Review to reassess Mark Center traffic

By Amanda Becker and Christy Goodman
Monday, November 22, 2010; 10

The Defense Department Inspector General's office has hired an outside firm to conduct an independent review of whether a planned military base reorganization that requires the relocation of 6,400 employees to Alexandria's Mark Center will strain the surrounding transportation network.

The move comes at the behest of Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), a member of the Defense Appropriations Committee who has been critical of the Pentagon's plans as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process.

Moran authored language in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 that requires the inspector general to review an Army Corps of Engineers' assessment that the Mark Center project would not have a significant impact on area traffic patterns.

"The conclusion that relocating thousands of Defense Department employees to the Mark Center would have no repercussions for area commuters or for the employees themselves is flat wrong," Moran said in a release. "The decision was based on a flawed analysis and it's my hope that the IG will get to the bottom of this."

Moran said that further analysis of the Mark Center proposal was needed since in its current form it could potentially create "the worst transportation crisis in Northern Virginia" and "basically halt traffic" around the project's site at the intersection of Seminary Road and Beauregard Street at the Interstate 395 interchange. The findings of the independent investigation should be released in February, seven months before the slated move-in date in September of next year. McLean-based Acelsior was hired to conduct the review, and it has subcontracted the work to Wight & company.

In its most recent monthly meeting last Wednesday, the BRAC-133 Advisory Group, which was formed to address transportation questions related to the Mark Center project, supported the Virginia Department of Transportation's recommendation to construct new turning lanes, ramps to I-395 and a pedestrian bridge in an effort to mitigate traffic. The group approved a resolution that would pass on the cost of such projects, estimated at between $13 million and $15 million, to the federal government and Mark Center owner and manager Duke Realty, which voted against the proposal.

Representatives from the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and the Defense Department abstained from the vote but Jim Turkel, director of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Belvoir Integration Office, said the projects proposed by the transportation department would lessen the project's impact on area traffic, adding that the Defense Department fully supports the ongoing independent investigation.

"It is not going to be the calamity it is portrayed as," Turkel said.

If funding is secured, construction on the traffic-mitigation projects would be completed in two phases, with one ending in February 2012 and the next in November 2013.

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