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Army chooses least transit-accessible site of three for 6,400 jobs

The Army has decided to locate 6,400 jobs at a site in western Alexandria, right off I-395 but far from Metro, reports the Post. The jobs were originally slated to move from Arlington to Fort Belvoir, but concerns about traffic led the Army to consider alternate sites.

Fort Belvoir. Photo by mindgutter on Flickr.

Unfortunately, while any of the sites were better than the remote and completely transit-inaccessible Fort Belvoir, this site is little better. According to the article, Virginia and Fairfax officials were pushing for two other sites, one a GSA warehouse less than half a mile from the Franconia-Springfield Metro and VRE, and the other the Victory Center near Van Dorn Metro.

Gerald E. Connolly (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said the Army has missed an opportunity to make the best decision for encouraging transit and also spurring an economic revival in downtown Springfield. Connolly also noted that Fairfax will feel the brunt of the new traffic, particularly on the interstates.

"Many if not most of these workers will be coming from the south," he said. "That means they can't access this site by the VRE, and it means they're going to be in their automobiles driving across our county and Prince William County.

Unfortunately, the GSA warehouse would take a long time to get ready, and the Army preferred the I-395 site in part because the land is currently empty, giving more flexibility and speed. That's always an advantge of an undeveloped sprawl site over reuse or infill in a denser, transit-oriented area. But the long-term costs in traffic and pollution are enormous.

Sadly, the Army isn't weighing those factors, just its own speed, cost and convenience. As Richard Layman points out, California law imposes substantial environmental review on developments of this size. There, a similar project would have to improve transit infrastructure or otherwise mitigate the impact, making the better sites quicker and cheaper by comparison. But the federal government doesn't follow similar rules, and our region lacks such controls for private development—thus we have National Harbor.

The Army will set up shuttle buses to Metro, according to the article, but the added step of a shuttle will surely deter a huge share of the commuters who would have ridden transit. Plus, federal rules allow more parking spaces for developments far from Metro, making this office complex even more appealing for drivers.

Alexandria is still better than Fort Belvoir, but not much. The GSA should move its warehouse, including its "spare windows for the Pentagon", as soon as possible so it's not hogging valuable real estate near Metro and so another agency can move in without waiting the three extra years it would have cost the Army. And let's get Gerry Connolly elected and on some good committees as soon as possible, so he can join Donna Edwards in providing a strong voice for smart development practices in the region.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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That shuttle idea is a joke. The two shuttle options are to Van Dorn or King Street, each road leading to those stations is choked with traffic during the rush. I used to live in an Apratment near the Mark Center and thier shuttle used to take 30-40 minitues to reach the Metro durring the rush hour.

by RJ on Sep 30, 2008 8:42 am • linkreport

And so if the Army wants it, the Army ought to figure out a solution and pay for it.

by Andrew on Sep 30, 2008 9:15 am • linkreport

So now Fort Belvoir is the traffic no-man's-land... how things change. Two years ago it was the preferred alternative:

I'm sure that in the housing crisis, the developers of the old railyard on the sliver of land between US1 and the Blue Line would love to build office buildings for 6400 workers mixed in with their apartments - particularly if federal sway with WMATA buys an infill station between Braddock Road and Reagan National. Even assuming that the accountants will write off their employees' cars as "somebody else's problem", building subsidized parking for 6400 in Fort Belvoir has gotta add to the cost.

by Squalish on Sep 30, 2008 9:49 am • linkreport

What is the need for these jobs anyway?

Are not we spending WAY to much on the Pentagon-Pentagram?

by Douglas Willinger on Sep 30, 2008 10:32 am • linkreport

This is who is moveing there:

by RJ on Sep 30, 2008 11:19 am • linkreport

Thanks for including added pollution as one of the costs. I think it would be greater greater if both the costs of added pollution and the reduced health-care costs not only from reduced pollution but the increased daily physical activity from n people using transit instead of driving were included in these project cost estimates. There is also plenty of evidence showing improved worker productivity and lower absenteeism with increased daily physical activity too. These variables can end up costing-or-saving employers a lot of money in the long run. If the DoD figured these costs into their plans there would be more incentive to locate somewhere near metro. Since the greater burden of these costs fall on the public it seems to me any public institution should be required to includes these costs in their plans.

