Arlington National Cemetery Advances Expansion Plans

Plans for expanding Arlington National Cemetery are going forward, Army officials said this week.

"The plans are progressing," said Katherine Hammack, who oversees installations, energy and

environment for the Army. "I think the expansion takes us up to about 2050."

Hammack spoke during a family forum at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army in Washington, D.C.

As many as 30 people are buried at Arlington each day and, without the 38-acre expansion, the cemetery is forecast to run out of room by 2030.

But to make the project possible, the cemetery, which is managed by the Army, must make a land swap with Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation and realign Columbia Pike, a major commuter route.

The new parcel is south of the current cemetery lands near the Air Force Memorial and includes land once used for barracks. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently conducting an environmental impact study, which is expected to be completed next year.

Realigning a highway is an expensive undertaking, and the project is estimated to cost $274 million. Those funds, which must be allocated by Congress, aren't included in the cemetery’s fiscal 2017 budget request. Officials have estimated that construction could start in 2018.

Some officials, including Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have expressed concern over Arlington County plans to develop mass transit options along Columbia Pike.

In a 2015 letter sent to then-Army Secretary John McHugh, McCain worried that such a project would not "reflect the solemnity of this national cemetery."

County officials, however, responded that any construction would take those concerns into account.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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