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Drawbridge no more: Memorial Bridge's interior machinery is removed for good

Antiquated components of the Memorial Bridge's old drawbridge are being removed and replaced with stronger steel.

WASHINGTON — It’s been decades since the Arlington Memorial Bridge opened its middle span, with gears and machinery sitting abandoned and obsolete within the structure since 1961.

The National Park Service recently announced the halfway point of the bridge's $227 million rehabilitation. And with a historic face-lift also comes a cleaning of the bridge's interior.

Crews have now finished removing all machinery used to operate the drawbridge on the span's south side, replacing the corroded metal and mechanical equipment with stronger steel. 

The new beams and girders now filling the hollowed former drawbridge space are used to support the growing traffic volume on the concrete decks above.

"This project is about more than construction for us, because this is more than a bridge," NPS spokesperson Jonathan Shafer said. "It's a symbolic link between North and South, linking the Robert E. Lee Memorial in Arlington Cemetery, with the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, and a memorial to the sacrifices of our nation's veterans."

RELATED: Construction shuts down half of Memorial Bridge for 2 years

View Usage Information public domain. Multimedia credited with a copyright symbol (indicating that the creator may maintain rights to the work) or credited to any entity other than NPS must not be presumed to be public domain; contact the host park or program to ascertain who owns the material."

Construction and closures began in the fall of 2018, with work expected to continue until early 2021. Half the bridge's steel has already been replaced, and the old decorative metal plates on the southern side of the bridge have been restored.

Until construction is completed, the roadway will be configured as follows:

- One lane will be open eastbound (into D.C.).  

- One lane will be open westbound (toward Va.).  

- One lane will be reversible to accommodate rush hour traffic.

The bridge’s 10-ton load restriction will remain in effect for the duration of the project.

RELATED: 36 Roman statues within Union Station get a much-needed scrubbing

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