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Federal Decision May Further Delay BRAC Moves

by ARLnow.com — April 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm 2,742 52 Comments

Construction of a key ramp from I-395 to the Mark Center complex on Seminary Road in Alexandria may be delayed 18 months due to a federal decision that will require an extensive environmental study before the project can get underway. The delay may further hold up the move of military employees from Arlington offices to Mark Center.

On Friday, VDOT announced that the Federal Highway Administration had decided to require the environmental assessment for the ramp. VDOT argued that it should have instead been granted a categorical exclusion for the project, “since the ramp will be built entirely within existing I-395 right of way, will improve air quality by making transit and carpooling more convenient for Mark Center employees and will not have substantial impacts to natural, cultural, recreational, water quality, or historic resources.”

About 6,400 Department of Defense employees are scheduled to be relocated to Mark Center by the end of the year as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC). VDOT says that “near-gridlock conditions will occur on Seminary Road, Beauregard Street and I-395″ unless the ramp and other infrastructure is built to accommodate the extra traffic. With the environmental assessment, it could be 2015 or 2016 before the ramp opens.

Congressman Jim Moran — who has been working “to suspend or delay the move into the Mark Center site until the necessary transportation improvements to prevent a traffic nightmare on I-395 are implemented” — says that Mark Center moves may need to be pushed back even further.

“Given the severe traffic congestion that will occur at the Mark Center, I remain focused on fighting to delay relocation until after all transportation infrastructure improvements are in place,” Moran told ARLnow.com. “This decision just means that it will take a lot longer to build the ramp, extending the time needed to delay the full move.”

Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Karen Vasquez confirmed that Arlington workers are among those whose moves may be affected.

“Because many of the functions leaving Arlington are relocating at Mark Center, a delay in the construction of the ramp will delay those moves,” Vasquez said. “Arlington, and the BRAC Transition Center, continue to work with Congressman Moran during the transition.”

  • Z

    I nominate the “planning” and construction of the Marc Center one of the biggest bonehead moves of the new century. Well done.

    • PCB

      +1

    • MIchael H.

      + 2

    • Bluemontsince1961

      +3

      • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

        +4

  • Robin

    It amazes me that Congressman Moran worked so hard to get the BRAC building into the Mark Center and once he found out it was a disaster, he turned on a dime, pretends he was against it all the time, and gets away with it!

    • AllTogetherNow

      What’s “to get away with?” He fought to keep the jobs in his district. Once it became clear that the planning was causing a nightmare, he’s now trying to address that. Seems like he’s being a good congressman.

  • Good luck

    The BRAC move deadline is statutory. It would take an amendment to the statute to extend the date of the move to Mark Center past September. Given that Congress is full of a bunch of inept boneheads, this will never happen. Putting aside the fact that the whole BRAC thing is a load of crap, consider the fact that the BRAC is generally just a shifting of people all over the place (Crystal City aside). So if they can’t move the Mark Center people in to that building, they can’t move them out of their old buildings and you can’t move new people into those old buildings, and so on and so on.

    Your Federal Government at work, ladies and gentlemen….

    • http://www.belvoirnewvision.com Don Carr

      That’s the point everyone keeps missing: the Sept. 15, 2011 deadline is law, passed by Congress, signed by the President. Those who keep talking about how the HOV work might delay the moves are only thinking very, VERY wishfully – ultimately the one has nothing to do with the other. The only way the deadline for the moves can happen is if Congress extends the deadline. Congress will not do that because of the Pandora’s box it would open regarding BRAC projects all over the country.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      “Congress is full of a bunch of inept boneheads”

      LOL! Good luck, you nailed it! Some days I think Congress is about as useful as an umbrella in a hurricane.

      • mehoo

        It’s funny watching people complain about the building Congress built that’s going to clog up traffic on the great highway they use to get to work…that Congress built.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          “It’s funny watching people complain about the building Congress built that’s going to clog up traffic on the great highway they use to get to work…that Congress built that’s going to clog up traffic on the great highway they use to get to work…that Congress built that’s making commuters crankier that’s clogging up the highway they use to get to work…”

          I used to work at Skyline not far from the MARC Center – I’m glad I don’t work in that area any more. Even from where I live in Arlington, Leesburg Pike/Carlin Springs Road/George Mason Dr/Seminary Rd is a mess I try to avoid. I can imagine what it will be like when the herds move into the Marc Center. It’ll make the Rt.7/Rt. 123 mess I face daily now that I work in McLean look like nothing.

