The Army pulled out of land-swap negotiations with Arlington County, clearing the way for the military to expand Arlington National Cemetery on its own and keep it operating through the mid-2050s, officials said.
Columbia Pike, which curves north before connecting with South Joyce Street at the foot of the Pentagon Reservation entrance, will be straightened and the interchange between the Pike and Washington Boulevard will be modified.
Southgate Road, which provides a southern access road into Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, will be adjusted to run parallel to three nearby streets in the county’s Foxcroft Heights neighborhood of the county — Oak, Ode and Orme — which have long been used as shortcuts by motorists transiting Columbia Pike.
“The realignment of Columbia Pike and the multimodal improvements that will be made in this corridor not only will improve the transportation network, but also will allow us to upgrade the streetscape that will serve as a fitting boundary for Arlington National Cemetery, the Air Force Memorial, the Pentagon Memorial Visitor’s Center, and other uses in this segment of the Columbia Pike corridor,“ Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement.
About a decade ago, the Navy Annex, its parking lot and a gas station dominated the land around Foxcroft Heights. The Army had long eyed the surrounding area to expand the cemetery. With the realignment of Columbia Pike and Southgate Roads, as well as purchase of additional land where the parking lot stood, the cemetery will gain 38 acres to accommodate about 50,000 more burial plots.
The cemetery will now run out of space in the mid-2050s, instead of the early 2040s.
Under the land swap proposal, Arlington would cede control of Southgate Road and Joyce Street to the Army. In return, the Army would give Arlington a piece of nearby land that the municipality would’ve used for county or public uses.
The Army back out of the negotiations last week over concerns that the county would use the land for a heavy-duty maintenance facility, despite county reassurances that such plans were no longer being considered after the county board cancelled the streetcar initiative.
When the Army opted out of negotiations, the cemetery gained the authority to condemn county land required for cemetery expansion, per the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act.