National Park Service says Memorial Bridge needs restoration

Photo courtesy of Andres Trujillo

The National Park Service says the Memorial Bridge is still safe for travel, but restoration is a must. Eighty-one years of traffic are wearing on the bridge, and a lot of people are taking notice.

Thomas Sheffer, the G.W. Memorial Parkway Acting Chief of Lands and Planning, said, "It's clearly not only one of the most iconic bridges for the city, but it's heavily traveled."

About 5,500 vehicles travel the Memorial Bridge daily. It also carries thousands of cyclists and pedestrians.

"I walk across the bridge regularly, I ride my bike across the bridge regularly, and I take my boat underneath the bridge regularly," said Tom Berge of Arlington.

Berge says he's seen the toll time has taken on the historic landmark.

"I've noticed some corrosion underneath," Berge added.

He shared his concerns at the National Park Service's first public meeting on the rehabilitation plans.

In the bridge's more than 80-year history, it's had just minor maintenance, never a makeover.

Sheffer said, "There's absolutely nothing unsafe about the bridge for vehicles or pedestrians."

But corroding steel, deteriorating concrete and cracked rails mean the bridge must shut down for major repairs in the near future.

The section most in need of restoration in the historic drawbridge.

"Some concepts would require the bridge to be closed entirely from 40 to 100 days," Sheffer explained.

Sheffer says the construction is about three years away and could last four years.

As for cost, Sheffer says the park service has a "range between $125 and $250 million that we're estimating it at right now."

But the National Park Service hasn't nailed down a source for that funding yet.

"This is really just kicking it off, getting the public informed," Sheffer added.

The National Park Service will hold another public meeting April 25 from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. in the Little Theatre at Washington Lee High School in Arlington. You can also share your opinion online.