A new task force will manage traffic, notify commuters of coming construction projects and coordinate transit options at the Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said Monday as federal employees began moving to the massive new complex.
A total of 6,400 employees are scheduled to relocate to the site at Seminary Road and Interstate 395 within a year as part of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) moves by the Pentagon.
“Traffic conditions at the Mark Center and Seminary Road/I-395 interchange will disrupt daily commutes and the movement of goods and freight,” McDonnell said in a statement. “The opening of this new facility will have wide-reaching impacts that will be felt across the Northern Virginia region and throughout the commonwealth, so we must do everything possible to mitigate the effects on traffic and the quality of life of residents and those who travel I-395.”
About 200,000 commuters use I-395 each weekday, officials said.
Federal, state and local officials have been lobbying the Defense Department to delay the opening of the Mark Center, after an inspector general’s report said the Pentagon used flawed data in its transportation plans.
“We cannot allow 395 to come to a complete standstill every morning and evening,” said Sean T. Connaughton, Virginia secretary of transportation.
The Virginia Department of Transportation, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation and their regional partners will be deployed along the Interstate 95/395 corridor monitoring traffic, counting vehicles and manually controlling traffic light timing, among other actions, Connaughton said.
“This is something, honestly, we have not done before,” he said. “We are almost going to treat this like a construction site and where you are going to have to make adjustments try to make adjustments as the numbers ever increase at the Mark Center.”
Connaughton said the state will coordinate with Arlington County, Alexandria and Fairfax County to “hopefully do what we can to avoid carmeggedon.”
The task force also will adjust road construction to ease commuter impacts, he said.
State transportation officials have set aside funding for the task force and there is a “small pot” of BRAC money from the Defense Department, Connaughton said, but no official budget has been assigned to the task force.
The Pentagon is spending $20 million on short- and mid-term transportation improvements, which are in the design phase. The state is working on federal environmental documents for an $80 million ramp from the high-occupancy vehicle lanes on I-395 to Seminary Road. Those road improvements are expected to be completed by 2016.
Alexandria began providing express DASH bus service from the King Street Metro station to the Mark Center on Monday. Federal employees working at the Mark Center can ride DASH for free throughout the city with their government transit benefit. The Pentagon is paying more than $600,000 for the service and the new buses. DASH employees are stationed at the Metro stop and at the Mark Center to assist Defense Department employees with the express service.
Additional Metrobuses are traveling between the Pentagon and Mark Center and Alexandria has traffic control officers at six intersections near Seminary Road and Beauregard Street, said Rich Baier, Alexandria’s transportation chief.
“We don’t have a Metro stop there, so what we’ve done, we’ve put everything in place other than that,” Baier said. “We’re ready from a public education, transit service provision standpoint. I hope they are going to use our system and services.”