4 votes

Arlington Memorial Bridge


Bascule span.

Photo taken by F Delventhal in October 2010, CC BY 2.0


View this photo on Flickr

BH Photo #219361

Street Views 


HAER Animation Illustrates Arlington Memorial Bridge Bascule Span In Operation



Bridge in need of rehabilitation or closure, says National Park Service:


The 216-foot draw-span section has not been operated since Feb. 28, 1961, because other low bridges on the river prevented navigation by taller ships.


Bascule bridge with concrete arch approaches over Potomac River on Memorial Avenue
Washington, District of Columbia
Open to traffic
Future prospects
Nationally Significant bascule span has been demolished and replaced
Built 1932; rehabilitated 1986; bascule span demolished 2019
- McKim, Mead & White of New York City, New York (architects)
- Strauss Bascule Bridge Co. of Chicago, Illinois
Concrete closed spandrel arch bridge. Previously the centermost span was a double-leaf bascule span. The 216-foot span has not operated since Feb. 28, 1961, because other low bridges on the river prevented navigation by taller ships. The unused bascule span was demolished in 2019.
Length of largest span: 225.1 ft.
Total length: 2,128.1 ft. (0.4 mi.)
Deck width: 60.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
Memorial Avenue Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+38.88727, -77.05563   (decimal degrees)
38°53'14" N, 77°03'20" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
18/321709/4306274 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Washington West
Average daily traffic (as of 2013)
Inventory number
BH 12252 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of April 2017)
Overall condition: Poor
Superstructure condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 17 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • April 17, 2020: Updated by Nick Boppel: Update to reflect demolition of bascule span
  • March 8, 2019: Updated by Ed Hollowell: Corrected inaccurate wording in design discription
  • January 27, 2019: New photo from Josh Schmid
  • December 4, 2017: Photo imported by Roger Deschner
  • May 10, 2016: New photo from Nathan Holth
  • May 4, 2016: Updated by Nathan Holth: Nationally significant, unique bascule span to be DEMOLISHED AND REPLACED!!!!
  • March 3, 2016: Updated by Alexander D. Mitchell IV: Planned repairs, proposed rehabilitation, news article link, history notes added
  • December 12, 2015: New Street View added by Douglas Butler
  • January 27, 2015: New video from Will Truax
  • July 10, 2014: New photos from Andrew Raker
  • July 9, 2014: New photos from Andrew Raker
  • June 14, 2013: New photo from M. D. Caillet
  • November 2, 2011: Photos imported by Nathan Holth
  • May 4, 2010: Updated by Nathan Holth: Updated bridge type.


  • Nathan Holth
  • HAER Documentation For Bridge
  • HAER DC-7 - Arlington Memorial Bridge, Spanning Potomac River between Lincoln Memorial & Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, District of Columbia, DC
  • Wikipedia
  • Douglas Butler
  • Andrew Raker
  • Will Truax - Bridgewright [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Alexander D. Mitchell IV
  • Josh Schmid
  • Ed Hollowell - erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com
  • Nick Boppel - nickboppel01 [at] gmail [dot] com


Arlington Memorial Bridge
Posted March 8, 2019, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

The most historically significant portion of this historic bridge, the Strauss bascule span, has been demolished. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/aft...

Arlington Memorial Bridge
Posted February 13, 2019, by Nathan Delaplaine (ndelaplaine [at] gmail [dot] com)

Construction has now begun since late 2018.

Arlington Memorial Bridge
Posted December 14, 2017, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com)

Another thought.

The 1986 "rehabilitation" was likely when the machinery to open the bridge was disabled. An interesting use of the word rehabilitation, don't you think?

Arlington Memorial Bridge
Posted December 13, 2017, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com)

I read the Washington Post story and now understand why such strange language is used. Editing is a lost art in todays news papers. The author said "inoperable" when 'non-operated' or unoperated would have been more correct. So sometime following the closure of the Potomac to high profile craft, the draw bridge was rendered inoperable.

Sloppy writing.

Arlington Memorial Bridge
Posted December 5, 2017, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Ed, I am not the author of the language you are referencing. However I can confirm per the bridge inspection report that "The bridge is currently “locked” in the closed position and all of the electrical equipment has been dismantled." This includes bracing beams added underneath the counterweight. Operating the bridge would require removal of the bracing, and installation of new electrical (and maybe some mechanical) equipment. That said, the key features of this bridge which convey the Strauss design remain intact and these include: riveted truss leaves, Strauss' patented layout of trunnions and links for each leaf, and concrete counterweights. The photo here from the inspection report shows the counterweight bracing. All of this material has been released to the public as part of the replacement contract advertisement.

Arlington Memorial Bridge
Posted December 5, 2017, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com)

Would like to know why the bridge is inoperable but other bridges being too low is not the reason why this draw bridge is inoperable. It is why it is unneeded, why it stopped being operated but if it's inoperable than needs to be some mechanical or structural reason why it can't operate.

The fact that it hasen't needed to operate does not make it inoperable.

Arlington Memorial Bridge
Posted December 4, 2017, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

To clarify the nature of the project, this now-awarded Design Build project (which has been discussed with little public consultation) involves the total demolition of the structural elements of the main bascule span... in short, complete loss of all structural elements that convey the bridge's patented Strauss trunnion bascule design. Only the decorative non-structural cladding from the bascule span will remain following the project. The riveted steel trusses which include v-lacing (and can be seen by anyone on a boat going under the bridge including tour boats), the double-trunnion bascule system (which remained in place despite the disuse) will be lost. The replacement structure is a fixed girder structure of completely different design. While the appearance of this bridge will remain similar (except for loss of riveted trusses) following the project, we should still be disappointed in the total loss of one of the finest and most significant Strauss bascule bridges in existence.

Contract Documents for the Design Build can be found here:


Arlington Memorial Bridge
Posted December 4, 2017, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

Department of the Interior announces contract to repair bridge. This will replace the Strauss bascule span with a similar-looking fixed steel span. It hasn't been opened for a boat since 1961.


Arlington Memorial Bridge
Posted July 21, 2017, by Nathan Delaplaine (ndelaplaine [at] gmail [dot] com)

I am disappointed that the drawbridge doesn't function anymore. When the very old bridge had its final operation in the 1960's, this drawbridge will no longer open. But the drawbridge didn't had a traffic light or gates. I hope this bridge gets rebuilt as a replacement drawbridge.

Memorial Avenue Bridge
Posted October 23, 2009, by Jim Grey (mobilene [at] gmail [dot] com)

Found this blog post with a photo of this bridge being built - just the formwork was up.