Potomac News Online | BRAC expected to affect U.S.1 traffic


» Special Report

Statistics for local military installations

» Fort Belvoir

The Army post encompasses about 8,600 acres in southern Fairfax County and straddles U.S. 1.

About 22,000 military and civilian personnel currently work at Belvoir.

Ft. Belvoir currently houses the Defense Logistics Agency Headquarters, Army Intelligence and Security Command and the Information Systems Software Center.

It would also become home to another 18,000 federal employees, if the Base Realignment and Closure recommendations are approved.

» Quantico Marine Corps Base

Quantico also straddles U.S. 1 in eastern Prince William and Stafford counties.

There are about 14,000 military and civilian employees who work on the sprawling 60,000-acre base.

Quantico is the home of the Marine Combat Development Center, Officer Candidate School, The Basic School, the Marine Corps University as well as a number of other schools. The Presidential helicopter squadron is housed at Quantico as well as the FBI Academy, the FBI Laboratory and the Drug Enforcement Administration training academy.

About 3,000 additional federal employees could relocate to Quantico if the BRAC recommendations are approved.

Getting aboard the Quantico Marine Corps base and the Army’s Fort Belvoir is already difficult during rush hours. Since most Marines and soldiers start their days at about the same time, most also travel to work at the same time. Factor in security checks at the gates and the backlog grows.

Even during non-rush hours, the exit ramps from Interstate 95 towards Quantico’s main gate as well as U.S. 1 can back up.

The recommended addition of more than 21,000 federal employees to the two military installations along U.S. 1 could turn the already congested commute into a gridlocked nightmare.

While the Base Realignment and Base Closures process is still in its early stages, area officials are moving quickly to figure out its implications.

Transportation is at the top of the list.

“Because of the number of people coming here, we will have a road problem,” said Prince William County Supervisor and Vice Chairman Maureen Caddigan, R-Dumfries.

BRAC recommends moving more than 18,000 federal employees to Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County from other installations and rented office space in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.

Another 3,000 federal employees are expected to move to Quantico, if the recommendations are accepted.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution asking its congressional delegation for federal transportation money.

“I expect that we will pass a similar resolution soon,” Caddigan said.

Caddigan has asked Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer to come to Quantico next week to discuss state aid as well. Homer, who was named to his post this year, is a former deputy county executive for Prince William.

Among the items to be discussed is the construction of a traffic circle outside Quantico’s main gate, a project Prince William and Marine officials have been pushing.

Leaders believe the traffic circle would ease some of the backlog getting on base. It would also help to move the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected each year to the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center that is under construction nearby.

The Marines also are seeking traffic solutions for present and future gridlock.

About 3,300 vehicles now travel through the main and commissary gates of Quantico every workday morning.

“Reducing traffic at the gates has and will continue to be a challenge that requires constant attention,” said Lt. Col. Rick Long, director of the Quantico Public Affairs Office. “Some solutions are in the works such as adding an additional inbound lane at the commissary gate during peak traffic periods.”

The addition of 3,000 more BRAC-recommended federal employees to Quantico would mean about the same number of vehicles added to the morning traffic mix.

Most of these new federal employees will work at criminal investigative service commands being relocated. The FBI Academy and the FBI Laboratory as well as the training center for the Drug Enforcement Administration are already housed on the western side of the Quantico base and are not accessed by either the main or commissary gates.

“If the BRAC recommendations are approved the new agencies are planned to be located on the western side of the base and should not affect the main and commissary gates,” Long said.

There are already about 1,700 vehicles that travel through the western gate of the base.

“We will continue to pursue infrastructure and construction funds to widen the roads,” Long said.

The new Quantico employees may not impact the already congested base gates but they will have to travel along either I-95 or U.S. 1 to get to the base.

Figuring out where the commuters will be coming from and if they will choose to relocate is crucial information for long range planning, area officials say.

“No one has that information right now,” said Dana Fenton, director of legislative services for Prince William. “We need to find out where these people live before we can figure out the impact on transportation. There is still a lot of information that [the government] needs to release.”

Fort Belvoir officials are working on the transportation impact, determining where the new workers will be housed on post and other impacts, said Richard Arndt, post spokesman.

This information is being compiled and will be ready by mid-August.

“We are working closely with Fairfax and Prince William supervisors who are involved in the process,” Arndt said. “That’s key. There are things that they can do [to lessen the impact] that is outside of our realm.”

Addressing improvements to the 12-mile stretch of U.S. 1 in Prince William have been in the works long before BRAC.

“[The county] has taken the position that it is not going to wait for the Virginia Department of Transportation to finance Route 1 improvements,” said Pat Thomas, a county planner.

County voters approved a road bond in 2002. Voters will vote a second one in 2006.

Some road improvements are already under way. Others are planned.

From north to south along U.S. 1:

• The extension of Prince William Parkway to U.S. 1 is already under way and could be completed this fall.

• The county is in the process of acquiring rights-of way to improve the intersection of U.S. 1 and Va. 123. There is state and federal money funding this project.

• Widening U.S. 1 from Dale Boulevard to Featherstone Road will be among the projects included in the 2006 bond referendum.

• Turning the Va. 234 intersection with U.S. 1 into a “super intersection” that would connect to a new road into the Southbridge and Harbor Station communities is already in the works. Money to pay for the intersection and the roadway would come through taxing the property owners of the new Harbor Station development.

• The widening of U.S. 1 from Joplin Road near Quantico’s main gate through Triangle will be on the 2006 bond referendum.

“We would like to see several improvements to Route 1 in that part of the county,” Fenton said.

The U.S. 1 improvements also are key to the county’s Potomac Communities plan which addresses the revitalization of the corridor, said Thomas who is working on the plan.

More federal employees at the military installations fit in nicely with rejuvenation plan.

“We’re sitting pretty,” Thomas said. “We have the opportunity to provide off-site services [to the military installations.]”

The BRAC report estimates new workers being brought to Fort Belvoir would result in the creation of at least 8,000 off post civilian jobs including retail, service and other industries.

The new workers at Quantico, according to BRAC, would create about 2,000 off base jobs.

“People are just beginning to see a real different look for the [Potomac Communities,]” Thomas said. “Once they start seeing this, more people are going to see there is potential to do something different there.”

The BRAC recommendations are now under consideration and review by an independent commission.

It will make recommendations and then forward them to the President George W. Bush by Sept. 8. The president will have until Sept. 23 to accept or reject the recommendations. If they are accepted they are forwarded to Congress, which has 45 legislative days to act on the report.


Similar Posts