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Historic DC Bridge’s $250M Rehab Plan Set

Friday, February 17, 2017

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A historic Washington D.C. structure is one step closer to an overhaul, as the National Park Service has selected a rehabilitation plan for the Arlington Memorial Bridge, and is moving on to the design phase.

The NPS announced Feb. 7 that it has chosen Alternative 1B, one of four main options it had considered for the planning of the bridge rehab job. Much of the difference between possible plans related to how the bascule span, the center segment that was once used as a working drawbridge, will be treated.

The chosen plan involves replacing the bascule’s steel superstructure, repairing concrete arches and stone facades on the 10 approach spans, reconstructing the bridge deck and sidewalks, and resurfacing travel lanes.

Arlington Memorial Bridge
Federal Highway Administration

Built as a drawbridge in 1932 but not opened as such since 1961, Arlington Memorial Bridge carries 68,000 commuters per day.

Alternative 1B was named as the agency’s preferred plan last year, but was subject to environmental review. The decision was made final last week when NPS Capital Region Director Bob Vogel signed a Finding of No Significant Impact for the plan.

About Alternative 1B

The agency says its reasons for choosing Alternative 1B include cost, both up front and over time: Replacing the bascule span with a new span with variable-depth steel girders will mean a savings of $30-35 million over rehabilitating the existing bascule, according to the NPS. And replacing the span will save another $40 million in operating and maintenance costs over the life of the bridge, compared with rehabbing the bascule that’s there now.

Bridge diagram
Federal Highway Administration

Much of the difference between possible plans related to how the bascule span, the center segment that was once used as a working drawbridge, will be treated.

Among the options that were rejected, Alternative 3 would have involved the rehabilitation of the existing bascule span. Alternative 1A would have replaced the span with one made with precast concrete box girders, reusing the existing steel facade to replicate the bridge’s current appearance. And Alternative 2 would have involved replacing the bascule span with a fixed span of welded steel truss construction.

$250 Million Job

The NPS predicts the rehab job will cost $225-230 million initially, with future maintenance costs of $20 million. The work will last nearly two years, and depending on the construction method chosen, may or may not involve a full bridge closure of up to 70 days. In either case, the agency predicts 560 days of traffic impact during the course of the project.

The NPS says the job is one of the largest transportation projects in the agency’s history.

Rust on the bascule span
National Park Service

Last March, the NPS announced that despite the quick fixes, the bridge was experiencing wear and tear at a faster rate than expected, including considerable corrosion on the bascule span.

The new design life of the bridge is predicted to be 75 years, with structural steel repainting to be performed every 25 years. Expansion joints and bearings will be replaced at 20-year intervals, while the concrete-polymer overlay is to be replaced at 40 years.

The NPS says it has secured $140 million toward the estimated $250 million total cost for the project, partly through federal FASTLANE funding and the Federal Lands Transportation Program. More FASTLANE money is being sought for the job, and the NPS is reportedly working to secure other funding.

WTOP-TV reports that the NPS hopes to start construction before the end of 2017.

Past Repairs, Restrictions

Built as a drawbridge in 1932 but not opened as such since 1961, Arlington Memorial Bridge carries 68,000 commuters per day. In 2015, the bridge underwent emergency repairs, and the NPS enacted a 10-ton weight restriction on the structure, eliminating large trucks and buses. The restriction remains in place until the full rehabilitation is complete.

Last March, the NPS announced that despite the quick fixes, the bridge was experiencing wear and tear at a faster rate than expected, including considerable corrosion on the bascule span. The agency warned that the bridge might be shut down completely in 2021 if a full rehab isn't undertaken.

The bridge provides a critical tourism link between Washington and Virginia's landmarks, including Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Vernon.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; concrete; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); National Park Service; Rehabilitation/Repair; Steel

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