Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Authorizing Construction of Bridges Over the Potomac River.

August 30, 1954

I HAVE TODAY signed H.R. 1980, a bill authorizing the construction of two bridges over the Potomac River, one from a point at or near Jones Point, Virginia, and the other from the vicinity of Constitution Avenue in the District of Columbia to the Virginia side.

I have signed this enrolled bill because it provides, in Title I, a compromise solution for the long-standing controversy as to the location of a central area bridge across the Potomac. The bill, however, contains serious defects which should be corrected as soon as possible. Certain of the defects can be corrected by Executive action in the form of instructions, whereas others will require amendment of the legislation.

Title I of the enrolled bill, in providing for the construction of the central area bridge by the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, fails to provide statutory recognition and adjustment of the relationship of the bridge, together with its approaches and connecting roads, to existing and potential improvements on park lands. The bridge, with its high traffic volume, will have a serious impact on some of the most important of the National Memorials. It can affect importantly the effectiveness of the memorial concept of Arlington Memorial Bridge, which symbolizes the reunion of the North and South and provides a monumental approach to Arlington National Cemetery. It can infringe upon the Water Gate design as a monumental entrance to the Mall from the Potomac River. Most serious of all could be the effect of the bridge on the beautiful setting of the Lincoln Memorial.

In order to minimize the possible impairment of the monumental design and artistic setting of the Lincoln Memorial and other monumental structures in that area, the Secretary of the Interior should continue to keep control and jurisdiction over all park lands in the vicinity of the bridge except the actual bridge structure and the road and street surface between curbs necessary for maintenance by the District of Columbia. The Secretary of the Interior also should be authorized to approve all plans for the bridge and for approach roads and interchanges at both ends of the bridge since park structures and land are involved. Trucks should be prohibited on the bridge and its approaches, and all passenger-carrying buses now utilizing the Arlington Memorial Bridge should be required to use the new bridge upon its completion.

I feel that Title II of H.R. 1980 improperly vests in the Secretary of the Interior the responsibility for the construction, maintenance, and operation of the Jones Point Bridge. There is, in my opinion, no logical basis for the performance of these functions by that Department since it is not a construction agency and the bridge will not primarily concern or serve areas administered by that Department. The responsibility for the construction, maintenance, and operation of this bridge should be placed in the Bureau of Public Roads, Department of Commerce, or in the Corps of Engineers of the Department of the Army.

I am requesting the Secretary of the Interior to submit to me recommendations for Executive action and amendments of the Act necessary to correct these defects in this legislation.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 1980 is Public Law 704, 83d Congress (68 Stat. 961).

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Authorizing Construction of Bridges Over the Potomac River. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232679

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