BRAC, Ft. Belvoir, and Northern Virginia Traffic
Virginia Congressman Jim Moran argues that the Defense Department ought to step up and pay for the increased traffic BRAC is about to bring to his district:
Over the next two years, the on-base population at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County will double, to more than 47,000 people. In a location difficult to reach by bus and impossible by rail, the addition of approximately 24,100 personnel is poised to grind the region’s already notorious traffic — consistently ranked second-worst in the nation — to a halt, adding hours of backups on Interstate 95 and Route 1.
This outcome could be avoided, or at least mitigated, if transportation upgrades were part and parcel of the BRAC relocations. Unfortunately, the Office of Economic Assistance, the Defense Department agency that is responsible for aiding communities affected by BRAC, can only help hire planners and consultants to perform studies identifying infrastructure needs, not fund the projects they identify. At Fort Belvoir, they have done neither.
The other way to meet federally imposed transportation needs is through the Defense Department’s Defense Access Road program. The program can and does pay for roads in communities affected by BRAC, but only if the projects meet very narrow criteria. One such requirement is that traffic on any given roadway must double because of specific federal activity, measured over 24 hours. But when the “roadways” in question are I-95 and Route 1, the principal north-south highways on the East Coast, this is an impossible qualification.
The Pentagon’s narrow application of Defense Access Road eligibility, however, is not what Congress intended. The program was created to provide a means for the military to pay its fair share of the cost of highway improvements related to the post-World War II buildup of domestic military installations.
Presumably, the point of the op-ed is to get recognition from his constituents for fighting this fight. As a practical matter, there are two U.S. Representatives directly interested in this issue (Full disclosure: I’m in the neighboring Congressional District and the Fort Belvoir/Rt. 1 corridor is quite literally the dividing line) and several other Representatives and United States Senators live in the area and are personally effected by this issue. I’m actually befuddled that they haven’t stepped in before now, since the BRAC announcement on Fort Belvoir came out several years ago.
Moran’s argument is rather weak, however:
It’s common sense for the military to help pay for these improvements. For our men and women in uniform, and the civil servants and the contractors who assist them, time spent in traffic is time not spent providing for our country’s national security.
That’s not how it works. These people will have to put in as much time as it takes to do their job and then waste a lot of time sitting in traffic. The more logical response to the traffic issue, frankly, is that Fort Belvoir should be closed and its activities moved to a larger base in a much less densely populated area. It would be much cheaper for the taxpayer and provide an economic boom for some part of the country that almost surely needs it more than the National Capitol Region.
Since that appears not to be an option — indeed, the Powers That Be are doubling down on the base — then it seems perfectly reasonable to have the DoD pay a large part of the cost of transportation upgrades (perhaps extending the Yellow or Blue Metro lines to Belvoir, a Rt. 1 bypass, or the like rather than simply widening Rt. 1 as Moran suggests). Then again, since I’d directly benefit from this (my house is less than 1/4 mile from Rt. 1 and less than 3 miles from Ft. Belvoir) my analysis is biased.