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BRAC Traffic Prompts Concerns for Barcroft Residents

by Katie Pyzyk July 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm 3,893 29 Comments

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.”

  • Take it down a notch

    Why is the u-turn on George Mason necessary?

    • Lou

      I would assume because they have to drop passengers at the curb, instead of making a left and driving on to the compound.

  • Thes

    Neighbors whose streets are overrun by commuter parking can add zoned parking to their street through this relatively simple administrative process. It requires the street to be 75% full of cars, 25% of the cars from outside the neighborhood, and 60% of the residents of the particular block agreeing to zoned parking.

    • TooEasy

      Yes baby !!!I will be ebaying my guest permits shortly

      • Charlie

        The flex permits are easily scanned and then using any software you can change the address. Much like illegal work permits, those who need zone passes (like bar employees in Clarendon) know where to get them.

        • TooEasy

          That is breaking the law, not the same as having guests that are able to pay for their stay.

  • Burger

    Wait a second, you mean people like to drive cars to work.

    Oh, the insanity of the greenies, who most don’t live in the neighborhood, forcing people to do something they don’t want to do – say get on a bus – and those people making decisions like parking in the neighborhood.

    Well, I am completely shocked this happened. I doubt anyone could have seen this coming.

    and a 4 to 1 ratio is absurd.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      +10, Burger! They saw it coming like Custer saw Little Big Horn. I wonder if any of the “planners” ever considered the residents of Barcroft neighborhood or if any of them bothered to even talk to the residents. This sounds like a smaller but still messy cluster-bleep of the Beauregard/Seminary mess in Alexandria. Buses on George Mason? I think I’ve seen ART once in a while, but I can’t recall seeing any Metro buses on George Mason in a long time.

      • charlie

        the 22 come from Shirlington up George Mason to Henderson and then to Ballston. It is regular all day bus.
        it seems everytime i do the S-curve around this installation, I have a metro bus next to me.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          Thanks for the info, Charlie. The 22 must not run too often on George Mason or I keep driving on G.M. between running times. I see ART buses a few times in that area.

      • JBob

        The county said this facility would have “zero impact” on the surrounding area. Guessing they didn’t want the Nat’l Guard to take a hike to Fairfax like everyone else.

    • Josh S

      Why are people in cars first in your hierarchy? Cause your argument could be made just as well by turning it 180 degrees around and assuming that buses or walking or riding a bike or riding a horse or any other mode of transportation should be first. It’s a matter of perspective.
      So, why are cars first in your hierarchy?

      • madisonmanor

        Gee – maybe you could read charlie’s response below or G’s. Sometimes people don’t live near where they work – and sometimes the public transportation sucks so bad it’s less painful to drive because the public option takes two or three times as long. You might not care about the time it takes you to commute, but lots of other people do.
        And cars are first in the hierarchy because they were the primary focus of the article.

  • charlie

    another federal agency moving to a non-transit oriented location.
    the 22 bus sucks and it doesn’t go anywhere other than a place you have to transfer to METRO which is then another long ride.
    george mason is also too narrow to handle the volume. weekly someone is buying a new car on george mason drive. between 50 and 7th Street South.
    it is a horrible nightmare.
    and no one has been paying attention to the plight of this neighborhood. I guess if it were 22201 that would be different.

    • R.Griffon

      > another federal agency moving to a non-transit oriented location.

      Exactly. The BRAC is a great idea in concept, but it’s execution has been one giant cluster from start to finish.

      As for this 4:1 employee:car ratio thing, I’m about as anti-car as they come, but even I admit that this is absolutely moronic if you’re moving people AWAY from mass transit areas (i.e. out of places like Crystal City and the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor and into places like Barcroft, or even worse Belvoir or Quantico). You can’t really expect people to use other options when there effectively are none.

      > and no one has been paying attention to the plight of this neighborhood.

      That’s because the federal government could give a damn about your neighborhood. Right or wrong, all they care about is meeting their Congressional mandates. And moves like this help them do exactly that.

  • thanks for finally covering this story. Let us hope a good resolution is found for everyone’s sake.

    George Mason is already a mess every afternoon because of the police officers who stop the traffic w/o warning, pedestrians walking to their cars and the many commuter vans. This will only get worse after the relocation of all employees is compete.

    • G

      Agreed. I run through here to and from work. The drivers never yield to me as they turn into the foreign service complex while I am on the sidewalk and the exhaust from the constantly idling shuttle buses is awful.

