Congressional and Obama administration officials stood before the historic Memorial Bridge on Monday afternoon to make a case many have made before: The nation, they said, isn’t investing enough in itself.
This time, they had a corroding symbol of American strength as the backdrop, a bridge 30 years beyond its prime with parts of two lanes closed because the steel beams underneath are too weakened by weather to withstand their weight.
The iconic 1930s-era bridge that leads from the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial is so badly corroded that two lanes must be partially shut down for six to nine months for emergency repairs.
In addition, a 10-ton load limit across the entire length of the bridge essentially eliminates most bus traffic on the granite-faced, arching landmark for even longer, pending a much-needed rehab of the whole bridge, officials said.
“This is not just the symbol, but the reality, of failed leadership,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) “The United States in the richest country in the history of mankind. We’re the democratic leader, the military leader, the human rights leader, the financial leader, the education leader of all the world. Why oh why can we not be the investment leader?”
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Americans are known for responding resolutely when there’s a wolf at the nation’s door, less so when there are termites in the basement.
“Today, the termites are becoming the wolf,” Foxx said.
National Park Service officials said they have about $5 billion in needed road and bridge fixes nationwide, and just $250 million to cover them. That’s about the cost of rehabbing the Memorial Bridge, the officials said.