VDOT held a meeting at the Burke Library on Seminary Road to discuss the I-395 HOV ramp and auxiliary lanes under construction. The auxiliary lanes on I-395 between Duke and Seminary 'both sides widened' should be finished by December 2014. The RAMP from HOV lane to Seminary Road should be finished in September 2016.
  • The pedestrian bridge and other pieces of the project should be finished in May 2016.
  • The City has yet to tell VDOT which of three options it prefers for the redesign of Seminary Road a Kenmore Avenue.
  • A meeting about the landscaping for this project was held on September 10 at the Police Station.
The BRAC Advisory Group held its last meeting on February 15 and plans to send a summary of accomplishments to City Council.
SHA reaffirmed its opposition to the I-395/HOV ramp to Seminary Road and sent its commentary to officials in the City, VDOT, the State and Congress.
Based on information from VDOT’s Tom Fahrney that the ramp may not do what is needed, SHA President Nan Jennings asked Alexandria’s City Council to rescind their 2011 support for this ramp. NOTE: February 10 is the last day to submit comments to VDOT about the proposed ramp to Seminary Road from I-395 HOV lane email to (include “I-395 HOV/Transit Ramp” in the subject line) or mail to Mr. Sid Siddiqui, VDOT Northern Virginia, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.
The BRAC Advisory Group determined that they had accomplished their mission and will hold their last meeting in February.
BRAC Advisory Group was briefed again by VDOT on the EA for the proposed ramp to Seminary Road from I-395 HOV lane. VDOT will hold a public meeting on the proposal from 7-9 pm at Hammond Middle School (snow date is Feb 1). VDOT’s Tom Fahrney concluded from the data studied that the proposed ramp from I-395 to Seminary Road would improve traffic flows in the AM peak hours but would not in the PM peak hours. He added that auxiliary lanes on I-395—a design where the shoulders become a lane during peak hours, just between the Seminary and Duke interchanges—would be a solution that WOULD improve the gridlock on I-395 in both the AM and PM and would ALSO improve the flow on Seminary Road in the PM.
BRAC Advisory Group was briefed by VDOT on the EA for the proposed ramp to Seminary Road from I-395 HOV lane. The briefing is on the City website. VDOT will hold a public meeting on the proposal from 7-9 pm at Hammond Middle School (snow date is Feb 1). Preliminary report is that there are no substantial impacts to resources, just minimal on noise and air. The impact of projected right-turns from the proposed ramp is considered “not significant.” Traffic is expected to increase on the HOV lanes in non-peak hours when the HOT Lanes are finished. All Level-Of-Service (LOS) at the intersections included in the study area are considered “acceptable” meaning graded A-D rather than E&F. The level of service in the I-395 is rated F during peak hours and the rating will not be changed by the ramp. Noise barriers may not be workable mitigation option for the ramp since the highway is elevated and the ramp will be above it. Citizens asked VDOT for the economic impact of the ramp and sound barriers on their homes. They also wanted to know how the proposals for changes to I-395 at Seminary Road will work with the plans for the HOT Lanes ending near Duke Street, but the consultant wasn’t hired to do that. The consultant’s report will be available 15 days before the public hearing at and written comments must be submitted to VDTO within 15 days of the meeting.
Mayor Euille requested funding to widen the I-395 bridge at Sanger Avenue even more than is needed to build the proposed ramp.
The City held a public meeting about emergency management at the BRAC at Mark Center at the auditorium of the Hammond Middle School (nfi).
The BRAC Advisory Group met without me. The meeting place was changed but I never saw the item hidden in the agenda attachment.
The BRAC Advisory Group elected a Vice Chairman Geoff Goodale to fill the vacancy left by Chairman Dave Dexter’s resignation. Mark Benedict was elected the new Vice Chairman. The Army is moving in gradually and traffic congestion has yet to materialize. When past Chairman Dave Dexter spoke at the Alexandria Federation of Civic Associations, he indicated that the City accepted the Army’s offer of $1.5 M for open space mitigation, which the City had valued at $14.5 M.