        • Westover

          The BRAC Commission made these choices. Congress wisely kept themselves out of the process for once.

          • Don Carr

            Actually, Congress made the law that established the BRAC Commission. Process is that BRAC Commission does its thing with DOD’s recommendations, then submits the package to Congress. Congress votes on the package, and must either pass it or kill it, but in its entirety. By act of Congress, the Congress cannot “cherry pick” what the Commission has submitted. If Congress passes it (which is to say, once the Congress has taken its responsibility for the bill) and sends it to the President, he can either sign it or veto it, but, as with Congress, he has no line-item veto power. So, bottom line: BRAC is law.

  • Kevin

    They desperately need to improve the roadway and light timing at King St/Walter Reed/Beauregard.

    • DSS10

      Those lights cannot not be timed because they are on the border of Arlington and Alexandria. Would you expect anyone to coordinate anything with a bordering county?

      • mehoo

        You’re not, like, serious, are you?

        • Suburban Not Urban

          Why would you be suprised? Arlington can’t even coordinate plowing culdesacs in Arlington that are fed by FC streets.

          • mehoo

            So you’re saying light timing and stuff like that is never coordinated?

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Ain’t that the truth!

      • Westover

        I lived at that corner five years ago. They did have the lights well timed for a short period of time. It just takes the Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax and VDOT guys an hour together on a conference call every now and then to keep it streight. Sounds like they all need to get together again.

    • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

      No kidding. What a mess there.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        I used to work at Skyline about two blocks from that intersection. It was a mess then and will only get worse with this BRAC move to Marc Center.

        • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

          Just wait until the Bailey’s redevelopment plan kicks in with high density housing and retail, and the only transportation enhancement is a trolley line going down Columbia Pike. Gridlocked.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            That’s the truth….a smaller version of the mixing bowls in Springfield and the Pentagon.

  • SouthArlJD

    Well, here’s another delay in the building of the Ceusescu Memorial Building and BRAC Boondoggle project which has kept so many of us entertained pondering the rank stupidity of the whole BRAC program.

  • ken

    so you build a facility that will house 6,400 people, with no roads to the building….only the government could come up with a plan this brilliant. hey, have done such a bang up job with this, lets have the government run health care too !!

    • SouthArlJD

      Normally, people who appreciate government and want it to work take the time to do things right. When government is being run by people who hate and despise it and believe it can’t do anything right, which was the case during the planning phase and initial construction of this white elephant, then it is inefficient and just plain screwed up. In other words, this boondoggle was brought to us by those who subscribe to the belief that government should be shrunk down to a small size so we can drown it in a bathtub. It also helps that the whole Bush 44 administration was loaded with more toadies and nepotism than the Grant and Harding administrations combined, with people being hired not for their competencies, but based on their desire to “serve George W. Bush” as Monica Goodling so memorably stated.

      • TGEoA

        You know how we can tell you’re a crappy lawyer? You live in South Arlington.

        • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

          You were being redundant.

        • SA_fan

          Wow. I have no problem with making fun of lawyers, but no need to hate on South Arlington. sheesh.

      • Arlwhenever

        How can you say the Bush administration hated government? The Bushies expanded government almost as much as the Obamanistas. Both administrations have a record of decreases taxes, exponentially increasing expenditure growth and doubling down on war. Aside from meaningless rhetoric, it’s hard to tell the difference.

      • Real World Economics

        And the Obama administration is different how???

    • mehoo

      Good thing the new health care law doesn’t involve government “running” health care.

  • DSS10

    Is it true that this building only has parking spaces to support half of its total occupant load? How did this building get permitted? I’m begining to feel like I live in Providence Road Island in the 80′s….

  • MustaBeenSmokinBRAC

    I live just west of the Beauregard/Seminary intersection, and it’s already a mess getting onto or across 395 in the morning. To populate that site with thousands of workers without first having proper roads and transit in place would be awful — for us and for them. Why didn’t the transit study and plan come *first*, before the commitment to the site, and all the construction?

    Other related observations:
    1. It looks to me like this will be a worse commute for most mass-transit-ers than Crystal City. No train… just buses.
    2. If you want to protect personnel from possible attack, having them in a loosely coupled array of facilities, like they currently have, is a lot smarter than putting them all in one giant target that dominates the skyline.

