House bill holds Pentagon responsible for traffic mess at Mark Center

House bill holds Pentagon responsible for traffic mess at Mark Center
Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) was joined by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) and Sen. Mark Warner (D) in touting new legislation forcing the Pentagon to take responsibility for Mark Center. (David Sachs)

Legislation forcing the Department of Defense to clean up long anticipated traffic congestion around the Washington Headquarters Services buildings is poised for passage, top Virginia lawmakers announced Friday.

“This may just sound like words, but it holds the Pentagon responsible,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) at a Friday afternoon press conference at the Capitol. “This is exactly what we wanted.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) and Sen. Mark Warner (D) joined Moran in touting the legislation, part of the appropriations bill meant to avert a government shutdown, which calls on Defense Department officials to prepare a traffic management plan for the area around Mark Center. Any improvements needed to alleviate traffic congestion would be funded through the department’s budget.

Other language within the legislation would cap the total number of parking spots available to commuters at 2,000. The Pentagon annex was expected to flood the region’s roads with nearly 7,000 new commuters.

Though the buildings are not fully operational – defense officials began a phased shifting of employees to the facility in September – about 2,000 parking spaces are already regularly filled, meaning new commuters will have to rely on mass transit or other methods to get to Alexandria’s West End.

The press conference comes just weeks after DoD’s Office of the Inspector General issued a report critiquing the Army’s planning for the new annex, located in a neighborhood without easy access to a Metro station.

The report accused officials of using faulty congestion data, basing at least some of their conclusions on traffic studies done on national holidays when the normally clogged I-395 artery saw fewer motorists. At the time, Warner said Army officials “cooked the books.”

“It’s remarkable that it took two Inspector General reports to get this done,” Warner told reporters Friday.

Look for more updates throughout the day.

David Sachs contributed to this report.