January 17, 2017

Warner & Kaine Call On Cabinet Nominees To Prioritize Funding For Memorial Bridge

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) called on two of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet nominees to make funding for the rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge a top priority in the next Administration. In a letter to Congressman Ryan Zinke, nominee for U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and Elaine Chao, nominee for U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the Senators argued the bridge is in need of immediate attention to prevent it from falling into a permanent state of disrepair. As evidence, the Senators pointed to the weight limits in place on the Memorial Bridge, which have impacted planning for this week’s Inauguration activities.

“Historically, Presidents have traveled across Memorial Bridge for wreath laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery on holidays such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but have recently been forced to use alternate routes after the weight limit was imposed in May 2015,” wrote the Senators, “Furthermore, an alternate route will most likely be needed the day before Inauguration Day, when the President-elect would typically travel across the bridge for a wreath laying ceremony in accordance with tradition. And although Memorial Bridge has always closed on Inauguration Day for civilian vehicular traffic, military personnel have typically traveled across the bridge in buses to participate in the festivities. These personnel were informed that they would need to find an alternate route for Inauguration this year. Further, current weight restrictions on the bridge have both national security and evacuation route implications.”

It has been reported that personnel supporting Inaugural ceremonies who would ordinarily use the Memorial Bridge to cross the Potomac will likely be forced to use the 14th Street Bridge this week, due to weight limitations in place on the structurally-deficient Memorial Bridge.

First opened in 1932, the bridge has never undergone a major overhaul. More than 68,000 vehicles cross the bridge between Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va. every day, and the National Park Service (NPS) has said that at total of $250 million is needed in order to bring the Memorial Bridge into a state of good repair.

Last year, the Senators led the region’s congressional delegation in successfully pushing NPS to secure $90 million to begin repairs to Arlington Memorial Bridge through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s FASTLANE grant program. If no further funding is allocated, it is estimated that the bridge would need to close to traffic by 2030.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has previously estimated that closing the Memorial Bridge could cost local governments $75 million per year in transportation outlays alone. Moreover, transit studies suggest that traffic from the bridge would spill over onto other area bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge, further exacerbating congested roadways in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC.

Last month, bipartisan Congressional representatives from Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia urged President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to support a second FASTLANE grant application from NPS for an additional $60 million to complete Arlington Memorial Bridge repairs. A decision on the second round of FASTLANE grants has not been announced, and may not be finalized under the Obama Administration.

Funding awarded under the FASTLANE program will require matching funds from the National Park Service, which currently has an annual budget of just $20 million for transportation projects in the National Capital Region.

The full text of the letter follows. A copy of the signed letter is available here.

January 17, 2017 

Congressman Ryan Zinke, Nominee for Secretary of the Interior
The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, Nominee for Secretary of Transportation
Transition Team Headquarters – Trump Tower
725 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Dear Congressman Zinke and Ms. Chao:

With Inauguration Day looming, we write to you regarding an ongoing infrastructure problem that will be highlighted by the festivities on January 20th. The National Park Service (NPS), as a part of the Department of the Interior, has been working in conjunction with the Department of Transportation to repair the Arlington Memorial Bridge, a vital, yet dilapidated, artery for our nation’s capital. Should you be confirmed as Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Transportation, respectively, we request that you do all in your power to see that the rehabilitation of Memorial Bridge is fully funded. 

Memorial Bridge crosses over the Potomac River between the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Designed to be an “Avenue of Heroes” and celebrate the reunification of the nation following the Civil War, the bridge is adorned by statues dedicated to valor and sacrifice. Memorial Bridge is not only a national memorial, but a critical multimodal link in the national capital region’s transportation network. The bridge, which carries more than 68,000 vehicles per day, has suffered from decades of neglect and now requires heavy rehabilitation to prevent it from falling into a permanent state of disrepair. To prevent further deterioration of Memorial Bridge, a 10-ton load limit has been placed on the bridge until it is fully repaired, resulting in tour and school buses being forced to find alternate routes and incur additional travel time to carry children and tourists to our nation’s capital.

Historically, Presidents have traveled across Memorial Bridge for wreath laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery on holidays such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but have recently been forced to use alternate routes after the weight limit was imposed in May 2015. Furthermore, an alternate route will most likely be needed the day before Inauguration Day, when the President-elect would typically travel across the bridge for a wreath laying ceremony in accordance with tradition. And although Memorial Bridge has always closed on Inauguration Day for civilian vehicular traffic, military personnel have typically traveled across the bridge in buses to participate in the festivities. These personnel were informed that they would need to find an alternate route for Inauguration this year. Further, current weight restrictions on the bridge have both national security and evacuation route implications. 

The NPS was notified in February 2016 by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that without a full rehabilitation, estimated to cost $250 million, the 84-year old Memorial Bridge would be fully closed in 2021. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has said that closing the bridge would have a negative economic impact on the region of $75 million or more per year by 2021 in traffic delay costs alone. studies suggest that traffic from the bridge would spill over onto other area bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge, further exacerbating congested roadways in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC.

The region’s dependence on Memorial Bridge is why we, along with Representatives Connolly, Beyer, and Holmes Norton, wrote to NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis in April 2016 urging “in the strongest possible terms that the National Park Service (NPS) apply for funding through the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant project.” On July 5, 2016, the NPS received a $90 million FASTLANE grant for the massive rehabilitation project – a vital first step to repairing the bridge. 

Without additional funding, however, Memorial Bridge will be forced to spend millions of dollars in the coming years for emergency repairs and will still face permanent closure if full rehabilitation is not achieved. For these reasons, we strongly urge that you, if confirmed, make fully rehabilitating Memorial Bridge a top priority. This iconic structure remains in danger of falling into disrepair without significant additional investment. 

Sincerely, 

Mark R. Warner
United States Senator 

Tim Kaine
United States Senator

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