report released by April 20 by the inspector general of the Department of Defense concludes that the Army failed to carry out the necessary environmental reviews and traffic impact analyses for the BRAC-133 project at the Mark Center.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says the findings in the report provide legal ground for a lawsuit to delay the project, which is located next to the Seminary Road exit on I-395 in Alexandria’s West End. Some 6,400 Army employees are scheduled to move in to the new office complex Sept 15. Short-term transportation improvements won’t be implemented until much later.
The DOD inspector general questions the Army’s determination that the project will have “no significant impact” on surrounding roads and recommends the Army begin from scratch to complete a “more technically robust, standalone traffic impact analysis.”
Among other findings, the report says the Army failed to solicit sufficient public input, failed to consider the overall impact on traffic beyond 2011 and beyond an 0.3-mile radius of the Mark Center, ignored the impact of vehicles queuing to enter parking garages, and failed to consider mid-day transportation needs for carpooling employees.
“The Inspector General’s report proved what we have said from the beginning. The Mark Center decision was flat-out wrong,” Moran says. “Clearly, corners were cut and in some cases, what should have been obstacles to fast-track approval were ignored altogether.”
“I think we finally have the credible foundation for a legal challenge to this pending fiasco. It’s one of the only remaining options, but it’s a powerful one,” he says. “The Commonwealth, local governments, civic associations, businesses, and residents in the vicinity of the site would have legal standing; they will all be adversely affected.”
He sent letters to Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, the City of Alexandria, and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William urging them to seek an injunction to delay the project.
In a related issue, it now seems the much-criticized public art project planned for the Mark Center might not happen after all.
The Army is reconsidering its plans to spend $200,000 on a sculpture to be placed next to the planned transportation center near the new parking structure on Mark Center Drive, says Alisa Carrel, director of the City of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts.
The statue selection panel has reviewed proposals from artists and is scheduled to meet with the four finalists. One of the proposed designs portrays flowers, one is a whimsical design that includes a fairy riding on a toad, and two are abstract.
The majority of the public comments submitted to the city about the art proposals were positive, Carrel says, but there were quite a few negative comments about the decision to spend money on public art while there is insufficient funding to make needed transportation improvements.