The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Friday that it had awarded a $19.5 million contract for a major expansion of the new Washington Crossing National Cemetery.

"That's terrific," said Ed Hackett, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran who lives in Newtown Township, not far from the cemetery.

He said veterans were anticipating word of the expansion, but not quite so soon.

The contract was awarded to G&C Fab-Con L.L.C., a veteran-owned business in Flemington, N.J. Federal officials said work should be completed by fall 2011.

The VA said the cemetery project involves adding 10,000 casket grave sites, and 3,600 cremation sites for veterans and qualified relatives.

It eventually will include an administration complex with public restrooms and a flag-assembly area.

The cemetery opened officially on Jan. 20, and Hackett estimates that it now accommodates about 400 bodies and cremated remains.

The government already had committed $19 million to the project.

The cemetery is one of a host of new VA burial grounds under development or in the planning stages.

Though graveyard space for veterans isn't lacking, the VA says it is trying to put burial places in areas with dense populations of veterans. About 350,000 veterans live in the eight-county Philadelphia region, according to the VA.

The cemetery eventually will have a capacity of about 125,000.

Contact staff writer Anthony R. Wood at 610-313-8210 or twood@phillynews.com.