Congress have expressed support for the $150 million grant and the Memorial Bridge, saying in a joint statement in April: “The congressional delegation will continue to do its part to push the federal government to maintain its commitment to this iconic structure.”

Mr. Warner is asking everyone to go the extra mile to fix the bridge, in light of the extensive amount of repairs it needs.

“The National Park Service as well as the entire region is going to have to step up to make sure it gets reconstructed in a timely way,” said Mr. Warner.

The Department of Transportation is expected to decide on the grant by the end of the summer.

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