Could BRAC Cause Traffic Jams in Arlington?

by ARLnow.com August 25, 2010 at 9:45 am 2,270 41 Comments

WAMU’s David Schultz reports that Arlington officials are worried that the Base Realignment and Closure Act, which is costing Arlington thousands of military jobs, may also cause “crippling traffic jams.”

Arlington BRAC coordinator Andrea Morris tells WAMU that she expects that many workers who have been relocated to Alexandria will have to make trips back and forth from the Pentagon. Those trips will increase traffic on I-395 and, as I-395 becomes backed up, overflow traffic may spill onto Arlington’s residential streets, Morris suggests.

It seems that one solution to the problem — if it is, in fact, a problem — could be to increase capacity on I-395. What do you think?

  • Jason DL

    Where the hell are the hovercrafts? Take traffice 25 feet off the ground and all the problems are solved. It’s 2010 for goodness sake. Where are the hovercrafts? Go Nats!

    • BoredHouseWife

      Think about how many idiots have a difficult time with 2 dimensions.

  • We need the columbia pike streetcar which would connect the Marc Center with the Pentagon. This is a transit solution that is already in the Environmental Assessment stages. It just needs final funding and Alexandria to approve to extension to the Marc Center.
    More roads will lead to more car traffic.

  • Greg Ginn

    Yes, it’s going to be awful. Traffic is already bad at 3pm. Now, add another 7 thousand more people on the road. They should have built it in Prince William County. I guess, they don’t get paid to thing, just take orders.

    I guess, that thought it would be a good idea to put the building close to a busy four lane intersection and next to highway that is a parking lot M-F.

    good work boys! idiots

    • RestonRunner86

      “They should have built in in Prince William County.” Wouldn’t this just encourage more urban sprawl as developers rush to build more housing, strip malls, parking lots, etc. nearby, thereby increasing the region’s traffic issues in the long run? The reason why NoVA is in such a sad state of disrepair right now is due to this decentralization of employment. With major employers at the new BRAC site, North Arlington, Tysons, Reston/Herndon, Fairfax, etc. we have tons and tons of suburb-to-suburb commuting, which makes efficient mass transit very complicated and cost-prohibitive (hence why I sit in traffic jams on weekends). If most jobs in the region moved to one central core, then planners could more easily focus on getting people there and not to a zillion other places as well. As long as we have people in Arlington commuting to Herndon, people in Reston commuting to Tysons, people in McLean commuting to Fairfax, people in Alexandria commuting to Reston, people in Sterling commuting to Alexandria, etc., etc. in such mass quantities our traffic congestion woes will never improve.

      At least Crystal City/Pentagon City was well-serviced by transit. I question if the Feds also plan to finance and subsidize new transit options with this relocation or if they just plan to stick VA with the bill?

  • Frenchy B

    Rather than widening 395, how about setting up regular shuttle bus service between the Pentagon and Mark Center?

  • Eric H.

    adding capacity to 395 will most certainly not solve the problem. It will only encourage additional trips.

  • Let’s Be Free

    I’m not sure I completely understand the go-to-a-meeting transit issue since presumably these would be trips that are already occuring between the Pentagon and other locations.

    Intra-agency government bus shuttles abound in the metro area — it’s the easy, low-cost, tried and true solution. To the extent workers are being centralized at Mark Center a lot of individual automobile trips could be transformed into shared bus trips.

    And to supplement the buses I would recommend that Arlington County offload some of its underutilized trikes onto DOD. See…..


  • fed up

    This BRAC thing wasn’t well thought out. Increasing capacity to 395 is NOT the answer. I vote for a streetcar or shuttle service to solve the problem. OR maybe we shouldn’t relocate at all… that massive building at Seminary Rd is most certainly a terrible idea and will cripple the surrounding neighborhoods!

