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Published on: Sunday, June 16, 2024 read more ...

Arlington National Cemetery's Southern Expansion Project

Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) is our nation’s most hallowed ground. ANC, consisting of 639 acres, is the final resting place for over 400,000 service members and their eligible dependents. Currently, ANC stands at a crossroads in its history. ANC will run out of space without changes to eligibility by 2041 (19 years from now) and, with the Southern Expansion Project, by 2060 (38 years). In order to significantly extend ANC’s capacity, changes to either eligibility criteria and/or expansion of the cemetery’s geographic footprint are required. 

Plans to expand the cemetery began in 1998, when the ANC Master Plan first identified the former Navy Annex site (now known as the Southern Expansion site) as suitable interment space, due to its location and existing Department of Defense (DoD) ownership. During the ensuing decades—and following extensive public engagement and feedback—efforts to expand the cemetery developed into two combined projects: the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) Defense Access Roads Project (DAR) and Southern Expansion. 

ANC Superintendent Charles "Ray" Alexander reviews design plans for Southern Expansion.
(June 23, 2020, U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery)

The DAR Project began construction in September 2021 and is scheduled to be complete in June 2025. The DAR Project will realign Columbia Pike, modify the S. Joyce Street intersection and the Columbia Pike/Washington Boulevard (Route 27) interchange, and replace Southgate Road with a new segment of S. Nash Street. These roadway realignments will benefit the public and surrounding community by upgrading safety and capacity of roadways within the area, as well as increasing multimodal (pedestrian and bicycle paths) transportation capacity. 

The Southern Expansion construction project began with a groundbreaking ceremony for Phase I on September 14, 2021. The 50-acre Southern Expansion area is bound by Washington Boulevard (Route 27), I-395, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Maintenance Complex, the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood and Arlington National Cemetery. Construction of Phase II and Phase III of the Southern Expansion project is anticipated to occur over the next five years (spring 2023 through winter 2027), and will add more than 80,000 new interment opportunities. Additionally, the project will significantly enhance the experience of visitors to ANC, while preserving the iconic look and feel of this national shrine. Benefits to visitors include a new entrance on Columbia Pike; employee parking and controlled public parking for cemetery and Air Force Memorial visitors; and seamless access to the Air Force Memorial. Finally, Southern Expansion will facilitate ANC operations by replacing an office building and a warehouse, and adding green-roof maintenance bays for cemetery vehicles. 

Senior leaders from ANC/OAC, the Army, FHWA, USACE, the Air Force District of Washington and contracting firm Kokosing during the DAR and Southern Expansion groundbreaking ceremony.
 (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery)

The Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion project will enable the Army to continue the honored tradition of laying to rest our veterans well into the future. In addition to extending the lifespan of the cemetery, it will a) enhance the visitor experience by creating a culturally rich and thoughtfully designed corridor encompassing the surrounding memorials; b) provide substantial transportation benefits to the surrounding communities by widening Columbia Pike and adding sidewalks and a bike lane; and c) facilitate ANC’s maintenance operations.


1998: The 1998 ANC Master Plan first identified the former Navy Annex site (now known as the Southern Expansion site) as suitable interment space, due to its location and existing Department of Defense (DoD) ownership. This area contains underutilized land which can be made contiguous with the cemetery by realigning roadways. 

2000: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2000 (Subtitle F § 2881 “Expansion of Arlington National Cemetery, Transfer from Navy Annex”) validated the suitability of the land and required the Secretary of Defense to transfer the Navy Annex property to the Secretary of the Army and to “incorporate the Navy Annex property transferred under [this section] into Arlington National Cemetery.” The NDAA of 2000, and subsequent amendments, provided for the transfer of property, and required DoD to remove all improvements from the Navy Annex property to facilitate an expansion.

2016: Public information meetings began. These periodic meetings with stakeholders and local community members continued through 2020. ANC also conducted meetings with veterans’ service organizations (VSOs) and military service organizations (MSOs). 

2017: In July 2017, ANC initiated a survey inviting the public and stakeholders to join a national dialogue on the issue, providing a forum to share ideas, opinions and concerns. This National Dialogue Survey closed in November and generated feedback from approximately 28,000 respondents, who included veterans and service members from all branches of service, as well as military families and the general public. The opportunity for public comment closed in November 2017.

2018: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Norfolk District, on behalf of ANC, posted to the Federal Register a draft Environmental Assessment (Draft EA) for the Southern Expansion and DAR Projects. The public was invited to review and comment from 16 August 2018 through 22 September 2018. 

2021: DAR project construction began in September. Groundbreaking on Southern Expansion occurred on September 14.

• 2023: In April, the DAR project turned over the South Parcel and the construction contract was awarded for the new Operations Complex. Work began on the new Operations Complex in September. Design for Phase III (Cemetery Expansion) was completed in October.

2024-2028: Contractor acquisition for Phase III (Cemetery Expansion) is anticipated to begin in April 2024, with construction completion anticipated in 2028. The DAR project is anticipated to be complete in the fall of 2025. The new Operations Complex is scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2026.