Fairfax County wrestles with Fort Belvoir expansion

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Fort Belvoir has released new, preliminary information on its $4 billion expansion project which, according to Army officials, is planning to relocate more than 22,000 jobs to Fairfax County by 2011. 

Subject to the Armys Base Closing and Realignment Commission, or BRAC, 18,000 of those workers, said Fort Belvoir commander Col. Brian Lauritzen, will work north of Fort Belvoir in the Engineer Proving Ground, which means that for those who drive along Route 1 around Fort Belvoir, traffic is about to slow down considerably for about five years and for maybe much longer.

Essentially, said Lauritzen, There are roughly 23,000 working at the Pentagon every day. In a simplistic manner this is like moving the Pentagon over here. Part of the proposed construction would widen I-95, add lanes to Route 1, and the overall expansion of every major road in and around Fort Belvoir to try to prevent congestion around the Army Base. However, the millions of dollars required for such road costs would not be part of the Armys Base budget for the project and Congressional and city officials are unhappy with the prospect of pouring so much money into the plan.  And even critics to the proposed plan agree that in order for the Armys proposal to be a success, adequate funding for the roads will be a must.

Ive had a chance to meet with county officials, Lauritzen said, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for those individuals. Having read some of the feedback as a result of this preferred strategy, I think this is a great opportunity to find out what really is a win-win relative for their concerns.

As of now, the Army has outlined 14 traffic projects, 11 of which have no prospective funding identified in the future. That could cost upward of $300 million to make transportation improvements that would make a compelling difference, said Gerald Connolly (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The original rationale for BRAC was the governments estimate that tens of thousands of jobs in Alexandria, Arlington and Crystal City were not physically secure. These Army jobs were held in urban settings and buildings were vulnerable to terrorist actions such as a car bombing. We need to get all those assisted functions into a secured perimeter. So what were going to do is wholesale, let those leases expire and relocate them in Fort Belvoir, said Connolly. But it will be difficult, he said, especially with the road construction proposals that are just getting on the table.

The Engineer Proving Ground will be home to a new $400 million National Museum of the U.S. Army, which officials think will bring more than one million tourists a year.  

Still in its infancy, the proposed improvements to transportation and the BRAC realignment will have to go under further scrutiny in public hearings and a series of environmental reviews.

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