Arlington National Cemetery: First Steps To Expanding
August 08, 2020
Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of fallen soldiers and veterans from every conflict in American history. Officials have long worried about diminishing space in the cemetery, which could be completely full within the next 20 years if no action is taken. However, officials have taken steps toward acquiring land that would facilitate an Arlington expansion project in the future.
The land is just south of the cemetery and is currently owned by Arlington County. It is unoccupied but does include a few roadways. The Justice Department filed the necessary paperwork to use eminent domain to take the 49 acres of land.
The expansion project will create up to 60,000 additional burial sites for use in the future. Currently, there are an average of 7,000 burials in Arlington every year. The Justice Department is considering further tightening the eligibility requirements for burial there in the future and increasing the amount of above ground storage for cremated remains in order to preserve the available burial space for as long as possible.
The project is expected to cost $420 million. Existing traffic on the acquired land will be rerouted and new roads built. The Justice Department also proposed numerous improvements to the community in exchange for taking the land such as new bike and pedestrian paths, infrastructure updates and other civic enhancements. The expansion would connect Arlington National Cemetery with the Air Force Memorial site as well.
Arlington National Cemetery was established in 1864, just as the Civil War was ending. Current eligibility requirements only allow honorably discharged service members to be buried there if they died while on active duty, retired from military service, received a Purple Heart, Silver Star or above, or were a POW and died after November 30, 1993. The immediate family members of these individuals may also be buried at Arlington. Guidelines are broader for storage of cremated remains and include all honorably discharged veterans and others.
Arlington usually welcomes over three million visitors every year. However, this year’s attendance numbers are far below average as the cemetery has been closed to all but family members of those buried there throughout the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.