Getting to Belvoir—That's The Rub

Getting to Belvoir—That's The Rub

The who, the how, and the when remain elusive to BRAC planners

Transportation, transportation, transportation was once again the prime focus at Tuesday's meeting of Fort Belvoir's Board of Advisors, created to assess the impact of the Base Realignment and Closure Report (BRAC) on area communities.

After a two-hour session at the base Officers Club which highlighted various elements of the BRAC Transportation Working Group it all boiled down to one simple statement, "We are going to be hard pressed to meet the 2011 deadline," said James E. Curren, director, Transportation Systems, Virginia, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., consultants to Fort Belvoir and the Department of the Army on implementation of BRAC transportation planning issues.

His reference to 2011 referred to Sept. 15, 2011, the deadline for completing the transfer of an additional 20,000 plus personnel to Fort Belvoir's main post and Engineering Proving Grounds (EPG). The latter is anticipated to absorb an anticipated 18,000 of the incoming personnel.

However, at the present time it has no infrastructure, buildings nor, more importantly, adequate roads and interchanges to service the added congestion. This not only applies to County arterials, that could result in neighborhood and community gridlock throughout the adjacent area, but also to the primary highway network of I-95 and the Fairfax County Parkway.

That predicted gridlock has been exacerbated by the Army's insistence on locating the anticipated Museum of the U.S. Army at EPG rather than outside the main post on Route 1 where local political and business leaders had anticipated. This will cause the largest contingent of incoming personnel and museum visitors vying for the same access points and roadways.

"Collectively, the one problem we all have is transportation. But, the Army has made a critical decision for Fort Belvoir. After pulling much of the decision making up to the Department of Army level it is now back to the Installation Commander," said General Guy Swan, Commander, Washington Military District. That individual is Colonel Brian W. Lauritzen.

"He has the full support of the Department of the Army. When you are talking to him you are talking to the top," Swan said.

OF CRITICAL IMPORTANCE to the BRAC planning process is identifying where incoming personnel live, what routes and means of transportation they are likely to use, and their demographics, including the number of children, their ages, and other factors. The latter needs were emphasized by Dan Storck, Southeast Fairfax County's representative on the Fairfax County School Board and a member of BOA.

"We need to know where children are coming from and what are their ages. We need more specific school data," Storck said. Lauritzen suggested that "demographers link with our master planners" to provide that information. "I want to make sure that when the preliminary report (BRAC) goes out the data is accurate," Lauritzen responded.

"By 2011, 50 percent of the incoming employees will have changed their residential location. That has a direct impact on all the projections and road requirements, particularly the Fairfax County Parkway and direct access to and from I-95," Curren said.

Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman pointed out, "Fairfax County will see a 25 percent retirement among its existing employees within the next five years. I assume that the agencies coming here as a result of BRAC will see approximately the same thing. Has this been taken into planning considerations?" he asked.

Curren noted that their projections indicate "60 percent of future employees will be living in southeastern Fairfax County and Prince William County." Kauffman responded by stating, "It appears most of those coming in will be traveling on our road networks."

He also reiterated what he has stated many times before, "If the transportation infrastructure is not in place people will not be able to get to work." It was noted that approximately $248 million is needed just to fund highway projects focused on getting personnel in and out of the EPG.

"Who's going to give us the $248 million?," Kauffman asked. "Those are the negotiations that are ongoing at a higher level," Curren answered.

"There are still discussions as to who will build the roads and who will provide the oversight. The differential in costs is where we are focusing those discussions," Lauritzen said.

DURING HIS SLIDE PRESENTATION, Curren identified the following "Areas of Concern" among the most critical:

* Increased traffic flow which includes community impacts and timelines to build the necessary roads and interchanges

* Infrastructure improvements

* Mass transit support capabilities

* Creation of an Transportation Management Plan for Fort Belvoir

His recommendation to the Board of Advisors included:

* Develop and establish a Transportation Management Plan that incorporates all possible opportunities

* Monitor Defense Access Road priorities for funding possibilities

* Identify community opportunities to leverage Office of Economic Assessment grants

* Review existing memorandums of agreement for potential partnering opportunities with local agencies such as fire and police departments and others

* Analyze the correlation between VDOT and BRAC timelines

At the conclusion it was agreed that the next Board of Advisors meeting will be held Feb. 21, 2007, with the prime topic being the then recently completed draft of Fort Belvoir's Environmental Impact Study. That preliminary draft is due out Feb. 15, 2007, with the final report scheduled for mid March.