Congressman Jim Moran is asking Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to delay the planned move of Defense Department workers from Crystal City and elsewhere to the Mark Center in Alexandria.
The Base Realignment and Closing Act (BRAC) mandates that the moves take place by September 15, 2011. But Moran is asking Gates to include the Mark Center move among seven BRAC recommendations that the Secretary of Defense will have the authority to delay for up to a year, under a defense funding bill currently making its way through congress.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is also asking for a delay. Earlier this month McDonnell sent a letter to Gates asking for the moves to be delayed while major infrastructure improvements are made to the Seminary Road exit off I-395, which is expected to handle the traffic from thousands of new Mark Center workers.
Board Approves Higher Towing Fees — It’s going to cost you an additional $10 if your car gets towed in Arlington. The County Board last night voted 3-2 to increase the maximum towing fee from $115 to $125, five dollars higher than the maximum rate in the District. The board rejected a recommendation that would have added $25 to tows performed on nights, weekends and holidays. [Sun Gazette]
‘British Goodies’ For Royal Wedding — Want to go all-out for the royal wedding Friday morning? Pick up some Yorkshire Gold tea and some Branston Pickle from the Classic Cigars & British Goodies store (2907 Wilson Blvd) in Arlington. [Patch]
Fairfax Won’t Sue Over BRAC Plan — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is critical of the decision to relocate thousands of Defense Department workers to the Mark Center in Alexandria, but it will not be filing a federal lawsuit in the wake of a damning report from the DoD’s inspector general. Rep. Jim Moran is urging localities to seek an injunction against the moves, scheduled for later this year. [Washington Post]
Free Coffee for Earth Day — To celebrate Earth Day, Starbucks is offering a free coffee or tea to anybody who brings a reusable mug or tumbler. Caribou Coffee, which has locations in Shirlington and Crystal City, is also offering free coffee for those who bring reusable drinkware. [Starbucks, Shirlington Village Blogspot]
Ballston Recognized for Environmental Efforts — Ballston has been named one of the top 10 “green” neighborhoods in the Washington area by real estate listing service MRIS. [Prince of Petworth]
Lawsuit May Be Filed to Stop Mark Center Moves — Rep. Jim Moran is urging Virginia officials to sue the federal government after the Department of Defense’s inspector general found big potential traffic problems with the new Mark Center in Alexandria. According to the inspector general’s report, the Army misled local officials about traffic issues at the site. A lawsuit could keep hundreds or even thousands of jobs in Arlington while improvements are made to the Mark Center’s transportation infrastructure. [Washington Examiner]
Post Tackles Twilight Convention — In an amusing but sadly photo-less write-up of last weekend’s Twilight fan convention at the Sheraton National Hotel on Columbia Pike, a Washington Post reporter discovers that most die-hard Twilight convention-goers are 25 to 50 year-old women. There are, however, a few male fans, who may or may not have been more interested in the female fans than in the movie itself. [Washington Post]
Shirlington Village Trades Escalator for Stairs — Eschewing the normal progression of technology, Shirlington Village has completed a project that removed an escalator and replaced it with a set of stairs. [Shirlington Village Blog]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
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.
Mud is already flying in the three-way race for a local Democratic state Senate nomination.
Yesterday Arlington School Board Chair Libby Garvey sent out an email blasting opponent Rob Krupicka, an Alexandria City Council member, for the Council’s stance on the relocation of thousands of military jobs to the Mark Center development on I-395. In a letter dated August 13, 2008, posted on Garvey’s web site, an Alexandria official writes that the Council supports what was then still a proposal for the military to use the Mark Center site.
Garvey argues that the lack of Metro accessibility and the likelihood of traffic congestion at the site makes for “a terrible situation.”
“I join with Sen. Webb, Sen. Warner, Rep. Moran and Rep. Connolly in their request to the Defense Department that they delay fully staffing the [Mark Center] facility until traffic mitigation efforts are completed,” Garvey wrote. She then pounced on Kupricka.
“I believe strongly that we should judge public officials by the decisions they make,” she said. “In this case, Rob Krupicka, one of my opponents for the Senate seat currently held by Patsy Ticer, made a terrible decision by giving the DOD a green light to locate the BRAC building at the Mark Center site. His candidacy for the Virginia Senate, like that of all of us running for that important position, should be evaluated according to the quality of our decisions.”
Garvey, Krupicka and Del. Adam Ebbin are running for Ticer’s 30th District state Senate seat.
Krupicka responded with an email of his own, accusing Garvey of “distorting” his “record of leadership on transit and transportation for our community.” The email’s subject line: “Today this race got nasty.”
“This is a race between three good Democrats,” Krupicka wrote. “We’ve worked together over the years, and I’ve considered both opponents friends. So I’m disappointed that Libby decided to go negative.”
The email concludes with a call to action: “P.S. Let’s not let mudslinging stop us from making our community stronger. Can you contribute $25, $50, $100 or $250 today to help us bring new ideas to move us forward today?”
Sept. 15, 2011 was supposed to be the date by which some 5 million square feet of military-occupied office space in Arlington — 17 percent of the county’s office inventory — would be moved out as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act.
Now, it appears that most of that leased space will still be in use by the military through 2012 and beyond.
A new report by commercial real estate firm Cassidy Turley that examined lease renewals suggests that BRAC relocations are years behind schedule. According to the firm, “[BRAC-related] leases totaling 2.3 million square feet have been extended through 2013 or later.”
And yesterday Rep. Jim Moran threw another wrench in the stalled relocation process. Per a provision Moran inserted into a Defense Department funding bill, the DoD’s Inspector General will be investigating the planned BRAC relocation of 6,400 jobs — many from Arlington — to the Mark Center project in Alexandria.
