WASHINGTON - The Arlington Memorial Bridge carries tens of thousands of vehicles each day and there is talk of a possible shutdown of the bridge if crucial repairs are not made.
Connecting Arlington to the District, the bridge is a lifeline for commuters each day. Key lawmakers in the region met for a tour of the bridge's crumbling infrastructure and to call on the federal government to provide a key grant for what they believe is the worst conditioned federally-owned bridge.
"We just took a pretty sobering tour of America's most iconic bridge," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). "This bridge is evaluated as the most vulnerable bridge in the whole federal system."
Warner along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser toured the Memorial Bridge on Monday with the National Park Service to look at the state of the bridge, which showed concerning visual signs.
"You're talking about rust on the major beams that hold up the bridge, and some of the rust is even at the point where a beam will join to provide structural support," said Kaine. "You look at a tremendous amount of concrete that is crumbling."
Even with an unsettling appearance, the National Park Service explained the Memorial Bridge is safe for the 68,000 vehicles it carries daily at this time.
Between $10 million to $11 million dollars have already been spent buttressing the bridge, but that is only a temporary solution.
The bridge was built for a 75-year life span and it is now 84 years old. Without the funds needed the bridge will close completely in 2021.
"The Federal Highway Administration has determined that in 2021, the bridge will no longer be safe for regular traffic, which would result in a full closure," said Bob Vogel of the National Park Service.
The estimated cost to avoid the closure for repairs is $250 million. Part of that would come from a federal grant.
"The grant is critical," said Sen. Warner. "There will be another grant process next year, but every bit of delay simply adds more cost to the project."
Mayor Bowser stressed the importance of functioning infrastructure for the region, calling the Washington D.C. metropolitan area one of the fastest growing in the United States. She emphasized that these repairs are about quality of life, productivity and safety for the people of the region.RE