Leaders tout BRAC plans at Ft. Belvoir
Military leaders gathered at Fort Belvoir early Thursday for the base's annual community breakfast, a post-election tradition that in recent years has turned into a pulpit for officials to tout, and defend, the Defense Department's costly and complicated plans for next year's base closures and changes.
At Fort Belvoir, located off of Route 1 in southern Fairfax County, roughly $4 billion worth of construction projects are in the works, with a congressionally-mandated deadline of Sept. 15, 2011.
Once completed, Fort Belvoir will rival the Pentagon in size and scale. But the project, which is required by Congress as part of a 2005 law to update the country's military setup, has been hampered by concerns over projected traffic gridlock near the new facilities.
"BRAC is not just construction. It's improvement of the infrastructure here. We've done a lot of the hard thinking," said Col. John J. Strycula, Fort Belvoir's commander. "Yes, every major road is being worked on. People are worried about transportation. What I tell everyone is, 'Patience.'"
In Springfield, near the Fairfax County Parkway and Interstate 95, the high-tech National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the third-largest facility of its kind in the country behind the Pentagon and the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, will open next spring (although workers are expected as early as mid-January).
In Alexandria, the $1.1 billion Mark Center facility will house Washington Headquarters Services and several Defense Department agencies. The site has been plagued by criticism over a lack of accompanying road improvements to deal with the additional 6,400 employees.
A 120-bed community hospital will replace the 53-year-old DeWitt Army Community Hospital by August. One military official, Col. Mark G. Moffatt, a deputy base commander, claimed Thursday it would be the "most technologically advanced hospital in the nation." Additional office complexes, roads and the headquarters of the Missile Defense Agency are also being constructed.
New hotels, restaurants and stores are being built along the long-neglected Route 1 to accommodate the new workers, their families and retirees flocking to the revamped hospital and PX from Walter Reed. Private contractors are also expected to move in, albeit to a smaller degree than Belvoir's growing Maryland counterpart, Fort Meade.
To deal with the influx, Strycula said officials are discussing ways to improve public transit to Fort Belvoir, including discussions about limited-stop bus service, water taxis on the Potomac, monorail service, and increased Metro and Virginia Railway Express service.
"I've said BRAC is like trying to drink water from a fire hose ... There is a lot of emotion, there is a lot of concern about what's going to happen," Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said. "But we will make it work."
About 8,000 families live on base and roughly 24,000 soldiers and civilians work at Fort Belvoir. The number of workers is expected to more than double, to more than 48,000.
| November 4, 2010; 9:58 AM ET
Categories: BRAC, Congestion, Maryland, Northern Virginia, Transportation Politics
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