Transportation

Lawmakers fear ‘unbearable’ commutes from Memorial Bridge closures

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New lane closures on the iconic Memorial Bridge that spans over the Potomac River from Virginia to D.C. are drawing the ire of lawmakers concerned about major commuting delays.

The National Park Service announced that a second lane of the 83-year-old bridge, which serves as a major traffic artery between Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial, will be closed for about six months. The first westbound lane closure began last week after inspectors found signs of corrosion.

{mosads}But the new closures slated to begin Friday will further ban buses, including Metro and tour buses, from using the bridge. Metro bus routes will have to be redrawn during the lane closures on the Memorial Bridge.

Lawmakers representing the region warned of “unbearable” rush hour traffic delays for commuters who drive into the District every day and called on Congress to pass a long-term infrastructure funding bill.

“We have to get serious about fixing and upgrading our roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure. Until that happens, Virginia commuters will be stuck sitting in even more traffic — and crumbling and inefficient infrastructure will remain a serious drag on our economic growth,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement.

But Congress appears unlikely to pass a long-term transportation funding bill in the near future. Last week, lawmakers cleared a two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund that will expire at the end of July.

Another short-term fix appears the most likely outcome before lawmakers depart for the August recess.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) announced Thursday that she will introduce legislation next week to authorize $460 million in annual funding for the National Park Service to maintain federal lands. Norton and other lawmakers said the Memorial Bridge represented the national problem of deteriorating infrastructure.

“Roads and bridges like the Memorial Bridge have become federal orphans. They are nobody’s specific responsibility, but the major traffic flow nationwide and access to priceless assets located in the states and D.C. make them everybody’s business,” Norton said in a statement.

About 68,000 vehicles are driven across the Memorial Bridge on the average weekday. The cost of fully repairing the bridge is estimated around $250 million. 

Tags Eleanor Holmes Norton National Park Service
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