A July 27 article and an Aug. 3 editorial about the Army's tentative agreement to move military jobs to a General Services Administration warehouse in Springfield incorrectly said that the warehouse was empty. The warehouse holds office equipment and other government property.
Army-Va. Deal Cuts Jobs Headed For Belvoir
Friday, July 27, 2007
The Army has agreed to dramatically scale back plans to move 22,000 jobs to Fort Belvoir in southeastern Fairfax County, averting a widely predicted traffic catastrophe and eliminating pressure on state and local officials to spend nearly $500 million in road and transit improvements.
Under an agreement with state officials, the Army would cap at about 8,500 the number of jobs to be moved from the Pentagon, Crystal City and other locations in the Washington area to Belvoir's isolated Engineering Proving Ground. An additional 3,500 jobs are still scheduled to move to Fort Belvoir's main post.
The number of jobs headed for the proving ground was set at 18,500 in 2005, when the Army and Congress orchestrated base closures and realignments to cut spending and comply with tighter security guidelines established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The jobs no longer bound for Belvoir would head instead to Springfield -- and a property within walking distance of Metro and Virginia Railway Express stations. The Army would tear down an empty General Services Administration warehouse near the Franconia-Springfield Station and build offices there, state and Army officials confirmed. Springfield, which is hoping for a revival, is closer to mass transit and major highways and could better absorb the increase than the area around Belvoir.
The news represents an enormous victory for Fairfax County and Virginia officials and for U.S. Reps. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) and Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), all of whom pressured the Army to reconsider. Critics argued that many jobs were being shifted from Metro-accessible offices in Arlington County to an area ill-served by transit and that thousands of the positions are not of a sufficiently sensitive nature to justify the move to a more remote location.
"The Army deserves a lot of credit for trying to find creative solutions to a very challenging transportation and workforce problem," said Pierce R. Homer, Virginia's secretary of transportation. "The original proposal would have resulted in a four- to five-mile backup on I-95 every morning. They realized that they could not get their employees on and off the base in a timely fashion."
Few were optimistic that the Army would change course. Congress made few changes to the Pentagon's base closure and realignment recommendations in 2005. And this month, the Army released a final environmental review statement affirming its plans to move most of the jobs to the proving ground by Sept. 15, 2011.
"It's unprecedented to alter a BRAC decision," Moran said.
He said Army officials worried that even small changes would open up the entire nationwide base-closing plan to revision. But Springfield is near Fort Belvoir, and going there accomplishes the same goals.
"We limited the language because we didn't want to unravel the rest of the BRAC decision-making process," Moran said.
Set well back from Route 1, Fort Belvoir is better protected against truck bombs than much of the leased office space in Crystal City, but the post is served primarily by that single, congested highway. The nearby proving ground is served by even smaller thoroughfares, Backlick and Rolling roads.
The Army predicted in March that the shift of jobs to Belvoir and the proving ground would require at least $458 million in unfunded transportation improvements. That did not include completing the southern end of the Fairfax County Parkway or adding lanes to Interstate 95, for which Virginia already has allocated $223 million. Without the improvements, the Army predicted rush-hour traffic would be worse at nine intersections near Fort Belvoir. Near the proving ground at an 807-acre tract about two miles northwest of the post, there would be "severe congestion lasting 3-4 hours if there is no mitigation," an Army report concluded.