House Delays Army Plan to Move Jobs to Ft. Belvoir
Friday, May 18, 2007
The House of Representatives approved a provision yesterday barring the Army from moving thousands of jobs to Fort Belvoir in southeastern Fairfax County until the necessary transportation improvements are in place.
If approved by the Senate, the provision could delay the Army's plans to move the jobs to Fort Belvoir by 2011. The measure was inserted into a defense spending bill; the Senate is scheduled to debate its version of the bill next month.
Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) introduced the amendment, which requires that hundreds of millions of dollars in road and transit improvements be made before the Army moves 9,000 jobs from Arlington County to Fort Belvoir.
The shift, part of a larger plan to transfer 22,000 military and civilian jobs to Fort Belvoir and the nearby Engineering Proving Ground, was the result of the federal base realignment and closure process. It is intended to save money and also help comply with guidelines for more secure military operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Fort Belvoir, set well back from Route 1, is better protected against truck bombs than the leased office space in Crystal City, where many of the jobs are now.
But the transfer has incensed local officials and some congressional leaders, who say the Army's plans will create a traffic nightmare around Fort Belvoir. The post is served primarily by a single, congested road -- Route 1 -- and the proving ground is served by Backlick and Rolling roads. With 22,000 jobs headed to the post, most of them at the proving ground, southern Fairfax will be overwhelmed, critics say.
"The Army Corps of Engineers completed a study that said if you move all these people without improving the transportation network, it will create a two- to four-hour delay getting to and from work," said Moran, whose district includes Arlington and parts of Fairfax. He added that if his amendment forces the Army to delay or alter the move to Fort Belvoir, so much the better.
"These people are in leased office space," Moran said of the 9,000 jobs in Arlington. "They have existing leases. They're on Metro stops. There's really no compelling reason to move to Fort Belvoir, particularly if you don't have the roads in place."
Specifically, Moran's amendment would require the Army to ensure that transportation improvements are "substantially" completed before the transfer takes place. The Army has identified 13 transportation projects, with an estimated cost of $446 million, as necessary to prevent roads near Fort Belvoir from experiencing greater congestion. The projects include completing the Fairfax County Parkway, widening Route 1 and adding bus lines to serve the post.
The requirement would give local, state and federal authorities more time to prepare for the transfer, Moran said. It also would give Arlington more time to prepare for the loss of 9,000 jobs from leased office space, primarily in Crystal City, he said.
"It sounds like common sense is breaking out all over," said Fairfax Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), who has been pushing for the Army to consider moving some of the Arlington jobs to a General Services Administration warehouse near the Franconia-Springfield Metro station instead of Fort Belvoir. The Army has said that idea would take too long to plan and execute, but if roads must be built before the Fort Belvoir transfer can occur, perhaps the Springfield plan can be revived, Kauffman said.
Still, before the Moran provision becomes reality, the measure must clear the Senate. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, is likely to play a key role. Moran conceded that the Army probably will urge Warner to keep the provision out of the final spending bill.
Army spokesman Dave Foster said the Army does not comment on pending legislation. Warner spokesman John Ullyot said the senator has an interest in "timely" implementation of the latest base closure recommendations.
"It's iffy," Moran said. "This is the first time that any [base realignment] decision has been altered by Congress. John has a preference for tradition. [But] it's in the bill now.
"It will take an action on the part of the conferees to take it out."