  • arlcyclist

    I applaud the Arlington gov’t for standing up to VDOT and the outlying suburbs’ interests. I live in Fairlington and don’t see any benefit in adding HOT lanes to 395. Traffic in Shirlington will swell which will lead more people who use Fairlington roads as a cut-through. I have absolutely NO sympathy for people who commute from outside the Beltway. Arlington residents pay a premium to live reasonably close to jobs, restaurants, and shopping and don’t deserve to have to put up with congestion caused by selfish commuters who choose to live so far away from where they work just so they can have a couple extra square feet and a fenced in yard. I’m happy to contribute my tax dollars to this lawsuit. 1 million so far? Make it another mil for all I care.

    • Let’s Be Free

      I am kind of curious Arcyclist what lifestyle choices are “selfish” and which are not? Please do inform.

      • RestonRunner86

        As someone who lives outside the Beltway I, too, agree with “ArlCyclist.” I’m angered that nearly a half-billion of our tax dollars will be spent by VDOT to fund a “Mixing Bowl: West” to subsidize more urban sprawl in Gainesville, which is the poster child of terrible urban planning in Northern Virginia. Why should Arlingtonians suffer with wider roadways and more air pollution to accommodate more and more outer suburbanites/exurbanites who are demanding these “HOT” lanes to pass through Arlington en route to DC?

        Unfortunately, though, not all of us live outside the Beltway by choice. I’d love to live in a small and clean 1-BR or studio apartment in a sustainable walkable neighborhood in Arlington County, but, alas, as a Federal employee I can’t afford to. I hate the size of my carbon footprint as I shuffle along sitting in traffic along Route 7 between Reston and my office in Tysons Corner on a daily basis (taking a bus would be much longer and would force me to cross dangerous intersections here in Tysons, which is why I drive).

        I simply hope the NIMBYs in places like Reston shut up and start to embrace building UP instead of OUT as the Silver Line nears completion. I have to live amongst these “I don’t want to look at a condo tower” and “mass transit is a boondoggle” dolts, and it’s painful. The answer to help Arlington is to encourage more vertical development not only in your fair county but in the ‘burbs as well. When the Silver Line is completed if I’m still relegated to Reston I’ll be able to walk to the train and take it to my office, taking one more car off the road. People are going to continue to move here, and the more we encourage them to move to Gainesville, Haymarket, Ashburn, South Riding, etc. the more they’ll be hopping in their cars and clogging roads in and around Arlington to access DC.

    • TGEoA

      I hope you choke on the fumes you elitst snob.

      • RestonRunner86

        We’ll see who the “elitists” are when peak oil finally nears, rendering life for many people who are barely affording exurban McMansions as it is financially screwed. I’d hate to be driving an Escalade or Hummer and living on a Gainesville cul-de-sac when fuel prices hit $6/gallon. The vitality of the exurbs in NoVA is 100% dependent upon the continuance of cheap fossil fuels. Once supply diminishes (which may not be for another generation or two), those people are all in for a rude awakening. Sadly most in America don’t care about leaving the world in a better ecological position for their posterity. I do. Apparently ARLCyclist does. Those with the “I’ll do what I want, so screw you” mentality obviously don’t care about the long-term consequences of short-term actions. I feel terribly guilty everyday driving my fuel-efficient car back-and-forth between Reston and Tysons Corner and am moving to Arlington as soon as my finances permit. I can then take a bus to Tysons, a train to DC, walk, bike, etc. to nearly everything I need (with ZipCar for the rare road-trip back North to visit family). The way this country has been developing itself for the past 50 years is environmentally unsustainable. We already have inner suburbs like Annandale, unincorporated Falls Church, parts of Alexandria, and even Baileys Crossroads and Seven Corners that look like Beirut after a bombing, and yet instead of fixing those areas we continue to tear down more trees to build McMansions in Leesburg, Gainesville, South Riding, etc. Why?

        • Let’s Be Free

          You know I couldn’t afford the $4,000 a month payment it would take to live in my pretty darn plain South Arlington home if I had to move from scratch into the County today.

