Washington, DC – Congressional representatives from Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia wrote Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to immediately endorse the National Park Service’s (NPS) FASTLANE Grant application, following news that the District of Columbia agreed to join as a local sponsor.
The FASTLANE grant program requires federal land management agencies to apply jointly with a state. The lawmakers released the following joint statement today:
“Arlington Memorial Bridge is an important symbol of our country and a critical part of our region’s transportation network. We were relieved that the National Park Service filed a timely application to fund its rehabilitation and greatly appreciate Mayor Bowser and the District government’s support in that effort. All the local jurisdictions in the region have a stake in ensuring that this project stays on track. The congressional delegation will continue to do its part to push the federal government to maintain its commitment to this iconic structure.”
NPS devotes much of its $20 million DC area transportation budget for repairs to the aging Memorial Bridge. This continued funding allotment severely hinders its efforts to sustain other regional transportation and infrastructure projects.
Over 68,000 vehicles cross the bridge between Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA every day. Closing the Memorial Bridge would cost local governments a projected $168,000 per day ($75 million per year) by 2021 in transportation outlays alone, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Transit studies suggest that traffic from the bridge would spill over onto other area bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge. The impact on an already-strained transportation system could likely produce new, extreme levels of gridlock in the nation’s capital and its Northern Virginia suburbs.
The FASTLANE program was established as part of the bipartisan transportation bill passed by Congress last year, which included grant funding specifically set aside for “nationally significant freight and highway projects” such as Memorial Bridge.
The full text of the delegation’s letter follows:
The Honorable Anthony Foxx
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590
Dear Secretary Foxx:
We write to express our strong support for the National Park Service’s (NPS) Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant application for the Arlington Memorial Bridge Reconstruction Project. As you know, the bridge spans the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., connecting Northern Virginia with the District of Columbia. It is not only a national memorial, but a critical multimodal link in the national capital region’s transportation network.
Arlington Memorial Bridge is structurally deficient and its poor condition has already begun to significantly constrain regional movement. In May of 2015, NPS suddenly closed portions of two lanes for emergency repairs. Without a major overhaul the bridge will be closed to all vehicle traffic by 2021. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments projects a full bridge closure would cost the region $75.4 million per year in traffic delays alone. Traffic diversions would also put even more strain on already crowded nearby bridges.
The bridge carries 68,000 vehicles per day, which is one of the highest volumes for any one bridge administered by NPS. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) engineering evaluations have demonstrated the Arlington Memorial Bridge is the worst condition of all high-volume urban federally-owned bridges in the country. Given the bridge’s state of disrepair, historical significance, traffic volume, and overall size, it is the estimated that it is the most costly identified federally-owned bridge rehabilitation project across the country.
Arlington Memorial Bridge is also entirely owned by the federal government, under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. State governments have no legal obligation to provide financial support for maintenance of the bridge. Therefore, without significant federal investment, a project of this magnitude poses a nearly impossible challenge to NPS’s transportation budget. A weight limit, which disrupts freight flows in the region, has already been instituted for Arlington Memorial Bridge. Closing the bridge entirely would have a cascading effect on all modes of transportation within the region. Finally, it is important to note that the bridge serves as a designated emergency route which would support the evacuation of over one million people in the event of a threat to the seat of government.
The Arlington Memorial Bridge Reconstruction Project would completely rehabilitate Arlington Memorial Bridge, protecting its memorial character while improving safety and preventing disruption to freight flows on other Potomac River crossings. The project supports the Department of Transportation’s emphasis on economic growth; transportation safety; and federal, state and local partnerships; and is an outstanding example of regional cooperation. It also reflects the calls for addressing infrastructure bottlenecks and improving safety in your department’s National Freight Strategic Plan.
For these reasons, we enthusiastically support the NPS’s FASTLANE grant application for the Arlington Memorial Bridge Rehabilitation Project.
Donald S. Beyer Jr.
8th District, Virginia
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