House approves plan to slow BRAC moves to Alexandria

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 29, 2010

A proposal that could delay the transfer of thousands of defense workers to a new office building in Alexandria was approved Friday by the House of Representatives as part of the defense spending bill.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), is aimed at preventing major traffic jams on Interstate 395 near Seminary Road in Alexandria, where a building at the Mark Center is under construction. The bill would require the Pentagon to devise plans to ease commutes and make road improvements to ensure that the congestion in the area doesn't worsen.

The measure will be considered again when House and Senate conferees hash out differences between each chamber's defense authorization bill in the coming weeks. The Senate version, scheduled for a vote next month, does not include Moran's proposal.

The fears about traffic on the I-95 corridor in Northern Virginia stem from job shifts, part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure plan. The shifts are a result of post-Sept. 11, 2001, worries that the defense operations near the Pentagon and Reagan National Airport are at risk of attack.

About 20,000 defense workers are being moved to car-dependent sites along the I-95 corridor in Northern Virginia; about 6,400 of those are to go to the Mark Center. The changes will create at least two choke points along I-95: near Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County and at the Mark Center.

Moran's proposal would cap at 1,000 the number of cars allowed to park at the Mark Center building and would prevent the Pentagon from leasing parking spaces nearby. That would either delay the transfers or force the military to put in place plans to limit traffic by the September 2011 deadline for the transfers. The Mark Center is to be the new headquarters for the military's Washington operations.

Many of the workers are moving from Crystal City, where there is easy access to public transit. The Mark Center is more than two miles from the closest Metro station and is served by buses.

Moran has been highly critical of the Pentagon relocation plans for Crystal City and the Mark Center.

"It shows clear disrespect for commuters and residents in Northern Virginia and an imperial attitude that 'we can do what we want, when we want, regardless of the community's needs', " he said in a statement issued Friday.

Under Moran's proposal, Congress must approve a Pentagon traffic management plan that would prevent more congestion at six nearby intersections. The Pentagon also would be required to complete construction of access roads and ramps before the parking cap is lifted.

Pentagon officials are working on plans to ease congestion in the area and have promised that 40 percent of employees will come to work by some means other than cars. Moran's plan goes further.

The six intersections near the Mark Center that Moran says cannot worsen are:

-- Beauregard Street and Mark Center Drive.

-- Beauregard Street and Seminary Road.

-- Seminary Road and Mark Center Drive.

-- Seminary Road and the northbound entrance ramp to I-395.

-- Seminary Road and the northbound exit ramp from I-395.

-- Seminary Road and the southbound exit ramp from I-395.

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