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Pedestrian ramps on Memorial Bridge sidewalk.

Pedestrian ramps on Memorial Bridge sidewalk.

Gordon Chaffin/Google Maps

Memorial Bridge Down to Three Lanes Until 2021

The Arlington Memorial Bridge is reduced to three car travel lanes and one sidewalk starting today, October 15, 2018. One lane will run each direction, East and Westbound, with a reversible lane to accommodate rush hour traffic. Pedestrians and cyclists who use the sidewalk must use the North sidewalk. These changes are 24/7/365 until the National Park Service’s repair work finishes in 2021. Watch this video to see how traffic flows will change.

Car Travel Down to Three Lanes

Between 4 AM and Noon, two lanes will send traffic across the Potomac River into DC. The remaining lane stays open for contra-flow travel. Noon through 4 AM, the middle of the three lanes reverses, so that evening rush hour traffic has more space to head back into Virginia.

The construction work happens in two phases, with phase one repairing the South half of the bridge. At the midpoint of the project, the North section will close and South section will re-open. From that point until the end of the project, an identical traffic pattern follows on the South Side: two lanes in, one out in the morning, and two out/one in during the evening and overnight.

During both phases of the project, a temporary overhead signal will direct traffic entering the bridge. Double-check those signals to make sure there haven’t been any modifications to the schedule.

Motorists will be able to enter and exit the Bridge from Memorial Circle on the Virginia side and Lincoln Memorial Circle NW on the DC side. Access and exit remain for all roadways connected to the Bridge.

Pedestrians to Detour and Use Only One Side of the Bridge

Pedestrians and cyclists will be limited to one sidewalk across the Memorial Bridge for the duration of the reconstruction effort. For a few years starting this week, they must use the roadside

path on the North end of the Bridge. Folks heading over to DC from the South, where the Mt. Vernon Trail connects, will travel across temporary crosswalks on Washington Boulevard and Memorial Avenue around Memorial Circle. That clockwise detour puts you onto the North sidewalk.

After construction work switches to the Northside of the Bridge, pedestrians and cyclists will use the South sidewalk. The temporary crosswalks on Washington Blvd and Memorial Ave remain. Bike commuters, runners, and pedestrians mostly use the South sidewalk, so the fitness-minded have only a few years of disrupted routine.

For many years, the South sidewalk has been in terrible condition, and I welcome this temporary inconvenience as much as I hope you do, fellow active commuters. Since 2012, we’ve had to ride or run over those large wooden ramps. And the concrete is cracked, with giant holes in many places. Here’s to hoping there won’t be any bumps when the Southside is done. I’d bet I’m not the only one who’s lost a water bottle after a pothole there rocketed it out of the cage and into traffic on the Brid**ge.

Boat Traffic Will Be Diverted to Avoid Construction

Construction work will proceed incrementally across the span of the Bridge, and then back again as they rebuild the North side of the Bridge. As that work moves across the bridge, NPS will direct boat traffic to the next channel underneath the bridge. In the future, I hope to cover lots of boat topics. A ferry service for commuters might happen, so there might be a lifevest explainer here soon.

The Memorial Bridge Used to Be a Draw Bridge

They’re pretty much replacing the entire bridge. The Arlington Memorial Bridge was commissioned in the early 1920s, the Army Corps of Engineers started construction in 1925, and it opened in 1929. It began life as a drawbridge, “specifically a two-leaf bascule span. The bridge allowed large vessels to reach the port at Georgetown.”

The drawbridge control room is one of the coolest hidden treasures in DC. “Memorial raised its drawbridge for the final time on February 28, 1961. The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge under construction a third of a mile upstream was a solid concrete structure, which eliminated the functionality of Memorial’s draw span. Finally, in 1976, the leaves of the Memorial Bridge draw were sealed, and the doors to the control room locked for good.”

The Memorial Bridge Has Been Unsafe for Years

In 2015, the Memorial Bridge was declared “structurally deficient,” and the Federal Highway Administration barred large vehicles, trucks, and buses from using it. The repair project costs $277 million and would have required more funding if the project waited any longer. NPS has had to perform temporary emergency repairs on the structure since 2011. Without this reconstruction, the Bridge would have been closed to all vehicle traffic in 2021.

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