by Bianchi on Sep 30, 2008 11:27 am • linkreport

Army has to do it all by Sept. 15, 2011. That's a law passed by Congress and signed by the president. It's not there timeline at all. In fact, I bet Belvoir planners would prefer to have extra time to consider better options. Funny though that Fairfax leaders were complaining about Route 1 traffic and a possible future burden on schools when the number going to Belvoir was 19,300. Now they are crying about 6,400 less? Can't have it both ways folks...

by Karl on Sep 30, 2008 2:53 pm • linkreport

Eh, the article has some mistakes. Use google maps and you will see Mark Center is 3 miles from the Van Dorn Metro via mostly Van Dorn Street. I can tell you its not a super heavily travelled road and shuttle buses should be able to move up and down it quite rapidly. Besides, this infusion of jobs will be just what the doctor ordered to get Alexandria to put in a Streetcar plan!

by Steve on Sep 30, 2008 4:11 pm • linkreport


Van Dorn Street is an utter nightmare during the rush, to say so other wise is utterly false. Usually the back up starts at Seminary and creeps all the way to 495. I have been caught in it several times and it takes a good 25-30 min just to get from Seminary to Van Dorn Metro, and that is a normal rush. For what its worth the Army is thinking about going to King St instead, but Duke St. isn't much better.

by RJ on Sep 30, 2008 4:48 pm • linkreport

According to Alexandria's website, the project will "[feature] increased transit services and a new transit center." Source:

Alexandria's Transportation Master Plan has a corridor from the Pentagon to Mark Center to Van Dorn on to Kingstowne. Source:

by Chuck Coleman on Sep 30, 2008 6:34 pm • linkreport


Alexandria has been pushing the BRT along Van Dorn for sometime. The trick is finding money. The Army has made it clear that they are only going to pay the absolute minimum for infrastructure outside of the facility: This is basically all that the Army is willing to pay for:


"The Army would also seek to secure shuttle bus service from the Mark Center to Metro stations. A transportation mitigation measure for all the alternatives is promotion of alternative transitmeasures such as ridesharing to offset a parking space cap on-site."

Hardly encouraging.

by RJ on Sep 30, 2008 9:40 pm • linkreport

Here is what specifically what the Army is going to:

Provides needed capacity improvements at the

existing interchange and provides direct HOV

access to/from the I-95/I-395 reversible HOV lanes.

King Street (State Route 7) intersection

improvements at Beauregard Street

Little River Turnpike intersection

improvements at Beauregard Street

Provides needed capacity improvements on the

frontage roadway to the buildings/parking structures

to accommodate the influx of BRAC 133 employees

at the site.

Reduces delay and queues at intersection resulting

from increase in left turning traffic approaching

Mark Center Drive, the site’s internal access road.

Construction of second left turn lane

from westbound North Beauregard

Street to Mark Center Drive

Construction of a second right turn lane

from Mark Center Drive to southbound

Seminary Road

Thats it, zero investment in transit.

by RJ on Sep 30, 2008 10:02 pm • linkreport

Today's Washington Post has more information. Source:

"The owner of the Mark Center, the private development on Seminary Road where the office complex will be built, said it will invest as much as $10 million to improve intersections and expand lanes in the area. The company, Duke Realty, also plans to create a transportation hub on the site, with local bus service and shuttle service to the King Street Metro, which has a Virginia Railway Express depot."

Somebody in Alexandria's government must know the details of Duke Realty's plans. Any readers live in Alexandria?

"Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce R. Homer said one long-term way to reduce congestion would be to bolster bus service along the I-395 corridor and south of Alexandria, where many of the employees live. Although the Springfield location was preferable from a transportation perspective, he said, the Mark Center will be workable."

It's interesting to see that VA's Transportation Secretary is paying attention. However, I doubt that this will translate into action.

by Chuck Coleman on Oct 1, 2008 7:53 pm • linkreport

At least the Mark Center is next to a bike trail.

by washcycle on Oct 3, 2008 4:21 pm • linkreport

Who did Duke choose as their architect?

by Emma Boyd on Oct 15, 2008 9:08 am • linkreport

(This spam comment has been removed.)

by (spammer) on Apr 2, 2009 8:08 am • linkreport

Wow, the spam is getting creative. I agree that the internet is getting to be an important medium.

by Michael Perkins on Apr 2, 2009 8:41 am • linkreport

Yeah, usually I remove these before they stay on very long. They're not too frequent, fortunately.

by David Alpert on Apr 2, 2009 9:21 am • linkreport

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