          I wouldn’t think of forcing someone who didn’t have the benefit of my lucky timing to make the same decisions today that I was fortunate to make a dozen years ago. Life is full of trade-offs, and trying to force people to adopt the same tradeoffs you’ve chosen when times have changed and the life, circumstances and preferences of others are totally different from yours is extraordinarily narcissistic and dictatorial.

          Reston, what schools do your kids go to? How do they feel about being uprooted every time you change a job? How on earth are you able to save for their college education, or your daughters weddings?

          Where does your wife work? Where is her career headed? Does she like moving every time you get an itch? Does she like the security of having roots, staying in a neigborhood? Will she even stay with you as you venture along your peripatetic path?

          Do you like to garden? Hunt? Fish? Camp? Waterski? Snowski? Gofl? Barbeque in the backyard? Play basketball, soccer, baseball, tennis or football, ice skate or swim? When you drive, how many people in average are in your vehicle? Do you ever fly? Go to destination weddings? Spas? Resorts? How about your parents? Friends? Family? Where do they live, and how frequently do you visit? How do you get along with your neighbors? Do you even know them? These are all variables that real people look at.

          How do you pay for your frequent moves? Oh, yes, how many jobs do you work and how many people do you support? Since you are ultra-responsible I assume you must be obligated to many.

          I think it quite sad when people espouse a simplistic view of the world that reduces life to a single variable — my recommendation would to get a life.

          • david

            Amen. Well said.

          • TGEoA


          • RestonRunner86

            “Owned?” I don’t think so. I just didn’t have the opportunity to offer a rebuttal until this morning. I don’t have a significant other. I don’t have children. I don’t foresee myself ever having either. My rant is largely a criticism directed towards fellow singles, empty-nesters, DINKs, etc. who can very easily live in Arlington (or other sustainable communities where driving isn’t a daily necessity) but instead choose to live in the exurbs of Loudoun and Prince William Counties and contribute to this region’s heinous traffic congestion and air quality issues. For those thinking I may be somewhat of a hypocrite for living in a Reston, the poster child of sprawl, realize that I have decided to move to Arlington County as soon as my lease is up in Spring 2011 (I can’t afford $2,300 to break my lease to leave early atop a security deposit at a new place).

            I’ve examined my lifestyle and realize it is pretty selfish. I drive alone nearly everywhere for nearly everything, and I’m paying only marginally cheaper rents than I would in Arlington for that “luxury” because of how affluent Reston has become. I feel guilty, to be blunt, that for as much as I complain about the traffic here, the lack of charm here, etc. I’m really part of the problem and not part of the solution. If I could find a cheap basement studio apartment or efficiency in Westover, for example, for $1,200/month or less, then I could take a bus easily to my McLean office, walk to the East Falls Church or Ballston Metrorail stations (I’m a distance runner, so long walks don’t deter me), enjoy the shops in the neighborhood (most of which are independent, unlike chain-obssessed Fairfax County), etc. Instead of being a daily slave to my car I could use it no more than once or twice a week if I really didn’t want to.

            Life is all about choices. I made the choice to move to Reston to be within walking distance of my office. Now that my office has moved, there really is no reason for me to stay here. I don’t care if I’m “dictatorial.” I think it’s asinine that you folks in Arlington County should be expected to just bend over and accept the continued widening of your roads and the related continuing decimation of your own quality-of-life to subsidize people who choose to live in Gainesville and drive through Arlington to DC on 66. I just don’t understand why you people don’t have any qualms about that. Reston is another community that is “stuck in the middle”, in a sense, between rapidly growing exurbs on one side and major employment centers on the other, and our traffic congestion is wicked at rush-hour now as a result.

            The key to fixing all that ails this region is to stop with the socially irresponsible and gluttonous overbuilding in the exurbs and start building UPWARDS inside the Beltway, near to better transit services and amenities. A half-billion of your tax dollars, Arlingtonians, are going to finance the “Mixing Bowl: West” in Gainesville in an attempt to channel more growth out there (with more of those commuters coming barreling into Arlington and demanding wider highways). None of you see any reason to be concerned by any of this? The way NoVA has grown in the past 30 years is not sustainable.

