Part 4: A traffic ‘meltdown’ waiting to happen?

When Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, takes a look at the local BRAC sites -- the Mark Center, Fort Belvoir, Quantico M...

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON – What’s the point of BRAC? Consolidation, efficiency, productivity. But is the reality of what’s coming something much different?

“We consider BRAC the poster child for poor land use and transportation decision making,” Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, tells WTOP.

When Schwartz takes a look at the local BRAC sites — Mark Center, Fort Belvoir, Quantico Marine Base, Bethesda Naval and Fort Meade — he sees a “meltdown.”

“They’re not ready. They don’t have the money for all the transportation they need to do it. It will require extensive widening if it is going to be completely auto-dependent. And certainly, it will take a long time to provide adequate transit connections, since they (the federal government) didn’t plan for that either.”

All Base Realignment and Closure moves are supposed to be completed by mid-September of this year. Schwartz says the changes will only put more people behind the wheel in an area that already has some of the worst congestion in the country.

“What’s sad about this, is that this is tied in a sense to National Security — that’s how some of the moves were justified,” Schwartz says.

“Yet, we’re worsening our oil dependency by pushing more people out into their cars to commute to these new sites, compared to the sites that they had before which were (mostly) next to transit.”

His thoughts are echoed by John McClain, deputy director of the George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis.

“The BRAC stuff is going to take a few years here to kind of settle out, and it is kind of a shame that we had to move so much stuff around.”

McClain says all in all, 4 million square feet of office space that the area didn’t really need, was built as part of BRAC.

“We’re just relocating people. And it’s a shift that needs to be done in a more rational, planned out way than it’s been carried out here.”

Fort Meade and Quantico Marine Base

As the area braces for what’s coming concerning BRAC, one local installation is already in full swing.

Every week, hundreds of employees from the Defense Information System’s Agency move out of their offices in Northern Virginia, and head to Fort Meade. They’re moving to a brand new, sprawling 1.1-million-square-foot campus, which is now the largest office complex in Anne Arundel County.

By August 2011, more than 4,000 government civilian employees, active duty military and contractors will work in the new facility. In total, about 7,000 personnel will move to Fort Meade as part of BRAC.

So how’s the transition been going?

“In our case, it appears — at least on the surface — that it’s been a very smooth and organized process,” says Col. Daniel Thomas, installation commander at Fort Meade.

DISA’s massive complex now essentially sits side-by-side with the National Security Agency.

Nearby Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway could feel the effects.

“You can’t downplay the traffic issue. I have been to a lot of other places in the area — especially when you go down south into the D.C. area, and some of the other installations in that area. And in some sense, we are much better off,” Thomas says.

One of those places down south is Quantico Marine Base. About 3,600 personnel are being shifted to the base. Traffic impacts are expected along Route 1 and I-95, adding to the frustration of those already heading to Fort Belvoir and the Mark Center.

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