Now it's official. Of the 23,324 personnel being realigned to Fort Belvoir, 18,000 will be situated at the Engineering Proving Grounds. That was the conclusion of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released Friday, March 2, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobil District.
In total, Fort Belvoir will realize an increase of 22,000 personnel after several commands now stationed there are realigned to other locations nationwide as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Report (BRAC). The largest command to leave will be the U.S. Army Materiel Command Headquarters which was relocated to Fort Belvoir from Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria following the 9/11 attacks.
Although the draft EIS looks at all aspects of the relocation — air quality, socioeconomic factors, water resources, utilities, and even aesthetic resources — the 800-pound gorilla between the pages remains, as with anything in Northern Virginia, transportation and roads. Under the Army's "Preferred Alternative" for BRAC, new "transportation improvements" would total an estimated $458 million.
However, according to the report, BRAC is only adding to an existing situation. It is not a primary cause of increasing gridlock.
"The region's transportation system is already strained under existing traffic volumes and will continue to be constrained" even if there were no actions taken under BRAC. This would be the fact, according to the EIS, "even with the transportation improvements proposed by the Federal Highway Administration, Virginia Department of Transportation, and Fairfax County in their transportation improvement programs."
The EIS concludes that "any significant traffic effects as a result of the BRAC action should be mitigated with transportation improvements, such that the negative effects become minor or negligible."
By choosing the EPG as the primary realignment site, the EIS states: "Needed transportation improvements can largely be constructed without interfering with existing traffic because the EPG site is largely undeveloped and the major access-related project would be constructing the new segment of the Fairfax County Parkway. Constructing this segment could be accomplished with minimal effect on existing traffic."
THAT'S NOT THE way Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D-At-large) sees it. "I think the EIS underscores how absolutely essential transportation improvements are if this whole plan is going to be made to work," he said.
"With the bulk of the personnel going to the EPG, transportation improvements must be made," said Connolly. "If they are not, this whole thing will go tilt. It just won't work."
That evaluation was buttressed by Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee). "The top three issues on which this opportunity and challenge hinges are transportation, transportation and transportation," he said.
"However, I believe there is enough wiggle room in this report that I'm optimistic we can achieve a win-win," Kauffman said. "The other positive aspects are that it looks like Geospatial is definitely going to the EPG and the museum is not. They also left the door open to explore utilizing the GSA warehouses."
EPG would become home to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Washington Headquarters Services. The Army-lease units and agencies would be located on South Post at sites on Gunston and Belvoir roads along with Program Executive Office, Enterprise Info Systems and the Missile Defense Agency, HQ Command Center. The new Army community hospital would be on South Post at the site of the golf course, according to the EIS. "The present hospital would be designated for Community uses," the report stated.
In addition to the various BRAC construction projects, another 32 projects will be added at Belvoir over the next several years, according to the EIS. These will range from small-scale endeavors such as renovations to existing buildings to one that could ultimately make the entire BRAC construction look like a warm up.
The latter is the proposed construction of the National Museum of the U.S. Army now scheduled to be located at Kingman Gate, adjacent to the north post golf course and just west the Fairfax County Parkway's intersection with Route 1. Although, the EIS left the door open for it to be sited where local officials and business leaders had originally planned "along Route 1, east of Pence Gate."
"At either location, additional road improvements would be required," the report said. "To quantify the effects of the museum on the transportation system," additional in-depth analysis and modeling will have to be done.
Both the future Army Museum and the expanded DeWitt Army Hospital are anticipated to have a major impact on traffic flow. However, in both cases, that flow is disbursed over any given 24 hour period due to the nature of their operations. Traffic to and from National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, to be located at EPG, is also not concentrated at normal rush hours in that NGA operates on a shift basis.
Another factor on the drawing board that could substantially influence the utilization of EPG is the 70-acre General Services Administration warehouses located near the Springfield-Franconia Metro Station. Kauffman and others have advocated they be included in BRAC planning since the beginning.
However, that property is out from under U.S. Army jurisdiction. Therefore, it would take another legal action to transfer ownership from GSA to the U.S. Army to bring them into the BRAC planning process. U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-11) has expressed a willingness to spearhead such a plan in the past.
IN ADDITION TO TRANSPORTATION, the EIS, which is essentially an analysis of Fort Belvoir's updated 1993 Land Use Plan, underway at the time of the BRAC announcement, also considered the following elements in making a recommendation to adopt the so-called "Preferred Alternative" rather than the "Town Center," "City Center" or "Satellite Campuses" alternatives:
* Air Quality: "None of the alternatives interfere with the region's ability to attain "National Ambient Air Quality Standards; Cause or contribute to any new violations of any NAAQS; Increase the frequency or severity of any existing violation of NAAQS;" or "delay timely attainment of any NAAQS."
* Noise: "Minor increases in noise would not be expected to contribute to a violation of any federal, state, or local regulations."
* Water Resources: Effects on water resources would relate to storm water runoff associated with pollutants from land disturbance activities and an increase in impervious surfaces due to development. The Preferred Alternative converts the second highest number of acres (183) from pervious to impervious among the four alternatives.
* Socioeconomic: BRAC is expected to have "minor" beneficial economic effects. However, the report also said that "on post facilities would be inadequate to accommodate the incoming BRAC workforce. Additional police, fire, medical, shopping and morale, welfare, and recreation sponsored programs would be needed."
* Utilities: Since most of the BRAC realignment would occur at EPG where utility services "are close to nonexistent," it "would require expansion of the publicly owned infrastructure as well as to some of the utility owned infrastructure." This would apply to all utilities including potable water and sanitary sewer facilities, according to the report.
In evaluating the socioeconomic aspect, which is considered critical by Kauffman, Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) and others, the report admits BRAC "would have short and long-term minor effects on regional services." But, it is not viewed as definitive because most of the present personnel at the transferring facilities "reside within a one-hour drive to Fort Belvoir."
ALLOWING THAT SOME of the incoming personnel would move, the EIS places that growth along the I-95 corridor from southern Fairfax County to the City of Fredericksburg. "This would increase the populations in these jurisdictions and the demand for services such as police, fire, medical care, schools, social services and shopping facilities," the report said.
However, according to the EIS, "The population increase because of BRAC action would be minor relative to projected regional population growth. Over time, services would adapt to the demands of the increased population base, funded by tax revenue."
"This is probably the most important document of the entire BRAC process," said Donald N. Carr, director, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs. A 60-day public review period is now underway.
"Somewhere around mid-April there will be a public hearing held expressly to garner public opinion for the record," said Carr. "The exact date and location have not be determined at this time. Those who attend can either make their comments there for the verbatim record, a court reporter will be present, or submit written comments."
"This is a call to arms for the public. We are dependent upon them to review this document and point out things that need clarification. This applies not only to members of the adjoining communities but also to the present Fort Belvoir work force of 23,000. They are impacted by this as much as anyone. Everyone's comments will be reviewed and analyzed," Carr said.