      • arlcyclist

        Oh, and TGEoA, I hope you’re involved in one of the accidents left in my wake that antiarlcyclist mentioned you simpleton.

  • muckraker

    Now is definitely time to create that designated bus-only lane in the HOV lanes. (I believe this was something that was part of the HOT/Lexus lanes plan, but was put on hold when plans were stopped by Arlington’s lawsuit. It would have turned the HOV breakdown lane into bus-only. Turns out there were a few good things in that overall bad HOT plan.)

    Let’s not wait!! Bus-only lane now, not when the roads are crippled by single-car traffic!

  • chris

    Bus-only lanes on both 395 and Richmond Highway would be a great help, and not just for BRACers.

  • antiarlcyclist

    You seem very shallow. Have you ever considered that many of the people that travel back and forth each day actually lived outside the Beltway before getting a job in your private area? I have absolutely NO sympathy for people who commute using silly bicycles. Automobile drivers pay a premium to drive their automobile on the roads that are now infested with bicycles that belong on trails. Talk about a traffic problem; consider the accidents left in your wake as you break every traffic law known to man on your precious little hot wheel.

    • RestonRunner86

      What is the carbon footprint of a bicycle? What is the carbon footpring of a exurbanite’s Chevy Suburban that they drive alone along I-66 daily through Arlington to work in DC? I moved to Reston early last year to be within walking distance of my office. Two weeks into my employment I was relocated miles away to Tysons Corner and am looking for new housing nearer to my new office in Spring 2011 because I’m sick of the congestion along Route 7. Life happens. Instead of complaining why don’t you move closer to work? That’s the folly of people who actually buy homes in this area when they have highly-volatile and potentially highly-mobile positions. If I decide to rent in the East Falls Church or Westover areas of Arlington in Spring 2011 only to have my office moved again to Silver Spring in Summer 2011, then in Spring 2012 I’ll move there.

      • david

        Assuming 86 is the year of your birth, you’re only 24. Come back and talk to us when you’re in your mid-30’s and with a couple kids in elementary school. Life is much easier when you’re living alone and aren’t supporting any children who have friends in your school district. I grew up in a condo on CT Avenue and wouldn’t wish that experience on my children.

        • RestonRunner86

          I grew up in a secluded suburban subdivision without sidewalks that was adjacent to a busy four-lane highway and would have MUCH preferred the opportunity to have grown up in a more urban environment where I could have walked to some destinations in the era prior to being old enough to drive while my parents both worked full-time. You may not wish condo living upon a child, but I don’t wish a boring South Riding lifestyle upon them either. Arlington strikes a good balance. You’re correct in that I will be turning 24 later this year. I’ve been relegated to the suburbs my entire life—at a younger age due to living with my parents and currently due to the exorbitant cost-of-living in Arlington (which isn’t much cheaper in Reston, but I digress). I’ve had enough of having my car chained to my hip.

          • david

            I don’t disagree with you; Arlington does strike a nice balance which is why I’m raising my children here. However, please be aware that there are other circumstances in peoples lives that make it very difficult to move based on a job change: childcare, schools, couples who work in different counties/states. It’s easy to say that everyone should live near their job; unfortunately reality sometimes gets in the way.

