The Department of Justice Monday filed a civil action on behalf of the Department of the Army for the taking of roadways owned or operated by Arlington County by eminent domain for the purpose of expanding Arlington National Cemetery.
The taking and relocation of these roadways, together with future planned acquisitions from the Commonwealth of Virginia, will establish a single, contiguous parcel of land south of the existing cemetery. The incorporation of this land into the cemetery will create a 49-acre contiguous parcel available for cemetery development.
When completed, the Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Project will provide for approximately 60,000 additional burial sites, including an above ground columbarium. The expansion will extend the timeline for Arlington National Cemetery to continue as an active military cemetery. The total project cost, including the related Defense Access Roads Project, is estimated at $420 million, and Congress already has appropriated $280 million in project-related funding.
The DOJ release says the expansion project will benefit Arlington County and its residents by, among other things, burying overhead power lines and incorporating the Air Force Memorial and surrounding vacant land into Arlington National Cemetery. The project will transform Columbia Pike from South Oak Street to Washington Boulevard by re-aligning and widening it. The project includes street-scape zones with trees on both sides of Columbia Pike, adding a new dedicated bike path, and widening pedestrian walkways. The project also provides for the construction of a new South Nash Street.
June 15, 2020 marks the 156th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery, which was established as a military cemetery in 1864 during the American Civil War.
Congress authorized the Department of the Army to acquire land, including acquisition by condemnation, if necessary, for the expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. Congress gets its authority from the U.S. Constitution that allows the taking of public county property for a public use. In turn, the government must pay just compensation for the property. Acquisition by condemnation is an open and transparent process that assures fair treatment for landowners and taxpayers alike. The government here is providing just compensation in the form of substitute facilities, including a realigned and redesigned Columbia Pike and the construction of a new South Nash Street.