Barcroft residents are carefully watching the influx of some 1,200 government workers into their neighborhood as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Some neighbors are calling for action to mitigate what they claim are dangerous and disruptive traffic conditions.
The personnel are being added to the Army National Guard Readiness Center, in the Arlington Hall complex, at George Mason Drive and Route 50. Many of them are coming from Crystal City offices, but only a couple hundred have made the move so far. The bulk of staff members are expected to arrive mid-July. This flood of workers has some residents in surrounding neighborhoods worried about an increase in parking and traffic issues.
Although a new parking structure was built to accommodate the additional workers, per the National Capital Planning Commission’s specifications there is only one parking spot for every four workers. That’s creating concern about where all the new employees will park. There are already reports of more cars parked in neighboring residential areas, and residents would like to see that stop.
BRAC Project Coordinator Andrea Morris says she understands the parking issues. She is working with District 3 to increase patrols in the area to ticket anyone parked illegally on residential streets. The problem, according to Morris, is that most of the Barcroft neighborhood does not have zone parking restrictions, so there’s nothing to stop workers from using the vacant spots.
“It’s not a popular answer, it’s not one that is going to get a lot of rave reviews, but unfortunately, it happens to be a fact,” Morris said. “It’s a very, very hard statement for me to make because I hear their concerns.”
Morris says BRAC has partnered with WMATA to increase the frequency of the 22A buses, starting in August. That line should alleviate some of the parking headaches, because it is planned to work as a shuttle for the government workers and not to stop at every point along the bus line.
Both Morris and Barcroft School and Civic League President Pat Williamson say one positive aspect of this situation is that people transferring from Crystal City are already accustomed to using public transportation such as the Metro system, and will hopefully be open to the idea of using shuttle buses or carpooling to the new site.
“This is a decision the Pentagon made and we’re just responding to,” Morris said. “We have to work together to make this as smooth as possible and as non-invasive as possible, even though this is an invasive situation.”
The neighboring community of Alcova Heights is experiencing a similar worker influx from the State Department’s George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, which occupies the eastern half of the Arlington Hall site. Williamson and Alcova Heights Citizens Association President Marie Van Ness both acknowledge the difficulty of keeping the projects in line with government demands, while easing the burden on those living in the areas.
“They are working as best that they can with the resources they have,” Van Ness said. “We just want to keep those avenues of communication open so we can continue to work together on the problems that come up.”
So far, the civic associations say the communication with liaisons has been excellent. They’re hoping it stays that way when the transition speeds up and more workers pour in during the next month.
“What we are looking at is what’s going to happen when the full contingent of 1,200 employees transitioning from Crystal City is supposed to complete its move by mid-July,” Van Ness said.
A larger concern than street parking, according to Williamson, is that the existing buses, as well as the increasingly frequent shuttles, have to do a U-turn on George Mason Drive. Not only can that tie up traffic, but some buses create a danger to other drivers and pedestrians by backing up while attempting to make the turn. Residents want a safer turnaround installed, but Williamson says “there doesn’t seem to be funding to come up with a turnaround.”
The communities have drawn attention to the problem by contacting Rep. Jim Moran. A representative for the congressman met with the Army National Guard to hear about the plan for partnering with the State Department to ease traffic trouble with stepped-up shuttle buses, rideshare programs and parking facilities. Rep. Moran and his staffers are looking into any further actions that may be necessary.
Williamson says residents hope both government projects in the area will “be appropriately funded with resources so they can contain their growth within their space, instead of our residential neighborhood.”
But for now, with no additional funding in sight, Williamson says that worries abound.
“The majority of people are very concerned, very worried,” she said. “It doesn’t sound good.”