    • Andy

      My thought exactly. Doesn’t concentrating 6,000 DoD employees in one place make them even more of a convenient target? I thought a lot of the BRAC relocations had to do with present buildings not meeting government security requirements. This seems to be worse.

      • DanR

        Quoting from the Original BRAC-133 recommendation (http://www.whs.mil/brac/docs/Rec133.pdf) :

        SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JUSTIFICATION

        This recommendation meets two important Department of Defense (DoD) objectives with regard to future use of leased space and enhanced security for DoD Activities. Additionally, the recommendation results in a significant improvement in military value as a result of the movement from leased space to a military installation. The average military value of the noted Department of Defense components based on current locations ranges from 272nd to 332nd out of 334 entities evaluated by the Major Administration and Headquarters (MAH) military value model. Fort Belvoir is ranked 57th out of 334; and Fort Lee is ranked 96th. Implementation will reduce the Department’s reliance on leased space which has historically higher overall costs than government-owned space and generally does not meet Anti-terrorism Force Protection standards as prescribed in UFC 04-010-01. The recommendation eliminates approximately 1,850,000 Usable Square Feet of leased administrative space within the NCR. This, plus the immediate benefit of enhanced Force Protection afforded by a location within a military installation fenceline, will provide immediate compliance with Force Protection Standards. The leased installations affected by this recommendation are generally non-compliant with current Force Protection Standards. The relocation of the DCMA headquarters to a military installation that is farther than 100 miles from the Pentagon provides dispersion of DoD activities away from a dense concentration within the National Capital Region. This recommendation has the added benefit of allowing DCMA to combine its headquarters facilities from two adjacent leased buildings into one facility that meets its current space requirements.

        • Don Carr

          Important to note that at the time of the recommendation, there was absolutely NO vision or expectation that Fort Belvoir would even end up having to take on any Mark Center acreage as part of its inventory. The original plans suggested that what at the time was 9,300 jobs in recommendation 133, along with another 8,500 jobs of the NGA out of Bethesda, and put all 17,800 of them on Fort Belvoir’s 840-acre Engineer Proving Ground. Community outcry, including quite a few major concerns from Fort Belvoir planners, resulted in the Army deciding to cap the EPG at the 8,500, and find somewhere else for the BRAC133 jobs, which in August of 2007 was changed to 6,400 from 9,300. Congress’ BRAC law said for Army to consider acquiring additional space for that purpose, since environmental impact studies documented that there was no more acreage on the original Fort Belvoir site.

          A great many developers submitted proposals, but, the decision came down to a choice between the Victory Center on Eisenhower Avenue, the Mark Center at Seminary, and the GSA site in Springfield. Alexandria provided comment that it welcome selection of either of its sites, and other officials noted that selection of either would at least keep those jobs in roughly the same region where they had always been, rather than move them to Fairfax County (you might recall a great outcry from elected officials and others back in 2005 about, “Don’t drain the brains” from Crystal City). The Army selected Mark Center, and told Fort Belvoir to beging planning the move of BRAC133 there.

  • General Zod

    Moran is a complete idiot. This requirement should have gone to Victory Center at 5001 Eisenhower in Alexandria. The Van Dorn metro station is relatively close to this site. I know the Mark Center site can accommodate about 1.7 million square feet of office space versus the Victory Center site which is 1.2 million square feet but with the Federal government’s recent leasing debacles I’m sure they could of gotten more efficient in their space use here. Plus the developer would have built more office buildings for them… politics, politics, politics…crooks.
    http://www.thevictorycenter.com/overview.htm

    • Mark

      Moran had nothing to do with it. In fact, I think he was the one calling for the investigation to look at why the Army “picked” the Mark center.

      • Mark

        http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/article.asp?article=320289&paper=80&cat=104

        THE AREA’S TWO congressmen were split in their reaction to the Army’s decision. U.S. Rep. Thomas Davis III (R-11) “declared victory” over the selection of Mark Center while U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8) expressed disappointment at the Army’s failure to locate the Washington Headquarters Services at the GSA Warehouse site.

        “The Army’s decision was predicated solely on meeting BRAC’s arbitrary 2011 deadline,” said Moran. “While I’m disappointed the GSA Warehouse was not chosen, the push to redevelop that site will continue. A location so close to Metro should be housing workers, not documents and equipment.”

        • Don Carr

          Correct.

  • Rick

    Even if this ramp happens, it’s gonna be hell on earth for NB HOV cars exiting and having to go all the way around that intersection, mixed with NB HOV and non HOV traffic entering from EB Seminary. Going home should be easier though….

