In last week's story about changing parking and visitor facilities at Arlington National Cemetery, the list of military veterans eligible to be buried there failed to include those retired career military veterans on official retired lists, who are eligible to receive military pay, and their dependents.
Arlington National Cemetery's plans to build an above-ground $3.6 million visitors center and 730-car parking lot - instead of putting them underground as called for in the 1966 master plan for the cemetery - have been turned down by the National Capital Planning Commission.
The Commission, the federal planning agency for the Washington area, now also is questioning whether a huge parking lot of any kind, above or below ground, is needed at the cemetery.
A $10 million Metro subway station at the cemetery's main gate, not envisioned in the 1966 master plan, has just been completed and will begin transporting visitors next July. Tourmobiles, also not forseen in the 1966 plan, now carry visitors around the Mall and across Memorial Bridge to the cemetery's gates. And since 1970, when a separate Tourmobile route was established inside the cemetery, virtually all cars and buses have been banned from interior cemetery roads.
In addition, argue some planning commission members, a fringe parking lot has been set up nearby at the Pentagon during peak summer tourist months and shuttle buses between the lot and the Mall pass right by the cemetery's main gate.
By building a large parking lot isn't the cemetery inviting in more traffic "when our emphasis should be on mass transit?" asked Robert O. Harris, alternate for Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.), chairman of the Senate District Committee and an ex-officio member of the commission. Harris spoke out at this month's commission meeting because, he said. "I'm afraid the cemetery doesn't have a very vocal constituency" to protest the intrusion of cars and buses on the 102-year-old military burial ground, one of Washington's most popular visitor sites.
"While the commission has sent us back to the drawing boards on the visitors center and parking lot," says cemetery Supt. Raymond Costanzo, "it has approved our columbarium and new warehouse complex."
The $6.6 million columbarium, a burial vault to be built in the southern section of the cemetery, ultimately will hold the cremated remains of 100,000 servicemen and their families. Costanzo said. The $1.7 million warehouse area for cemetery equipment will be completed in about two years.
Costanzo says the Department of the Army, which operates the cemetery, agrees with the planning commission that it would be more "esthetic" to put cars, buses and the visitors center underground. "But it would cost more than $50 million" to do it, and he says has been rejected repeatedly by WHite House budget officials.
Planning Commission members, who say the $50 million estimate was for the 1,100-car underground garage proposed in the 1966 master plan, have asked the Army to come up with plans for a much smaller underground garage, smaller even than the 730-car outdoor parking lot the Army has proposed, and to consider other transportation alternatives such as use of the fringe parking lot at the Pentagon.
Two additional objections were raised to the Army's above-ground plans: That the parking lot and visitors center would be little improvement and only a few hundred yards from the existing "temporary" visitors center and 590-car parking lot and that the road plan would be awkward for whatever cars and buses came to the cemetery.
Under the road plan no cars or buses could use the classic Memorial Drive approach to the cemetery and none could exit over Memorial Bridge. All vehicles would have to exit south on Jefferson Davis Highway, a route that would make it "almost impossible" to drive back into Washington without getting lost, one commission member said.
The Army's proposed improvements will cap 10 years of expansion and change at the cemetery and will pretty much determine its future for the next 50 years, or until it is full in the year 2028 when there will be graves for 260,000 servicemen and their families and the ashes of another 100,000 in the columbarium, says ConstanzO.
The cemetery was begun in 1864 when Union troops, who had taken over Arlington House mansion where Robert E. Lee had been living, began burying Union dead on his front lawn. The house, built in 1802 and considered one of America's most notable Greek Revival buildings, was not formally bought by the government until 1883 when thousands of Civil War dead was buried there.
Now the nation's largest national cemetery, it has 169,179 military dead and their families interred there as of Nov. 30, including Presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft, dozens of generals and admirals and unknown soldiers from every war beginnign with 2,111 unknown dead from the Civil War battle of Bull Run and other Virginia conflicts.
Burial at Arlington was strictly limited in 1967 when its 420 acres were almost filled with graves. The cemetery has since been expanded to 617 acres, although burial is still restricted to Mdeal of Honor winners, servicemen who die in uniform and servicemen who later was elected to federal office.