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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Add roadwork construction to the traffic nightmare at the Mark Center

The BRAC project in February.
The $20 million provided by the Defense Department last week for short-term transportation improvements at the BRAC-133 site at the Mark Center will be used to widen the off-ramp from I-395 heading north to Seminary Road and the on-ramp onto I-395 heading south from Seminary.

The projects are expected to take 18 to 24 months, but it will be up to the Federal Highway Administration, which is administering the project, to determine when the work will start, says Anne Hughes of Rep. Jim Moran’s (D-Va.) office.

The $20 million is in addition to $5.6 million in DOD funds previously approved for road projects, which also includes improvements at the Seminary Road/Mark Center Drive, Seminary Road/North Beauregard Street, and North Beauregard/Mark Center Drive intersections and improved pedestrian access.

These improvements are designed to relieve congestion around at the BRAC-133 complex, but will only contribute to the traffic nightmare in the short term.

In September, more than 6,400 employees are slated to start working at the new Defense Department complex. Not only will there be no road improvements completed by then, but those employees—and everyone else driving through the area—will have to negotiate through road construction.

In announcing the additional $20 million, a statement from DOD notes: “Transportation studies have determined that the existing roadway capacities around the Mark Center development will be insufficient to accommodate the influx of new traffic in connection with the BRAC recommendation.”

The DOD funds are in addition to the $80 million announced from VDOT for the construction of an off-ramp from the I-395 HOV lanes. That project has been delayed and now won’t begin until well into 2016, due to the need for an environmental impact survey.

The Defense Department’s inspector general has agreed to determine whether the relocation of the Washington Headquarters Service to the Mark Center complex should be delayed until the road improvements are completed. That report, to be released this month, will review the decision-making process that led to the selection of the Mark Center rather than two other proposed sites that have Metro access.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act April 14, Moran expressed concerns about the impact of the BRAC on “Northern Virginia’s already desparate traffic congestion.”

“Nearly 200,000 commuters use I-395 daily, and I fear the vast majority of them will be significantly inconvenienced by BRAC-133,” Moran said. He asked Congress to set a cap of 1,000 parking spaces at the Mark Center or delay or phase in relocation to the site until the transportation improvements are in place.

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