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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.

--Derek Kravitz

By Luke Rosiak  | November 4, 2010; 9:58 AM ET
Categories:  BRAC, Congestion, Maryland, Northern Virginia, Transportation Politics  
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Comments

"We will make it work" says Bulova. "Baloney" I say. The very idea of moving thousands of workers from office buildings that are well-connected to mass transit to others that are far from any public transportation was and still is guaranteed to add to our already horrible traffic problems. At least the traffic to Fort Belvoir will be counter-flow. Traffic to Mark Center will be gridlocked. I live near there, but I hope to move before it starts.

Posted by: jcflack1 | November 4, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I've spent the past 2 years driving south from near Old Town, Alexandria to Richmond on Weekday mornings and back in at night. I am lucky enough to have a reverse drive, but I see how this area plays out for commuters every day. Leaving at 530 am, Route 1 north is backed up from both gates (north of and near the new hospital) to at least the Fairfax County Pkwy. Returning in the evening, there is always a significant delay on the southbound route. When there are issues on 95-S causing backups, the spillover traffic onto RT-1 South is a terrifying, many-mile backup to RT-1 in Woodbridge that is never reported on WTOP due to the greater importance of other highways.

This problem is only going to intensify after the BRAC at a level as severe as the Mark-1 center. The difference is that a highway runs past Seminary Road which cannot happen on RT 1.

A rapid option to link the metro to the base will be essential as buses and shuttles will continue to get stuck in the worsening traffic.

Posted by: OfficePhone | November 4, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The DoD and Fort Belvoir have literally given thousands of acres of land and hundreds of millions of dollars to Fairfax County and the State of Virginia over the years, but instead of working as partners, local politicians like to grandstand and shake Uncle Sugar down for more. Gerry Hyland has been totally useless in getting any county or state money for South Fairfax over the years. Hwy 1 is six lanes until it approaches Fort Belvoir. Then it shrinks to four lands before again expanding back to six immediately after Fort Belvoir is in the rear view mirror. The Mayor of the City of Alexandria begged for the DoD to build at Mark Center. Once the skyscraper was under constructin, they completely changed their tune. Any other community in the US would love to have such an economic boost, but these shakedown artists such as Jim Moran love to showboat and mislead their constituents. Why don't they just solve the problems by having Congress appropriate the necessary funding?

Posted by: Starkermann | November 4, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

The DoD and Fort Belvoir have literally given thousands of acres of land and hundreds of millions of dollars to Fairfax County and the State of Virginia over the years, but instead of working as partners, local politicians like to grandstand and shake Uncle Sugar down for more. Gerry Hyland has been totally useless in getting any county or state money for South Fairfax over the years. Hwy 1 is six lanes until it approaches Fort Belvoir. Then it shrinks to four lands before again expanding back to six immediately after Fort Belvoir is in the rear view mirror. The Mayor of the City of Alexandria begged for the DoD to build at Mark Center. Once the skyscraper was under construction, they completely changed their tune. Any other community in the US would love to have such an economic boost, but these shakedown artists such as Jim Moran love to showboat and mislead their constituents. Why don't they just solve the problems by having Congress appropriate the necessary funding?

Posted by: Starkermann | November 4, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

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