The proposed reconstruction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the possible adverse environmental effects of the project have generated a lot of press. But the disruption and environmental effects associated with another massive project -- an eight-building, 2-million-square-foot complex for the Patent and Trademark Office proposed near the King Street Metro station in Alexandria -- have been overlooked or ignored.
On March 18 I, along with other local residents and the Charles E. Smith Cos., filed suit in U.S. District Court to force the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Patent and Trademark Office to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act by fully assessing the effect of this project both in and of itself and cumulatively with other proposed projects for Northern Virginia.
Under the environmental act, the GSA and the Patent and Trademark Office were required to prepare a comprehensive environmental impact statement that would assess the effect this huge federal complex would have on the area before going forward with development. The impact statement prepared by GSA and the patent office failed to adequately address many environmental concerns.
For example, the office complex would add 7,000 commuters to the congested Alexandria area. The environmental impact statement didn't take that into account or the cumulative effect of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement project, the "Mixing Bowl" reconstruction and the National Harbor project adjacent to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. This development also would transform the character of the neighborhood and thwart the mixed-use development that has been envisioned for Alexandria's Carlyle and Eisenhower avenues.
The GSA and the Patent Pffice failed to consider at least one reasonable existing alternative to development of the Alexandria sites: renovating the patent office's current facilities. Such an alternative would serve the office's needs without the adverse environmental effects associated with new development. It also would be a lot cheaper than a new project, yet the GSA refused to consider such a proposal.
Our lawsuit is intended to force the government to comply with the law and provide both the ultimate decision makers and the public at large with a comprehensive analysis of the environmental impact of this project. The residents of Alexandria and the taxpayers in general deserve no less.
-- Donald P. Young