Moran 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,” according to a statement announcing the investigation.
Such a delay could ease some of the economic pain the county will experience as a result of BRAC job losses.
Earlier this week, the military broke ground on a new building in Fort Belvoir.
The $19.6 million, 88,000 square foot facility will house the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve (OCAR), which is currently housed in leased office space in Crystal City.
Once the new facility is completed, the office and its 400 employees will move out of Crystal City and in to Fort Belvoir.
It’s just one of dozens of such moves that will be taking place over the next 10 months as the result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005. A few BRAC moves have already taken place, but most of the 17,000 BRAC-affected workers in Arlington are still here.
“This event marks a significant milestone in the BRAC timeline and journey,” said Joyce Morrow, an assistant to the Secretary of the Army, at the groundbreaking.
By law, the BRAC moves must be complete by Sept. 15, 2011. That will mean a lot of people leaving Arlington — particularly Crystal City — next year.
“There are 317 days left until the BRAC deadline when all of the [OCAR] personnel must be here at Fort Belvoir,” said Col. John Stycula, an official at Fort Belvoir. “With that said, let’s get digging.”
Photo by Marc Barnes/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Planetarium Group to Sell Seats — You can now have your name etched permanently in the David M. Brown Planetarium. The Friends of the Planetarium, which is raising money for much-needed renovations, is offering to engrave brass plaques on the back of one of 55 seats, for a donation of $1,000 or more.
BRAC Meeting Gets Rowdy — For the most part, it was an informative and respectful discussion. But some folks couldn’t contain their anger at the lack of transportation planning related to Alexandria’s massive Mark Center project. Military officials heard an earful. The meeting was organized by Rep. Jim Moran, who has sponsored legislation to delay the move of 6,400 military jobs to the building until sufficient transportation infrastructure is in place. More from the Washington Post.
Kelly Raises More Campaign Cash than Zimmerman — Republican candidate for county board Mark Kelly has been busy this summer. He raised $10,113 from July to August, compared to the $6,535 raised by incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman. Kelly also has more cash on hand than Zimmerman. More from the Washington Post.
New Food Carts in Arlington — Just when you thought the food truck craze was reaching a plateau, entrepreneur Ibrahim Hanifi comes along and launches not one but two “Tasty Kabob” carts in Arlington this week. The carts, which serve basic halal food, won’t be moving around like others. They’ve picked permanent outposts in Pentagon City and Rosslyn. More from TBD.
Dan Kain Trophies Owner Profiled — Jim Preziotti, who owns the once-iconic Dan Kain Trophies store, says that he’s getting ready to move his business away from its current location, which is scheduled for demolition. Even in his late 90s, Preziotti is pressing on with the move and a new online store. More from TBD.
As of today, there’s exactly one year left to go until the deadline for 17,000 Department of Defense workers to move out of Arlington as a result of the Base Realignment and Closing Act. The vast majority of those workers, it turns out, are still here.
Only about 1,000 workers have left as a result of BRAC, estimates Andrea Morris, BRAC coordinator for Arlington County.
Morris says there will be a slow trickle of BRAC moves for the next six months. But starting in May 2011, the floodgates will open. After the initial wave in May, BRACed jobs will continue to leave Arlington at a staggered pace up to the Sept. 15, 2011 deadline.
Some of those moves may be delayed by a bill currently being considered by the U.S. Senate. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), would delay the move of 6,400 workers to Alexandria’s Mark Center project until transportation bottlenecks can be solved. The bill has been approved by the House but has yet to come out of committee in the Senate.
The area with the most to lose from BRAC is Crystal City. With 3 million of the 4.2 million square feet of BRAC-affected office space in Arlington (much of the remainder is in Rosslyn), Crystal City will be noticeably emptier after BRACed employees leave.
“I think it is going to be noticeable, absolutely,” said Morris. But she noted that numerous non-DoD government agencies and private companies have been inquiring abut the available space. And the mix of government and private employers moving in after BRAC will help diversify Crystal City’s economy.
Morris said a BRAC job fair in Crystal City is in the works for later this year.
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?
Northern Virginia stands to lose $6 to $7 billion dollars through 2012 as a result of cuts in defense contracting announced yesterday, says George Mason University’s Stephen Fuller. But Arlington’s economic authority expects the impact on the county to be minimal.
“I do believe that we are positioned well for the future,” says Arlington Economic Development Director Terry Holzheimer.
Holzheimer admits that predicting the exact impact on Arlington economically is “complex,” and will not be known with a reasonable level of certainty until the Department of Defense comes out with its next budget. But, he says, the diversifying Arlington economy should be able to weather cuts in contracting as it has weathered BRAC.
“Our economy is in somewhat of a transition anyhow,” with more corporate, non-government and non-profit tenants moving in, Holzeimer said. He added that many of the contracting offices in Arlington perform lobbying and administrative functions — which are not likely to be heavily cut.
In terms of federal facilities, Holzheimer says that Arlington is especially well-positioned.
“It has zero impact on the Pentagon itself, and I don’t think it will have any impact on Ft. Myer,” Holzheimer said. He said that the other two big DoD facilities in Arlington — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research — probably will not feel much of an impact. In fact, he says, DARPA’s mission may be expanded.
Holzheimer said that Arlington also stands to benefit from a federal directive to put federal facilities in areas that are economically and environmentally-sustainable. Arlington’s transit infrastructure, pedestrian-friendliness and energy management make it an idea location.
“We are probably way ahead of everybody,” in terms of taking advantage of the directive, he said. “We’re fairly confident of our position.”