By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 7, 2007
The Army yesterday affirmed its intention to place most of the 22,000 federal employees designated for transfer to Fort Belvoir at an old nearby training range off Interstate 95 instead of the main post, a plan that Fairfax officials say will cause catastrophic traffic congestion without improvements to the road system.
The blueprint is contained in the Army's final environmental review of the Belvoir project, part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations.
The commission proposed moving six military agencies to Belvoir by September 2011, including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the U.S. Medical Command and Washington Headquarters Services (WHS), which supplies administrative support to the Defense Department.
The final review released yesterday is much the same as the draft version produced earlier this year. After reviewing several land-use scenarios, the Army decided that its preferred option would place 8,500 NGA employees and 9,200 WHS staff not on the main post but at a onetime munitions testing range called the engineer proving ground. About 2,000 employees from Walter Reed Army Medical Center would be assigned to a new hospital to be built on the main post in southeast Fairfax.
Gerald E. Connolly (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said yesterday the critical remaining issue is what the Pentagon is willing to spend to mitigate traffic congestion.
"All of this is fascinating, but at the end of the day the bottom line is transportation, transportation, transportation," he said.
Construction on the engineer proving ground will be impossible without completion of the Fairfax County Parkway, he said, "unless they want to drop a bulldozer in by helicopter."
Connolly said that the cost of transportation improvements could run to $1.5 billion and that there is no indication of what the Army is willing to invest. The Army puts the cost of the road improvements at $458 million, but no money has been budgeted, with only four years to go.
Discussions are continuing over a proposal to place some of the transplanted Belvoir employees at a 70-acre warehouse site owned by the federal General Services Administration, just a half-mile from the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.
"We absolutely need to put the GSA site into play," Connolly said.
After a 30-day waiting period that began with publication of the environmental review, a record of decision will be published. Copies of the review are at http://www.hqda.army.mil/acsim/brac/nepa_eis_docs.htm.
Also yesterday, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) announced that the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded the Virginia Employment Commission a $4.9 million grant to help respond to the Belvoir plan's impact on the Northern Virginia workforce.