The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has completed the purchase of two land parcels totaling 292 acres in Washington County, PA., near Pittsburgh, for a national cemetery, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi announced March 5.
The purchase involves a 136-acre tract, purchased for $1.76 million, that will be developed along with a 156-acre parcel bought in December 2002 for $2.3 million. VA plans to open a small portion of the cemetery for burials in late 2004.
About 19,000 grave spaces will be available when the cemetery’s first phase of construction is
"The Pittsburgh area has been on VA’s priority list for building a much needed national
cemetery to serve the veterans of southwestern Pennsylvania," Principi said. "We’re happy to have this beautiful land to convert this goal to reality in a relatively short time."
Located 12 mi. south of downtown Pittsburgh, cemetery will serve about 323,000 veterans within 75 mi. The area covers 13 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania and three in West Virginia. VA’s 2003 budget includes $16 million to build the cemetery. A local architectural and engineering firm, Marshall-Tyler-Rausch, is developing a master plan for the facility’s design and VA hopes to award a construction contract in early 2004.
VA chose the property over numerous other sites in the area due to its highway access, topography, size and proximity to Pittsburgh. An environmental assessment determined that there were no major problems with mine subsidence, wetlands, availability of utilities, compatibility with surrounding land uses or other physical properties.
VA plans to hold a public ceremony in Washington County next month marking the completion of the purchase.Nationwide, VA operates 120 national cemeteries, of which 61 have casket gravesites currently available. All veterans with discharges other than dishonorable, their spouses and dependent children are eligible for burial in VA national