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Mark Center traffic fixes reviewed

Mark Center construction cam

Eighteen months and $750,000 in studies later, Alexandria's BRAC-133 Advisory Group had the chance Wednesday night to see several new short- and mid-term roadway improvement possibilities for the area around the Mark Center.

The group has been working to determine how to get some 6,400 new federal employees from the Washington Headquarters Services and other Department of Defense agencies into the already traffic-tied west end.

Representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation presented six locations for improvements spread between the intersections of I-395, Mark Center Drive and Beauregard Street at Seminary Road.

The proposed improvements include adding two lanes of through traffic and two left-turn lanes onto Seminary Road from the northbound I-395 ramp; adding triple right turns onto Seminary from Mark Center Drive; adding a pedestrian bridge over Seminary; and dedicated lanes for left-turning vehicles to I-395 and Seminary from northbound Beauregard Street.

Those six improvements were combined into five alternatives that the transportation agency plans to study for cost, effectiveness, configuration, need for right-of-way acquisition and other factors.

Funding and construction scenarios have not been determined, though Donna Fossum, one BRAC Advisory Committee member said, "We are potentially facing the disruption factor when the monstrosity opens. . . We'll be gridlocked to Miami."

The Department of Defense has agreed that Alexandria's DASH bus system could provide a new express bus route from either the King Street or Franconia-Springfield Metro stations to the site. Proposed King Street runs begin on page 12 here.

Four routes from each Metro station are in the process of being tested. The King Street runs are averaging about 30 to 45 minutes round trip in both morning and afternoon rushes. The Franconia-Springfield runs are averaging those same times going one way.

The long-term solution of a flyover ramp from the HOV or HOT lanes to the site is about to be studied, Alexandria transportation officials said.

City and state transportation officials are seeking comments until Wednesday on the possible improvements. Contact Alexandria's BRAC coordinator David Grover at 703-746-4061.

-- Christy Goodman

From the Post's archives:

Traffic fears may stall BRAC moves

Rushing against time: Preparing for BRAC

Students fight ramp to Mark Center

By Michael Bolden  | October 21, 2010; 7:48 PM ET
Categories:  BRAC, Northern Virginia  
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It was insanity to put the BRAC operation at this location. The area roads cannot handle the traffic for 6400 newly added workers.

I think the best that can be done is to have the employees punch in for work at the Pentagon or other remote locations and let the military move the workers to this site by bus. Express bus service between Mark Center and the Pentagon is very good.

Posted by: esch | October 21, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

An intriguing suggestion, esch. Possibly the most sensible one I've read.

I cannot echo too strongly what a travesty this project is. For the thousands of people who will have to slog through h*ll to their offices in the building, for the tens of thousands who live, work, and/or go to school within a few miles of the site, and for the hundreds of thousands whose commutes or lives require them to travel on I-395.

If someone were to take a giant wrecking ball to this monstrosity of a building - before it is occupied, of course - I think that person would be hailed far and wide as a patriot.

Posted by: nan_lynn | October 21, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that the HOV ramp solution could be even simpler than a flyover. Build a ramp that connects to the existing interchange and serves as a companion to the existing HOV ramp on the north side of the interchange--that is, the new ramp would be a northbound exit in the morning and a southbound entrance in the afternoon. Yes, it would mean HOV traffic would have to negotiate the horribly-designed interchange now in place, but it would be easier, cheaper, and faster to build than a flyover into the new complex, and it would serve more traffic than just BRAC traffic. The ramp would also sit within the existing I-395 footprint and would not disturb the nature preserve located just south of the BRAC site. The military folks at the Pentagon are among the biggest users of the slugging system. I have no doubt the slugs and drivers would have quickly adapted to adding a new destination and pickup point in the Mark Center area had this option been provided.

I asked about such a ramp at Moran's town hall meeting a month or so ago and was told such a ramp would have to pass NEPA review and would take three to five years to get through the process. That's a damn disgrace. Why the [bleep] wasn't this considered and made part of the process from the very beginning? Had they started the environmental process for this sort of ramp when they first started the process of constructing the building, the ramp could be close to being built by now! The HOT consortium proposes to build this ramp, but the ramp ought to be built regardless of the ultimate fate of the HOT project.

The thing that I find really ludicrous is the way the BRAC planners brag about the idea of shuttle or express buses from the Franconia-Springfield Metro. They'll have to sit in jammed-up I-395 traffic with everyone else. Had the HOV ramp been built, they could have (and surely would have) used the express lanes. That's not an option now because there's no exit from the express lanes prior to VA-27 at the Pentagon.

The other thing they ought to do at the Seminary interchange is to post signs reminding drivers that it's legal to go left on red at the traffic lights within that interchange (as is the case at all traffic lights in Virginia where one goes left from a one-way street onto another one-way street). Yes, this is standard law and drivers should know about it, but the vast majority of drivers do not know that you can do this. There used to be a sign at the corner of VA-236 and West Street in Fairfax City saying "Left Turn on Red Permitted After Stop." (The sign is now gone because VA-236 was converted to two-way traffic.) That seems like a simple and effective sign to remind drivers that they can go if the way is clear.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 22, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

BTW, esch's suggestion about express or shuttle bus service between Mark Center and the Pentagon seems like a good idea in that it could dovetail into the existing slug line system. People could slug to the Pentagon as they've done for years, then take the shuttle bus to Mark Center. Of course, one issue would be where to put the shuttle bus stop--a spot close to the slug lines is fairly far from the Metrorail and bus area and vice versa--but I'm not in a position to opine on that because I do not work at the Pentagon and so don't know their traffic patterns.

A shuttle system from the Pentagon might well be more efficient than one from Springfield because it would run in the opposite direction from most of the traffic, although inbound I-395 does back up in the afternoons.

Perhaps the Braddock Road Metro stop might be another possibility for a shuttle, though I'm sure residents of that part of Alexandria would oppose the notion.

Posted by: 1995hoo | October 22, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it is realistic to have huge numbers of additional cars going to Mark Center no matter how the interchange is reconfigured. In addition to shuttles from the Pentagon, BRAC could arrange for parking and shuttles from Fort McNair. There is access to Fort McNair from Route 50 and from I-395, and it has lots of space for parking. Shuttle service from Fort McNair to Mark Center on I-395 would not be difficult.

Posted by: esch | October 22, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

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