Suburban northern Virginia has long suffered from overloaded major highways and frustratingly slow commutes. Thus concern was voiced when the 2005 federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission called for transferring thousand of defense employees to locations not served by the Washington region's Metro rail system.
Now, as the date for the relocations comes closer, the worries are intensifying. Connection Newspapers report that 22,000 military and government employees are being shifted from Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Arlington, Virginia, to Alexandria and Fairfax County, Virginia, with dire consequences for traffic congestion.
According to the papers:
"...nine months before 6,400 Defense Department employees are to move into a new building at Seminary Road and U.S. Route 395 in Alexandria, there is no adequate way for thousands of employees to enter and leave the site each day and the potential that the traffic congestion will cause gridlock on U.S. 95 from Stafford County to the Pentagon.
"At the same time, U.S. Route 1 in Fairfax County is far too narrow to permit other thousands of new employees to enter and leave Ft. Belvoir without causing backups that would stretch from the Occoquan to the Alexandria city line.
"On Tuesday, Dec. 14, four key Northern Virginia Democrats fired off a letter to Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell asking him to direct any uncommitted Virginia Department of Transportation funds to relieve traffic congestion in Alexandria and along Route 1 and Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County. McDonnell had said that an audit of VDOT found some $1 billion in unused transportation funds."
Gov. McDonnell responded by challenging the Congressmen to "secure federal funding to support the needed infrastructure," something that "at this point they have been unable to do."
The papers also said:
"The BRAC facility at Seminary Road and Beauregard Streets, dubbed BRAC 133, is two multi-story office towers, one 17 floors high and the other 15 stories. ... Construction started in 2009 and the Corps of Engineers team that is managing the construction said in a briefing that the project is on time and on budget to open on Sept. 15, 2011."
"The Seminary Road site is not near any major public transportation. The closest Metrorail stop is King Street, about three miles away."
"Traffic going north on 95 is already at near capacity and even a small accident can clog the route for hours. It is the main north-south route for workers in Washington, at the Pentagon and beyond."
"The realization of the traffic disaster has slowly seeped into the consciousness of Northern Virginians. Moran said it means drivers could spend three hours on the road in the morning and evening."
Of the leased space the military is leaving behind in Crystal City, Roslyn, and the Pentagon, the papers said: "All of those locations have access to rail and bus service and provided easy access to work for employees that did not want to drive."
An Oct. 4, 2010, article in Federal Times, available here, similarly found fault with the federal plan, saying of the new facility, known as the Mark Center, in Alexandria:
"Only problem is, the plan won't work, according to many experts. There is no agreed-upon way for that many people to get to the building, no place to put all their cars, no nearby Metro or rail station.
"Virtually all studies done so far show that surrounding roads — even after planned expansions are completed — cannot accommodate the traffic expected to stream in and out of the Mark Center facility each day. One approach proposed by the Army, which leads the project, would construct a large ramp linking the highway and the building — but it would affect a nearby nature reserve, which the local community rejects."
"Officially, the Army claims it will make the project work by reducing employee commuting traffic and adding more lanes to surrounding local roads. To reduce traffic, it will encourage employees to use mass transit, bikes, carpooling and a new shuttle bus system that connects to area train stations.
"In August, Moran fired off a sharply worded letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying the Army's transportation plan would result in 'failing levels' of traffic on I-395 and other nearby roads."