      I will say that I prefer the officers to a traffic light though. The officers are only there during rush hour. The servicemen and women would never be able to cross safely without them.

      Currently, the 22A takes forever due to the many stops and all the traffic. I’ve found that running the 3 miles to work is actually faster than the bus. With this move, it will only get slower, but I am happy they are increasing it’s frequency for the few times I do use it.

      • agree on the police officers rather than lights. One of the problems with the police officers is that the traffic does not run smoothy because they stop cars only when necessary.

        Some time ago I had an officer literally walk in front of me to stop traffic. Instinctively, I have him a look because I nearly killed him.

        He walked towards me and I thought – here I go, about to get a ticket. He wanted to know why I had an attitude (rolling eyeballs = attitude issues). So I explained he was nearly impossible to see with the curving of the street and the lighting of the afternoon. Before he could get really mad at me, a car drove right past us at a clip – having never seen the officer.

        All I said was “see?” and he let me go. phew.

        I do feel bad for the employees who have to commute to this location – it’s not their fault.

        • G

          Yeah, the workers probably like this location as much as the local residents like them parking in the neighborhood.

        • SaveDaveMckenna

          In the mornings, at least, the right lane on N bound traffic is often blocked by a truck. Can they push this back to 9am?

        • Set the Controls

          They wear dark blue from head to toe-no wonder you can’t see them against the backdrop of the pavement. Add the late afternoon sun, very narrow lanes, and folks not used to the traffic pattern there at the crosswalk (like newly-relocated employees there scoping for parking) and it’s kind of dicey.

  • EPinBC

    For the “BRAC” building in Alexandria I’ve heard that DASH (Alexandria’s bus service) is adding buses to provide regular service between the building and the subway (not sure which stop). I wonder if ART could do something similar – and if it would work.

  • b0rk

    Whoever pushed this through should be drawn and quartered. Talk about no accountability.

  • Lisa M

    George Mason @ Route 50 is a mess at rush hour NOW. One of my biggest scares is the U turn of shuttle buses for Arlington Hall drop off point. Many, but not all, swing very wide into the right hand lane. If you are in that lane, you sure hope they see you!

    One other gripe, there is only one left hand turn lane from GMason going south to 50 East and 2 short timing lights to navigate. Since both FSI and Henderson Hall have entry gates on this access lane, a second turn lane could help.

    Re-engineering the lanes, bridge, and other access points will become necessary at some point in the near future.

    Best idea above – shuttles from subway stations — maybe VA SQ. or Rosslyn vs. Ballston so that congestion in that area doesn’t get worse.

  • Steve

    The whole BRAC thing is crap. Oh gee lets try to save money by moving a sh** load of people into the most expensive real estate in the country and then have to spend a sh** load more to make the roads ready for them…..20 years AFTER they make the move. Another dumbass move by congress. Isnt time we fired them dumbasses?

  • Plunkitt of Clarendon Blvd

    The real intent of BRAC is not cost savings, but the redistribution of the pork.

  • Cheri

    I travel George Mason from Bailey’s Crossroads to the Virginia Hospital area every morning for work. This has been the case for four years now, and regardless of what others may say, there has been a significant and dangerous increase in traffic. The biggest problem I’ve noted is the back up that results from police stationed outside the National Guard Headquarters who regularly stop traffic in both directions to allow National Guard employees to cross. Rather than waiting until several gather to cross, or better yet ~ and far more “no-brainer,” encourage these workers to cross at the light north of the Headquarters rather than waiting to cross where the police escort these folks across, the police will stop traffic for one person, and by the time 4 cars pass them, they stop traffic again for another person and so on. This is a ridiculous nuisance for all drivers. I always had faith that those trained to defend our country could manage to cross themselves when a traffic light allowing them to do so is so near. I am reconsidering my belief that the police and military in our area are truly sensitive to the community members impacted by this procedure. I also wonder what it will be like when the expansive new rental community near Barcroft ES is fully loaded with residents.

  • Cheri

    Congress, police departments, military administrators, real estate companies that encourage more housing development in an insanely congested area, and all others who are responsible for this mess need to be taken to task for their insipid decisions. My ES students could do a far better job of managing these traffic concerns than those adults who have been charged with doing so. If there were another route from Beauregard to North Glebe, I would take it; but sadly, all others roads lead to equally over-congested and dangerous routes north.
    Citizens in surrounding communities should have the right to sue in order to see the right actions taken.

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