          • RestonRunner86

            I want to apologize, David, for coming off as such a holier-than-thou conceited douche, more or less. This is just the one “hot button” issue in life I’m most passionate about. I feel so deprived due to my blase suburban childhood just because my parents thought my sister and I “needed” a big house with a huge yard, and I want to try to get the point across to parents that sometimes the South Riding lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for families. With both parents working full-time I was restricted to our home and small subdivision (30 homes) before I could drive. We didn’t have all sorts of “community amenities” or an HOA for that matter. We didn’t have sidewalks. I rode my bike around the one block in the neighborhood and played with the two other children near my age whenever they were around. More often than not I found myself coming onto message boards to debate politics. That’s it. No parks. No ice cream parlors. No movie theaters. No schools. No churches. NOTHING I could walk to outside that “prison” of a subdivision. Now in typical suburban fashion all of the open space around that neighborhood is being rapidly developed—a Wal-Mart Supercenter and adjacent smaller retailers that will be separated from our community by large fencing, meaning that even though we can look out our windows and see the retail venues we’d have to drive. That four-lane highway continues to grow busier and busier and still has no sidewalks. To say my childhood was “isolating” is an understatement.

            Then finally I get the opportunity after college to explore life in a “fresh new city” and am once again relegated to an office in the ‘burbs and an apartment in the ‘burbs. I’m sorry that after 24 years of this “hop in the SUV and sit in traffic to get to Applebee’s while yakking on the phone” bull excrement of a lifestyle I crave a change. You folks who invested in Arlington before it became the playground for the wealthy it has now become don’t realize just how fortunate you are. Salaries here have NOT kept pace with the housing market. I make $50,000. I’m picking up a second job. With those two incomes I should be just able to afford a 1-BR apartment along Columbia Pike next Spring if complexes there don’t start gouging people (fingers crossed).

            I just get so angry that people in Northern Virginia cater to the car before the pedestrian or cyclist. The answer is always “widen roads.” Why?

        • lily

          If I can ask, what was so bad about growing up in a condo? Was it just the lack of space and privacy?

          I grew up in auto-dependent exurban sprawl and let me tell you, that pretty much sucked for everyone in the family. My fiance grew up in a condo in Seoul (in a neighborhood very similar to the Orange Line parts of Arlington) and suffered no major or lasting trauma. Its very unlikely that we’ll raise our kids in a single family home.

          In general, it seems to me that people overestimate how important it is for a kid to have their own room and a backyard, and vastly underestimate the negative impacts of a long commute and total car dependency. But then, I’ve never been a kid (or tried to raise one) in a small apartment. What made your experience so bad?

          • David

            You’re exactly right in what my annoyances were. Please keep in mind to a little kid the concept of walkability and mixed use neighborhoods doesn’t mean much. I was more interested in having a backyard where we could put a baby pool and throw the ball around. Also, when you only have 3 rooms, your toys inevitably lose the space battle. I do have to admit that having the zoo nearby was awesome.

            If you are truly interested in living in a condo with a kid than I say go for it. You can always move it doesn’t work out. Just keep in mind that your priorities tend to shift once a kid comes into the picture – being close to bars and restaurants is less a priority and proximity to a park starts looking a lot better. We raised my oldest in a condo in Clarendon for 3 years before we threw in the towel and got a SFH in Arlington. I don’t regret it for one minute.

    • arlcyclist

      Who said anything about looking for sympathy? It seems to me it the car commuters from outside the Beltway that are looking for my sympathy. “WHAH!!! I don’t like to sit in traffic.” My bike commute is very relaxing and 80% of it is spent on multi-use trails so I’m not infringing on your ability to enjoy your precious expanse of asphalt. Oh and by the way, I do own a car and pay taxes in Virginia so I have just as much right as you do to use the roads. Fortunately, the law is on my side when it comes to riding my bike on public roads and as for accidents left in my wake, let’s just say I got a good chuckle out of that. “Silly bicycles?” I feel sorry for your narrow-mindedness.

  • fat lady sings

    No one wants to move to the Mark Center, most are pretty upset about it. and as for meetings, they happen during the non-congested day so adding 1 or 2 buses an hour is not going to be determental. PLus what all you idiots are not realizing is that all of the people moving to the Marc center are currently in buildings that are costing the tax payer loads of mula. Moving to a building that the gov’t owns will save us paying insance rentals of 2M a year per office! so for all you complaining about the traffic, why dont you start flying.

