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In the Heart of Washington

Arlington Memorial Bridge, built in 1932 between the Lincoln Memorial and the Lee House in Arlington Cemetery to symbolize the reunification of the North and South after the Civil War and the strength of the nation, has become infamously emblematic of the nation’s crumbling infrastructure in the past week. Federal lawmakers representing the Washington Capitol area met at the iconic structure on Monday to discuss the need for major repairs to it and other similar projects around the country. 
 
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), ranking member of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) hosted a press conference at Memorial Bridge to address its need for emergency repairs and federal funding for more complete upkeep. Arlington Memorial Bridge is federally owned, so it only receives federal funding for maintenance and repairs.  On March 28th, the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration announced that certain lanes would be closed on the bridge and weight restrictions would be placed on larger vehicles. Inspectors discovered the bridge’s internal structure was corroding faster than previously forecasted, so work will begin in July and take six to nine months to complete emergency repairs. The entire bridge awaits full funding from the federal government to complete all necessary repairs.
 
At the press conference, Congresswoman Norton introduced a piece of sponsored legislation to address infrastructure projects on federal lands, the "Save Our National Parks Transportation Act." The bill would give the NPS $460 million a year for the federal lands transportation program for FY 2016 to 2021. The Act also creates the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Transportation Project program, funded at $150 million for FY 2016 to 2021. 
 

The impacts of the Memorial Bridge closures and weight limits will resonate throughout the region affecting hundreds of thousands federal workers’ commutes into downtown DC, including Metro bus riders. The emergency repairs demonstrate vividly a capitol region which is not immune from the effects of crumbling infrastructure. If passed, Norton’s bill will relieve empty coffers for federal projects, but it will not completely overhaul the entire system. Simultaneously, Congress continues to pass short-term investment extensions for the Highway Trust Fund and remains divided on how to finance a longer-term bill, leaving states looking for quick fixes on how to work with close to depleted funds this summer season. 

by Andrew Guevara, Coordinator, AAMVA Government Affairs
 


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