The D.C. government joined the National Park Service in a last-minute effort to help secure millions in federal funding to fix the crumbling Arlington Memorial Bridge.
Park Service officials and the city submitted an application just before Thursday night’s deadline seeking $150 million from the Transportation Department to repair the corroded bridge.
“A joint applicant is essential to secure grant funding to repair this iconic bridge and critical transportation link between Virginia and DC used by 68,000 vehicles daily,” the Park Service said in a statement announcing that the application was submitted.
In a letter Tuesday, members of Congress representing the Washington region urged the Park Service to apply to the FASTLANE grant program to secure funds needed for the critical repairs.
As of Thursday afternoon, however, it wasn’t clear whether the District would provide the required local sponsorship of the application. But Park Service officials worked behind the scenes to get the city on board and move the application forward.
D.C. officials had said Tuesday that the Park Service did not reach out to ask them to be a co-sponsor until last week and that given such short notice, and with many legal and other hurdles, they could not sponsor an application.
The Park Service has not said why it did not seek the local sponsorship early enough, risking missing the deadline. Spokesman Jeremy Barnum said the agency had just under a month to deliver the application.
“We knew it would be extremely difficult to secure a co-sponsor in the short time frame before the April 14 deadline,” he said, adding that the agency “quickly and in good faith worked to create a strong application and secure a co-sponsor.”
In the letter to Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, Sens. Mark R. Warner (D) and Timothy M. Kaine (D) of Virginia; Reps. Don Beyer (D) and Gerald E. Connolly (D) of Virginia; and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) of D.C. urged the agency to act to secure funds for the bridge rehabilitation, describing the span as “not only a national memorial, but a critical multimodal link in the national capital region’s transportation network.”
The bridge is structurally deficient and in poor condition. Recent inspections show decayed steel supports, corroded rivets, crumbling concrete and ancient, peeling paint.
The Park Service has been warning for years that the bridge is in desperate need of an overhaul that would cost about $250 million. The repairs contract has to be awarded in the next year or two to get the job done by 2021 to avoid a possible shutdown.
Closing the 84-year-old bridge would be devastating for the region.
It could cost local governments as much as $168,000 per day in transportation outlays alone, according to a report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. It also would send traffic from the bridge to others already packed at rush hour, creating worse gridlock in the critical entry points from Northern Virginia.
The Memorial Bridge, located in the District, carries pedestrian and vehicular traffic between the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. The historic span has undergone $10 million in repairs since 2010, according to officials.