Members of the BRAC Advisory Group elected a new Chairman—Geoff Goodale—and Vice Chairman—Mark Benedict. VDOT is considering spot improvements on I-395, such as adding a lane between Duke Street and Seminary Road. So far the phased move-in of Army personnel to the BRAC-133 building at Mark Center has not created any traffic problems. The City will hold a meeting about emergency response to problems at the site on October 20, 7-9 pm, at the Hammond Middle School auditorium. The next BRAC Advisory Group meeting is Wednesday, October 19, 7pm at the Beatley library.
Mayor Euille sent a letter to Congress about a Time Magazine article that DoD is anxious about a possible bombing at the BRAC at Mark Center facility and asked for help in getting a plan together for emergency response to an incident at the BRAC building.
The special BRAC Advisory Group meeting was well attended and allowed the public to express concerns about the NEPA Environmental Assessment process currently underway for the proposed HOV ramp from I-395 to Seminary Road. As a result, all hope that VDOT’s consultant will get the necessary data to make the right assessment of this proposal. Public comment on the data and VDOT’s recommendation will likely be on December 15.
The earthquake shook the powers that be enough to realize the need for an emergency plan for the BRAC folks at Mark Center. Mayor Euille wrote a letter requesting a better emergency plan than to just rely on City Fire and EMS.
Some cost estimates of the BRAC at Mark Center based on what Nan hears: tax revenue lost because the Army bought the land rather than renting it (one estimate $60 million over 20 years while Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks said $4 million in taxes is lost annually or $80 million over 20 years), additional costs to the City, ($1 million this year for police to manage traffic, so far) and transportation improvements (VDOT is paying $20 million for the short- and mid-term road improvements being constructed, and the State of Virginia may also foot the bill for an $80 million ramp to Seminary Road from the I-395 HOV lanes that SHA has opposed since 2002).
VDOT sent a letter to the City with eight questions; none of which mention the “scope” and “purpose and needs statement” for the Environmental Assessment of the proposed ramp from the I-395 HOV lanes onto Seminary Road. West End citizens believe that the City should have a response about the inadequacy of the proposed scope and draft purpose and needs statement. A public meeting is planned for Sept 7 beginning 7 pm at Landmark Mall, 5801 Duke Street, in the West End Community Redevelopment Room, which is on the second level of the mall near Macy’s and the Sprint Kiosk (park on the second level of the garage and enter through the Macy’s Court Entrance then the room is on the left). The City will then submit comments to VDOT. Citizens can also submit comments to the Vice Chair of the BRAC Advisory Group Geoff Goodale at
Update on BRAC issues: Congressman Moran’s legislation to delay the Army moving into the building until transportation improvements were in place failed to make it to the Senate. The City’s Cost Benefit Analysis completed after the fact was flawed. Acting City Manager Bruce Johnson is working on incident management planning. Alexandria’s Police and Fire Department officials are beginning to coordinate with the Pentagon. The Open Space Mitigation issues have yet to be resolved. The Residential Permit Parking program has begun. VDOT is managing the long-term traffic improvements—really only considering one possibility—the proposed HOV ramp from I-395 to Seminary Road. This proposal has three alternatives under review: no build, all access (left or right turn) onto Seminary Road, and no right turn access onto Seminary Road.
The BRAC at Mark Center opened. By September 15, 2,300 employees should be moved and, by the end of the year, another 2,500. The remaining 1,500 will be phased in by September 2012.
VDOT met with City Staff and two citizen representatives to discuss the “scope” and “purpose and needs statement” of the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed ramp from the I-395 HOV lanes onto the top level of the Seminary Road interchange. According to the Vice Chairman of the BRAC Advisory Group Geoff Goodale, during the meeting, “Robert Losco of VDOT stated that ‘The purpose of the scoping process is to solicit information from stakeholders (largely public agencies) to make VDOT aware of issues they may not have considered so they may be included in EA,’ and that ‘The purpose and needs statement is subject to potential amendment based on comments received in the public comment process.’"
The BRAC at Mark Center will open on August 9 with 2,300 employees moved in by September 15 and another 2,500 by the end of the year. The remaining 1,500 will be phased in by September 2012. City staff presented its cost benefit analysis of inviting the Army to locate at the Mark Center that is laughable. Congressman Moran’s bill to delay the opening of the building by restricting the number of employees was passed by the House but is not getting through the Senate.
