Seven musts to keep BRAC congestion at bay

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I never supported putting the Washington Headquarters Services (BRAC) buildings at Mark Center. Eisenhower Valley and the Van Dorn Metro were always the obvious location, and I was as shocked and dismayed as everyone in our community when the Department of Defense chose lower cost and poor transportation infrastructure over mass transit availability. 

And now we have an inspector general report that tells us what we knew: the Army cut corners and avoided working with the local community. We have been misled many times through this process. Now we have to do all we can to slow down the relocation to Mark Center.  The Army owes our community time to get the needed road improvements in place. As we near the official opening of the Mark Center BRAC building, the question is what do we do next?  Below are seven things that are essential to our ability to move forward.

First, we need to work with Congressman Jim Moran and do everything we can to delay the move-in date for the buildings. We need time to get road and transit improvements in place.

Second, the City of Alexandria and concerned residents have worked hard over the last few years to put together transportation plans to improve roads and expand the availability of mass transit around Mark Center. Working to ensure these are implemented must be a top priority. Moran has been a strong partner recently, securing $20 million in federal funding for these improvements. We must continue to work with him to see that the money is spent wisely.

Third, through coordinated work with Alexandrias General Assembly delegation, Alexandria City Council and our regional partners, we have secured state funds for interchange improvements to ease the way for mass transit to get to the Mark Center. This is critical; we have to make mass transit the preferred transportation option for people working at the Mark Center. Full occupation of the WHS should be tied to the completion of this interchange.

Fourth, we need to be thoughtful about additional development along Beauregard Street.  Last fall, I successfully pushed to slow down development planning so the community could consider the many transportation and open space issues. There is now a citizen-led, rather than city-led, process in place to review transportation and planning issues on the West End of Alexandria.

Fifth, Winkler Botanical Preserve must be protected. I took the lead in making sure Winkler would not be harmed by BRAC. My kids, and thousands of others, go to Winkler each year to learn about the natural environment. I will keep working with parents and others from across Alexandria to protect this community gem for the long term.

Sixth, we must maintain a focused opposition to high-occupancy toll lanes as they have been planned to date. I wrote and championed Alexandrias policy against HOT Lanes. I am proud of our citys work against HOT Lanes on I-395, and I will always fight against handing over our roads to private companies that will increase cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods. We cannot let BRAC become an excuse for building HOT Lanes that will overrun our neighborhoods.

And seventh, mass transportation solutions that address the overall growth in our region are a must. BRAC is part of a larger onslaught of growth that demands a better regional transportation system: Skyline, Shirlington, Crystal City, Baileys Crossroads, Landmark Plaza and Landmark Mall all desperately need a coordinated approach to mass transit. That is why I have been working hard to create a high-capacity mass transit network between Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax. Car-oriented solutions will not fix this. For our quality of life and neighborhood prosperity, it is essential we move quickly toward better mass transit systems.

We must work together to focus our energy on specific ideas to move the region forward.  Our community deserves nothing less.

The writer is a member of the Alexandria City Council and running as a Democrat to represent the 30th District in the Virginia Senate.

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