By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA 

Washington politics may be broken, but the Arlington Memorial Bridge has been repaired.

The iconic bridge over the Potomac River reopened Dec. 4 after a two-year, $227 million rehabilitation involving several ARTBA members. Major construction on the corroded structure, among the nation’s most deficient yet highly-visible bridges, began in October 2018.

Dec. 4, 2020 photo by NPS / Liz Macro.

Workers repaired or replaced the bridge’s foundations, concrete supports, deck and sidewalks, said the National Park Service, which owns the span that connects the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Crews also installed new, fixed steel beams over the bridge span formerly occupied by a bascule (drawbridge) in the middle of the structure and installed more than 450 precast concrete panels.

“The completion of this project marks one of the largest infrastructure projects in National Park Service history, which was done on time and on budget,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Kiewit had the main design-build contract and worked with Federal Highway Administration engineers to use innovative methods that sped up construction and lowered costs. To maintain traffic on one side of the bridge, Kiewit performed the bridge construction in two phases. That meant the existing drawbridge had to be cut in half, requiring extensive in-water shoring. Kiewit said its team developed a jack-up barge for the shoring system to support the structural steel on the bascule span. Much of the work was prefabricated on the nearby Virginia side of the river and then floated on a barge into position and jacked up into place.

Besides Kiewit, more than 40 firms worked as contractors, designers, consultants, and suppliers on the project. ARTBA members on the team included AECOM, Brayman, High Steel, PennStress, Vulcan, and Wagman.

Opened in 1932 with an anticipated 75-year life expectancy, the Arlington Memorial Bridge became a symbol of what happens when the nation fails to invest in infrastructure. Prior to its rehabilitation, the bridge’s deteriorating condition drew national media attention for its weight limits and other traffic restrictions, including a ban on tour buses. ARTBA CEO Dave Bauer referenced the symbolism in an April 21, 2019, column for The Washington Post.

Now bridge users can look forward to a centenary celebration.

Above: Arlington Memorial Bridge work in September 2019. NPS photo by Jarob Ortiz.