  • Pingback: ACLU calls on Prince William Schools to stop blocking LGBT sites; Guns OK for church; BRAC schedule may be delayed; and One family has more fight in them to keep home | Northern Virginia Magazine

  • Burger

    What is really sad for me, is that I have driven by that building 100s of times and didn’t realize that was the Mark Center until I saw that picture.

    Geez, it will be a giant CF.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      It will be one of the biggest traffic CFs in Northern Virginia.

  • TJS

    Just wanted to get some facts out there from Congressman Moran’s website (has a section devoted to BRAC issues):
    In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission put forward recommendations to Congress that included moving more than 22,000 Department of Defense (DoD) personnel to Fort Belvoir by September 2011. Congressman Moran voted against this decision because it moves people out from Metro accessible offices, forcing thousands more cars onto our already congested roadways.

    In 2008, after recognizing that relocating so many personnel to Ft. Belvoir would create a three to four hour backup on major roadways near the base, the DoD decided to acquire the Mark Center site in Alexandria to house the 6,400 personnel associated with the Washington Headquarters Service. Joining with former Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA), Congressman Moran advocated strenuously for the location to be at the current GSA warehouse in Springfield (which sits next to the Springfield Metro Station). The duo even succeeded in passing authorizing language allowing GSA to transfer ownership of the property to the DoD.

    Regrettably, in the final outcome, the Army made their decision on cost consideration alone. The Mark Center site, while lacking public transit and sufficient transportation infrastructure to handle this new workforce, was the low bidder, also beating out another Metro accessible site on Eisenhower Ave.

    Congressman Moran has opposed BRAC from the beginning and has fought tirelessly to reduce its impact on the communities connected to Ft. Belvoir and the Mark Center in Alexandria. He is working towards finding concrete solutions to mitigate the anticipated traffic nightmare that will severely impact the quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work in Northern Virginia.

    BRAC #133: Mark Center, Alexandria Virginia

    Beginning in September 2011, 6,400 personnel will move to the Mark Center facility located off I-395 and Seminary Road in Alexandria. According to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the relocation will cause traffic congestion at surrounding intersections to a point designated as “failure”, adding significant delays to the daily commutes of hundreds of thousands of Northern Virginia residents.

    Working with members of the Alexandria community, the Department of Defense, and colleagues in the House and Senate, Congressman Moran has made repeated efforts to mitigate the effect of this impending gridlock. This includes: requesting a 1,000 space parking cap on the number of parking spaces allowed at the Mark Center, fighting for DoD supported road improvements and public transportation funding, requiring a DoD Inspector General review of the Mark Center relocation plans, and ultimately working to delay relocation to the facility until the transportation improvements needed to prevent gridlock are put in place.

    Transportation Infrastructure Funding: Congressman Moran believes that the DoD should fund their fair share of necessary transportation infrastructure improvements to implement the BRAC relocation. In February 2011, VDOT announced it would spend $80 million for a direct access ramp from the I-395 HOV ramp to Seminary Road. Rep. Moran has welcomed VDOT’s proposed ramp project, and has encouraged the DoD to also pay for an estimated $20 million in short- and mid-term transportation improvements. Those improvements include an additional lane from Seminary to I-395 South, a widening of I-395, lane restriping, and a pedestrian bridge from Southern Towers to the Mark Center. Though these improvements will undoubtedly lessen the congestion around the Mark Center, none will be in place before the BRAC deadline of September 2011. For that reason, Moran has repeatedly called for a delay in the full implementation of the BRAC recommendation until there is sufficient road capacity to handle the move.

    Parking Cap: In the FY2011 National Defense Authorization Act, Congressman Moran included language limiting the number of parking spaces at the Mark Center to 1,000, until necessary transportation improvements are in place. This provision would at minimum reduce the number of new cars on the road come September. Due to larger partisan disagreements related to the phasing out of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the final bill was drastically reduced, squeezing out the parking cap and hundreds of other provisions benefitting a range of military programs. Still, Moran was able to attach a last minute requirement that the Secretary of the Army submit a transportation plan that would maintain current traffic flow and detail costs and funding sources for short-, medium-, and long-term fixes.

    DOD IG Investigation: Congressman Moran also requested an investigation by the DOD Inspector General of the entire site selection process. The report is expected in April 2011 and is thought to detail a number of problems with the Army’s selection of the Mark Center site, bolstering the argument that the DoD should assist in preventing a traffic calamity of their own design.

