Sometimes a complex problem offers no real solution, as frustrating as that can be to acknowledge. Sometimes mitigation is the best that can be done. Such is the quagmire that is the Mark Center BRAC project.
A cursory look at the multiple players involved in this saga suggests there will be no heroes, but plenty of potential villains: the Department of Defense, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, the Alexandria City Council, members of congress and a company looking to turn a profit Duke Realty.
The closer the BRAC project gets to completion, the angrier stakeholders are becoming. This was evidenced at last Thursdays town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Jim Moran at Hammond Middle School (near the BRAC site). There, nearby residents shouted in anger that they werent consulted during the BRAC decision process, while officials from all parties involved passed the buck. No one admitted wrongdoing. What a mess.
Auditing the process that got us where we are today may eventually absolve some and fault others. But right now its about moving forward to lessen the blow that the Washington Headquarters Service buildings will surely deliver to the surrounding neighborhood and commuters when it opens a year from now.
To his credit, Moran has played a leading, constructive role during this entire process. He opposed the Mark Center site from the start. Once the site was approved and DOD and VDOT floated a proposal to build a ramp connecting I-395 with the site, which would have virtually destroyed Alexandrias Winkler preserve, Moran led the opposition and the idea was shelved. The congressman has played a key role in searching for reasonable ways to alleviate the biggest challenge arising from the project: the additional 3,800 vehicles that will be travelling to and from the site daily.
Such an onslaught of vehicles just one year from now with no major traffic improvements at the site would surely result in untenable auto backups in the vicinity, turning Alexandrias West End into an impassible parking lot for much of the day. This is clearly unacceptable.
The proposed steps to allay this traffic nightmare, such as limiting the BRAC facility to 1,000 initial parking spaces and building a direct access ramp into the facility, wont solve the bigger problem VDOT says a true solution is five years out but they should help.
But this isnt enough. The major players say they are trying their hardest to come up with just short-term fixes, and long-term solutions arent even on the horizon. If this is true, congress should work with the Army to get the federally mandated deadline extended. To do anything less categorically neglects the most affected stakeholders Alexandrians.