    • RestonRunner86

      “So for all you complaining about the traffic, why don’t you start flying?” Our Federal government, in a quest to save tax dollars in the short-term, possibly to appease Tea Partiers, will actually be negating most of those short-term benefits when they eventually have to construct and subsidize additional infrastructure, potentially including transit options, to service the new site. Do I think spending $12,000,000 annually to save $10,000,000 annually is logical? No.

  • Jason

    The solution is not to expand 395 by adding lanes or otherwise expanding it. We do not need another road construction project that will take years to complete. I reside in Shirlington and would welcome a streetcar down Walter Reed connecting the Pentagon to Marc Center. The Dept of Defense building should be denied it’s occupancy permit until a solution can be determined.
    DC also makes parking way too accessible, DC should charge higher parking rates to deter daily commuters. The options are there, people just choose not to use them. If you decided to reside south of Lorton and commute to DC by car daily than your a contributor.

    • RestonRunner86

      Agreed. Why do Northern Virginians always think “wider roads” is the answer? L.A. has some of the widest freeways in the nation. Guess what? They also have the worst traffic. NoVA is not far behind. The answer is more streetcars/light rail, Metrorail expansions (i.e. Silver Line, Purple Line), more timely bus service, etc. The answer is NOT “pave paradise, and put up a parking lot.” By widening more and more roads in Arlington all you’re doing is telling out-of-town commuters who pass through Arlington to get to DC that it’s “okay” to do so; widening roads just enables more people to move further out, and any short-term benefit from the extra capacity will be lost when traffic volume increases in 5-10 years.

      I moved here from a relatively poorly-educated area of PA, and even there we knew widening roads was only a “band-aid.” What’s NoVA’s excuse?

  • cj

    Why is everyone arguing about commuting and not looking at ways to reduce the need for it? What’s happened to the push for working at home, or in neighborhood centers, and telecommuting? Are all those face-to-face meetings really necessary? Or is our regional culture forever stuck on the importance of summoning people to confer in person, being able to see your employees, and connecting for lunch?

    • RestonRunner86

      I agree wholeheartedly with you, CJ. My position can be nearly 100% conducted via my laptop at home. Granted I do handle proprietary information, but I do keep it safe-guarded in my office and would do the same in my apartment. I either work through (or blog through) my lunches on my own anyways. I’ve had two face-to-face meetings in the past two weeks, only one of which was actually necessary. There’s no need for me to schlep into Tysons five days per week, but I do so anyways. Very good point.

  • Jack

    The whole BRAC plan is a ridiculous idea that will not make anyone or anyplace safer and was implemented without a regard to local zoning and transportation. That said, one answer is increased telecommuting. It’s time really has come and the government needs to embrace it.

    I have to say, the I can’t live in Arlington thing is a bit of a canard. Plenty of apartments exist, perhaps not directly over Clarendon, but they are there. There are SFH for $300,000 within a mile of the Arlington boundary in Falls Church. Options abound if you are willing to look for them. And if the jobs are moving out, then people should move to where the jobs are. Your commute is your choice, unfortunately it affects us all.

  • Thirsty

    No more lanes for cars. Eliminate HOV lanes and put in a commuter train line linking Pentagon to Lorton with stops in between.


    People who commute desire very different things. To me, living in Arlington, although close to my job, offers big negatives. I remember moving here, and there is no reasonable parking except in underground hubs. Parking meters, which is a another form of taxation, are everywhere. It takes an hour to drive a mile. I understand why people commute. They want sanity.

  • Matt

    Three of the wealthiest counties in America are right here in this area. I have a solution to all of your problems. Move the government jobs to Cleveland and Detroit where the city looks like Dresden in 1944 because there are very few good paying jobs there. This would eliminate the need to build new roads and it would stimulate the economy there. How about it smart people? The rest of the country is dying on the vine while we sit here an soak up millions of stimulous dollars! MAKES ME SICK!


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