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Study: Pentagon should pay for transportation improvements necessitated by BRAC

Traffic backs up during the morning rush at Route 1 and the Fairfax County Parkway near Fort Belvoir.
Traffic backs up during the morning rush at Route 1 and the Fairfax County Parkway near Fort Belvoir. (Gerald Martineau For)

"If you're in the wheat fields of Kansas, that may make sense," Connolly said. "But we already have a five-hour commute, so that's an impossible and absurd standard."

Maryland has invested $135 million in transportation improvements and says it needs an additional $300 million to handle BRAC-related traffic. Virginia last week said that almost $1 billion would be spent in a public-private partnership to build high-occupancy toll lanes on Interstate 95, which will be heavily affected.

Expansion at Fort Belvoir, the largest employer in Fairfax County, is expected to add 13,000 commuters by the end of the year. An additional 6,400 commuters will work at an Alexandria office complex known as the Mark Center.

Of the 30 major highway and transit projects deemed necessary to accommodate the new traffic, just four have been fully funded, the report says.

Connolly, Warner and two other Virginia Democrats - U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. and U.S. Sen. James Webb - last month sent the Pentagon a list of road and transit improvements required to serve the Mark Center.

The congressmen want the Defense Department to waive its rules to pay $20 million for road improvements at the Mark Center site and to subsidize local transit. They asked that the opening be delayed until the upgrades are completed.

An Army spokesman said that the improvements are under review and that the Army would meet its legal obligations. The report issued Monday suggests that the Pentagon go beyond that to pay for transportation improvements "on a par with costs imposed on private developers."

"If you were a developer and you came to those two counties with a proposal to add 25,000 jobs, even if we considered it, we would say, 'You're going to be required to do a lot of work to handle traffic,' " Connolly said. "But the federal government, in the BRAC process, is obligated to do nothing outside of the base."

The Pentagon selected the Mark Center because it was zoned to accommodate the anticipated workforce. Had a private developer signed the lease, Fairfax would have required that the developer pay for significant transportation system upgrades.

"We do that routinely throughout the region," Kirby said. "DoD should be treated just like any other developer."

Maryland officials were exultant when the BRAC decisions added tens of thousands of jobs to several state bases, notably the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and Fort Meade. But they have been hard-pressed to find money for infrastructure improvements to handle the 45,000 to 60,000 newcomers, when contractors and service jobs are factored in.

Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), said the county needed an additional $38 million to pay for Metro improvements and $58 million for intersection reconstruction to accommodate 2,200 new workers and half a million hospital visitors at Bethesda.

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