With only 90 days until the Army base at Mark Center opens, the City is playing catch up. Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks is still working on a cost benefit analysis of this project. The analysis should have been done in 2007 before the Mayor and City Council decided to invite the Army to buy this property and build an extension of Fort Belvoir in a residential neighborhood (August 2008). Residential parking districts have been established but the process to get signs and enforcement are not in place. The Fire Chief expects that response time to the Beauregard area will average 15-20 minutes and knows of no plans to build a fire house west of I-395. Congressman Moran’s legislation to delay the opening of the BRAC at Mark Center for one year is in House legislation, then must be passed by the Senate and signed by the President. If this were to pass, one wonders where those workers that are moving would report since the government has likely terminated their current leases (sigh).
More about the BRAC: The Army is unwilling to negotiate a payment for open space mitigation but may give the City $1.5 million instead of the requested $14.1 million. The Army reduced the amount it will provide for public art from $400,000 to $225,000. The BRAC Ad Hoc Transportation Subgroup led by Vice Mayor Kerry Donley has finished its mandate: improving the transportation management plan, providing shuttle busses from several Metro stops to Mark Center, and allocating an additional $1 million to the Alexandria City Police for traffic control at Beauregard and Seminary Roads.
The folly of the BRAC at Mark Center made national news beginning with the choices for art, the IG study of how the site was chosen, and now the danger of having a RIF (Reinforced Inspection Facility) in a populated area and next to a Naval building that is not fortified.
The city’s Traffic and Parking Commission established residential parking zone near the BRAC at Mark Center including SHA residents in Area 8 Varsity Park. In order to restrict parking on a block more than half of the residents must request the restrictions.
The Mayor wrote to the Virginia Secretary of Transportation noting that his constituents wished to change the City’s request for a Categorical Exclusion (CE) in the study of a ramp to Seminary Road from the HOV Lanes of I-395 to an Environmental Assessment (EA). He noted that the Federal Highway Administration will make this determination.
The BRAC Advisory Group meeting became a public meeting at Hammond Middle School attended by about 200 people including the Mayor and City Council. VDOT gave its presentation about the CE for a ramp to Seminary Road—Alternative F—rather than a longer study that looks at environmental impacts and compares the plan to other options. Citizens expressed their outrage that this Army post was built in Mark Center rather than at a site near a Metro station. The Mayor and City Council members defended their previous actions regarding the BRAC. VDOT Megaprojects Tom Fahrney says the issue of whether this ramp project requires a CE or an EA now rests with the Federal Highway Administration. He added the $80 million available for the project cannot be used for any other studies and may not be available next year.
SHA Rep Nancy Jennings did not vote for the BRAC Advisory Group’s motion in favor of an EA unless the funding would be lost. She wanted an EA and to find a solution to the gridlock problem whether or not this funding would be lost. Do it right rather than quickly! During the public meeting, she reminded those present that in 2002 and 2009, the Mayor and City Council and staff had opposed building a ramp from I-395 onto Seminary Road because it would result in cut-through traffic in the City. SHA continues to oppose this ramp, despite the fact the City has changed its mind, because Seminary Road is a neighborhood street and adding another lane of traffic to an interchange that is at gridlock will not fix it. She asked VDOT what would determine that the ramp is not worth building, but got no criteria in the reply. She wonders why the $80 million could not be used to fund the short- and mid-term improvements for the BRAC that will cost $20 million.
Fire Chief Adam Thiel said he had an excellent meeting with the Fort Belvoir Fire Chief and they are proposing a new fire station #211 west of I-395 that would be jointly staffed by the City and the Army.
According to local press reports, the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA)—located in a Duke Realty building directly adjacent to the BRAC-133 at Mark Center—filed a $30 million suit against Duke Realty on 09 March 2011.
The Alexandria Federation of Civic Association passed a resolution critical of City Council for not having a public hearing before it passed a resolution in support of a Categorical Exclusion (CE) for a ramp to Seminary Road—rather than a longer study that looks at environmental impacts and compares the plan known as Alternative F to other options.
City Council passed a resolution in favor of VDOT’s plans to go for the fastest process—a Categorical Exclusion (CE)—rather than a longer one that looks in detail at environmental impacts and compares the plan known as Alternative F—a ramp from the HOV lanes to Seminary Road—to other options. City Council’s resolution also included support for restricting ramp traffic from turning east onto Seminary Road.
