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.”