    As the clock ticks down to September 2011, Rep. Moran continues to meet daily with constituents and DoD officials taking an “all options on the table” approach to find solutions before time runs out.

    Fort Belvoir

    Fort Belvoir Main Post and Engineering Proving Grounds expects to accommodate more than 13,000 new personnel under the 2005 BRAC recommendations. At the Main Post, Fort Belvoir will add approximately 5,000 government and contractor employees, the majority of whom will work at the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, set to replace the closing Walter Reed Medical Center. The hospital must also accommodate hundreds of patients, wounded warriors, and their families on a daily basis. At the Engineering Proving Grounds, 8,500 government and contractor personnel will work at the headquarters of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

    Congressman Moran will continue fighting for increased funding to widen Route 1 to accommodate the large influx of personnel and hospital traffic coming to the area. He is currently working to include $150 million for road money to provide sufficient access along Rt. 1 to the new hospital.

    Fort Belvoir

    Fort Belvoir Main Post and Engineering Proving Grounds expects to accommodate more than 13,000 new personnel under the 2005 BRAC recommendations. At the Main Post, Fort Belvoir will add approximately 5,000 government and contractor employees, the majority of whom will work at the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, set to replace the closing Walter Reed Medical Center. The hospital must also accommodate hundreds of patients, wounded warriors, and their families on a daily basis. At the Engineering Proving Grounds, 8,500 government and contractor personnel will work at the headquarters of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

    Congressman Moran will continue fighting for increased funding to widen Route 1 to accommodate the large influx of personnel and hospital traffic coming to the area. He is currently working to include $150 million for road money to provide sufficient access along Rt. 1 to the new hospital.

    • Don Carr

      Some clarifications:

      “Congressman Moran voted against this decision because it moves people out from Metro accessible offices, forcing thousands more cars onto our already congested roadways.”

      Clarification: Congressman Moran voted against this decision because it moved jobs out of Crystal City and other points in Arlington/Alexandria, period. Transportation was of little concern to the Virginia CODEL at the time. Go pull the certified BRAC transcript of the Virginia delegation’s testimony before the BRAC Commission. In addition to Sen. Warner, Sen. Allen, Cong. Moran and Cong. Davis, about 40 other elected and appointed officials from across the Commonwealth testified, resulting in a 96-page transcript. In that transcript, the word, “transportation” shows up only 12 time – most of the time in reference to things like, “Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer,” or “transportation plan.” The word, “traffic” – again, 96 pages of transcript, folks – the word, “traffic” shows up ONE TIME, in a passage from then-Gov. Mark Warner telling the Commission that Virginia is aware there will be some traffic impact, and we are already working on solutions.

      “Joining with former Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA), Congressman Moran advocated strenuously for the location to be at the current GSA warehouse in Springfield (which sits next to the Springfield Metro Station) … Regrettably, in the final outcome, the Army made their decision on cost consideration alone.”

      Clarification: Based on the study of the GSA site Congress authorized, it was determined that the time GSA needed to relocate its tenants, demolish the old old buildings, and provide environmental clearance to turn the site over to the Army was prohibitive and would have prevented the DOD from meeting Congress’ BRAC deadline of 15 Sep 2011. Everything required would have cost millions, and that was a consideration, but, not the chief consideration.

      “Moran has repeatedly called for a delay in the full implementation of the BRAC recommendation until there is sufficient road capacity to handle the move.”

      Clarification: The authority to make this happens resides solely on Congress to change the law. Existing law requires DOD to make the moves by 15 Sep 2011.

  • Arlingtron

    I’ve watched this building rise from the ground up. Nothing about it pleases me and it is a monument to governmental incompetence. It is supposedly a “LEEDS Silver” green building that respects sustainable design through its entire lifecycle. Fail on step one: worklights were left burning 24/7/365 even when no work was being done on Sundays and holidays (attached photo taken on a Sunday). They wanted to encroach on the nature preserve next door to build an access ramp that was an afterthought. No Metrorail for so many employees? Fail! Concentrate so may DOD employees in such an easy target? It will be easier to steer a Boeing 757 into this barn than the Pentagon.

    • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

      +100 on the lights. It was beyond infuriating.

    • Lou

      It’s not uncommon for DoD jobs to have 24/7 security on their construction site, especially high profile jobs like this. OSHA would dictate that a security guards needs as much job site lighting as a construction worker.

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