Arlington National Cemetery Set To Expand By 70 Acres, With 60,000 New Burial Spaces Without the expansion, the cemetery estimates that it would have run out of room for burials by 2043.
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Arlington National Cemetery Set To Expand By 70 Acres, With 60,000 New Burial Spaces

Arlington National Cemetery is set to expand an additional 70 acres to the south. Carlos Delgado/Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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Carlos Delgado/Wikimedia Commons

Arlington National Cemetery is officially expanding — by about 50 football fields' worth of space.

On November 5, the National Capital Planning Commission approved a years-old plan to expand the cemetery 70 acres to the south, an addition that will make room for more than 60,000 new burial spaces. The 639-acre cemetery will remain one contiguous piece of land, and the expansion will integrate the U.S. Air Force Memorial on Columbia Pike into the property.

Without the expansion, the cemetery estimates that it would have run out of room for burials by 2043. About 400,000 American troops and veterans are currently buried on its grounds.

The expansion will also allow the cemetery to build more secure entry points, pedestrian walkways and a parking deck.

The project has proven logistically complicated, and will necessitate the realignment of Columbia Pike, South Joyce Street, and Southgate Road, all of which are owned by Arlington County. In June, the federal government filed a civil suit to claim those nine acres of land from the county through eminent domain.

The Arlington County Board, for its part, unanimously approved two agreements with the federal government in April to expand the cemetery. A spokesperson for Arlington County did not respond to DCist/WAMU's request for comment about how much compensation it received for the land by press time.

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The cemetery is also considering other ways to make sure it doesn't run out of burial space, including a measure that would change the eligibility rules for which service members can be buried there.

One proposal would eliminate burial and inurnment eligibility for service members who die while on active duty but not in combat, which, if implemented, would change a custom that dates back to the cemetery's founding during the Civil War. Another proposal would also change in-ground burial eligibility for military retirees, requiring them to meet several other specific criteria. The cemetery says these proposals will allow it to remain "an active burial ground well into the future, defined as 150 years."

Those proposals are currently in a public comment period which will end on November 16.

Not everyone is thrilled with the cemetery's expansion plans. In 2018, ARLnow reported that a local advocacy group, Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County, emailed members to say that the expansion "will squander a major opportunity to improve the bike connection between Columbia Pike and Pentagon City and arguably make cycling less pleasant and less safe."

Last year, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense told the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on military construction that the road construction should be completed by 2022, with the entire expansion project finished by 2025.

The National Capital Planning Commission did not immediately respond to DCist/WAMU's request for an updated project timeline.

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