SHA Board of Directors passed a resolution at a special meeting which reiterates opposition to a ramp from the HOV lanes to Seminary Road and asked City Council to support turn restrictions from VDOT’s proposed ramp Alternative F onto Seminary Road east.
City Council approved VDOT’s dropping Alternative G from consideration and only studying Alternative F—configurations for a ramp from the HOV lanes to Seminary Road.
A VDOT study of a long-term improvement requested by City staff—a ramp from the HOV lanes to Seminary Road—is delayed by changes in highway regulations.
The City Council appointed the BRAC Advisory Group two years ago and likely will extend it for one more year. The city has yet to find a funding source for the short- and mid-term transportation improvements on Seminary Road and Beauregard Street. Members of Congress—Jim Moran, Jim Webb, Mark Warner and Gerald Connolly—sent Secretary of Defense Gates a letter requesting funding.
SHA Area 9 representative reported that Peter Carson will represent Seminary Ridge on the BRAC taskforce. The next meeting is on January 19 at 7 pm in the Beatley Library.
The BRAC-133 building at Mark Center and may open the summer of 2011. The Army ordered furniture and is installing communications lines. The City is seeking funding for recommended short- and mid-term transportation improvements. VDOT said they would cost $13-15 million. The following City Manager Jim Hartmann wrote a memo to Council saying the price was $17-20 million. (Note: In January 2004, City Council had waived an existing requirement that Duke Realty would provide road improvements.)
The City is still studying plans to institute a Residential Permit Parking Program in the West End and has asked for comments on four proposals found at the City website. These proposals would impact Seminary Hill residents in Areas 5 and 8 (Seminary Road and south between the Hospital and I-395). The City is asking for opinions about the boundaries of the permit parking zones, the day and time it applies, and what is required for a vehicle to be eligible to park in the zone. Currently, the City charges $30 annually for one sticker, $40 for the second, and $100 for each additional parking sticker. Visitor stickers can be purchased at City Hall.
City staff estimates the cost of running DASH busses from the King Street metro to Mark Center will be $770,000 annually. The Army is considering initially paying $500,000.
The Army is not planning to pay the City for fire and emergency services at Mark Center because Fort Belvoir is a participant in the regional sharing agreement among local jurisdictions. The Base has its own fire and emergency services and an agreement with Fairfax County to respond if needed and vice versa. Since Alexandria has a similar response agreement with Fairfax and Arlington Counties and since the BRAC at Mark Center is part of Fort Belvoir Base, the Army says it already contributes its fair share to fire and emergency services.
The City is still negotiating with the Army about the open space they eliminated but staff cannot tell the Advisory Group how many acres this amounts to or the amount of amelioration requested.
Efforts are still underway by individual citizens to get the City's cost-benefit analysis that was done before the August 2008 letter recommending the Mark Center as a site for BRAC. Elected officials also called for an IG investigation by the Army about the deal to build the BRAC at Mark Center.
Nancy Jennings gave updates on plans to control gridlock at the Army facility at Mark Center. Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner filed an amendment to the Fiscal year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act to place a 1,000 parking-space limit to ensure that DoD will work with local communities and governments to address transportation infrastructure needs. Vice Mayor Kerry Donley established an Ad Hoc Group to work with BRAC officials on issues such as emergency services and mitigation of open space. The City hired a BRAC coordinator for $90,000 a year, but his role is unclear. The City is presenting a mitigation claim to the Army for the loss of open space (only 2.45 acres of the 6 acres of trees they leveled). VDOT is doing a 5-month study of short and mid-term improvements to the I-395 and Seminary Road area.
The SHA Board Members will follow City discussions of routes for BRAC-133 shuttle busses and its Residential Permit Parking Program but have deferred taking positions until the scope of the problem(s) is known.
BRAC Advisory Group meetings during the summer focused on the transportation management plan (TMP) for the employees coming to the new building in September 2011. Issues that remain of concern are the routes the new shuttle busses will use and how to preserve residential parking in neighborhoods near Mark Center. The City secured funding to study its proposal to build a ramp from the HOV lanes on I-395 to the top level of the Seminary Road interchange. No other options are being studied at this time. The City has developed a matrix for tracking BRAC-133 Issues.
