National Commentary

BRAC & an Impending Traffic Nightmare

Next fall, the Department of Defense will complete the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process. As part of these moves, Northern Virginia will see 11,000 personnel relocated to Ft. Belvoir on Route 1 and 6,400 employees to the Mark Center building off Seminary Road. Without the necessary transportation improvements, these two moves will turn many of Northern Virginia’s roadways into one very large parking lot.

I voted against BRAC in 2005, and since that time have been working to push the DoD to take steps to reduce the impact on Northern Virginia’s roads. This week, an independent study released by the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB) confirmed our fears about the impending traffic nightmare.

Monday’s TRB report concluded the Mark Center is likely to cause “substantial new delays” to area commuters, endanger the mission of some military units and negatively impact the competitiveness of local businesses. The TRB study reinforced my criticism that the BRAC process inaccurately emphasized security, while this goal “directly conflicts with regional objectives of reducing congestion and improving air quality.”

Notably, the report stated that the DoD should accept financial responsibility for the traffic they cause, reversing a longstanding DoD policy that off-base transit improvements are the sole responsibility of state and local authorities. The study also recommended that Congress consider a special one-time appropriation to mitigate the traffic impacts of the BRAC relocations.

The TRB report adds to the growing momentum behind our efforts to mitigate this incoming traffic mess. Virginia Transportation Secretary Connaughton recently announced funding to build a ramp linking the HOV lanes to Seminary Rd., providing enhanced access to the Mark Center. Just last week, Senator Webb and I traveled to the Mark Center to meet with DoD officials to discuss the situation at the Mark Center.

In addition to these efforts, I have worked with my colleagues in Congress to fight against the negative impacts of the BRAC relocations. Our recent efforts have included:

• Passage by the House of a 1,000 car parking cap at the Mark Center until sufficient transportation infrastructure is in place.

• Encouraging the DoD to waive the strict set of regulations currently preventing the Department from funding transportation improvements, putting the burden of road improvements on the localities.

• Urging DoD to subsidize public transit improvements, making public transportation more appealing to employees.

I am hopeful this year we can make even more progress working in Congress and with the DoD on these vital issues. Northern Virginia is a commuter-heavy region and the impact of these BRAC moves has the potential to affect our entire region. Finding a solution to this fast-approaching traffic congestion was my top priority last Congress and will continue to be this year.

 


Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.