Arlington Memorial Bridge Deterioration Symbolic of Long Term Federal Funding Neglect

Posted on March 24, 2016 in: Traffic CongestionTransportation Funding

Built in 1932 to tie the region and the nation’s history closer together, the Arlington Memorial Bridge’s deterioration is testimony to the price the region and nation are paying for decades of inadequate federal investment in the maintenance and improvement of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Replacement of the center draw span, bridge deck, piers and other elements is projected to take 2-4 years. 

Absent a $250 million federal infusion, the bridge is likely to be closed to auto traffic in 2022.

More than 20 years have passed since Congress last approved a federal gas tax increase. The nation’s transportation infrastructure has become more heavily travelled and fallen into a greater state of disrepair and congestion.  Yet the newly approved highway re-authorization bill still lacks the necessary sustained funding.

The Arlington Memorial Bridge’s history mirrors today’s slow pace of transportation improvements. Proposed in 1886, it took more than 4 decades to complete.  In fact, it took a three hour traffic jam in 1921 that trapped President Harding on the 14th Street Bridge on his way to the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to finally put the Arlington Memorial Bridge on the path to completion.

As with the passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act which came only after Ohio’s polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire, Congressional action often only comes once disaster strikes.  Allowing the Arlington Memorial Bridge to deteriorate to the point of closure auto traffic would certainly a disastrous outcome for the entire Washington metropolitan region.

Congress needs to provide funds necessary to fix this bridge and put the nation’s transportation network on a more sustainable funding path before 3-hour delays on the 14th Street Bridge and bridges and roads throughout the nation become daily occurrences.