Additional efforts to improve access and services to the Mark Center site have begun. Vice Mayor Kerry Donley established an Ad Hoc Group to work with BRAC officials on issues such as emergency services and mitigation of open space violations by the Army buildings. Delegate Herring is fostering relations with neighboring jurisdictions in her Northern Virginia Community BRAC Working Group that first met on 29 July. Congressman Moran has introduced an amendment to House legislation that prohibits any more than 1,000 vehicles coming to the BRAC at Mark Center until the Secretary of Defense submits to the Congressional defense committees a viable transportation plan for the BRAC-133 project and certifies that construction has been completed to provide adequate ingress and egress to and from the business park. Senator Warner has asked for a study by the National Science Academy that might indicate a need to change the national policy for funding road construction in urban areas verses rural.
A 2008 VDOT study was updated because of the BRAC at Mark Center. It continues to focus on building priority bus/BRT system of routes along the I-95/395 corridor between between Washington and Richmond. It does not consider building HOV access at the state highways—Duke Street Rt. 236 or King Street Rt. 7—but only onto residential streets like Seminary Road and the circle at Shirlington.
An Alexandria resident, Don Buch, exchanged letters with City officials as he tries to get information about who is responsible for the disastrous location of the BRAC building at Mark Center and how to get the Army and/or Duke Realty to meet the open space obligations in the 2004 Mark Center Plaza I DSUP. His letters and the City's responses are posted on the SHA website and the Lincolnia Hills & Heywood Glen.
The Chair of the BRAC Advisory Group Dave Dexter reported that after 16 months and $700,000 we are back to where we began, with no progress on solving the expected gridlock when the Army building opens in September 2011. SHA opposes the newest suggestion from VDOT called Alternative F that the City wants to spend money to study. Another City to be studied—Alternative G—is less problematic. The Army has begun a Transportation Management Plan—six months after it said the plan would be finished—granted they are not required to even do one. Assistant Fire Chief Snead said the City is stretched thin in our area and relies on neighboring counties for coverage—the Army has no plans to fund emergency and fire services and has yet to engage with City officials—a new fire house is at least three years away. City officers are trained to handle an event at the (inspection) RIF facility, provided they can get there and have no other emergencies at the same time.
Construction has begun on the roads inside Mark Center—one will have a name change—and the addition of left turn lanes at Seminary and Beauregard, and Beauregard and Mark Center Drive.
VDOT sent a letter to the City Council proposing a new Alternative F, a ramp from the HOV Lanes to the Seminary Road bridge over the interchange at Seminary Road and I-395. SHA Board of Directors unanimously and vehemently opposed Alternative F.
The Chairman of the Planning Commission John Komoroske apologized for his use of humor during the March 2 meeting regarding the problems citizens in the West End are facing because of the BRAC coming to Mark Center.
The BRAC Advisory Group met to discuss preferred alternatives yet to be studied by VDOT. City Council may request an extension from VDOT for public comment. A subcommittee was established to consider complaints about the Beauregard Corridor Plan process.
At a public meeting, VDOT set up a display and Tom Farney spoke about findings from the State’s study of two IJR alternatives. Congressman Jim Moran and the children who want to preserve the Winkler Preserve also spoke. VDOT Nick Nicholson advised that the City has impact on VDOT’s final decision but the State’s decision is inclusive of other factors.
The BRAC Advisory Group met at City Hall and discussed additional alternatives for access into Mark Center. The chairman of the group then prepared a letter to City Council with advice.
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille sent a letter to Sharon Bulova, Chairman of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, about the need to provide better access to the Mark Center area and the City’s interest in protecting the Winkler Preserve. Alexandria and Fairfax staffs have begun meeting about common transportation problems.
The BRAC Advisory Group met at Minnie Howard School and heard first from Congressman Jim Moran and the children who want to preserve the Winkler Preserve. The Advisory Group began a process to choose an alternative for access into the Mark Center. VDOT Nick Nicholson said if Alexandria opposed an alternative, it would not be built. He then waffled and said if Fairfax and Arlington wanted it that might out-weigh Alexandria’s desires (it was crazy). City Staff quickly presented 19 alternatives—including VDOT’s original 7—and others proposed by citizens during the second Beauregard Corridor Plan meeting. There was no time to evaluate any of them.
SHA President spoke to Alexandria’s Legislative Council representatives during their public hearing, expressing concerns about traffic and requesting their support to press VDOT for better transportation alternatives for access to the BRAC at Mark Center.