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Army OKs new museum site after concerns over gridlock

The Army agreed yesterday to move the proposed site of a planned national Army museum in Fairfax County after months of intense criticism from elected officials about the original location.

The Army now plans to locate the National Museum of the U.S. Army near the Route 1 corridor, where county officials hope it can anchor a commercial revitalization and complement existing tourist attractions, including George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.

In July, the Army announced plans to put the museum on an undeveloped tract in Springfield called the Engineer Proving Ground. The museum would have been joined by nearly 22,000 new jobs that are coming to Fort Belvoir by 2011 as part of a national military base realignment.

Elected officials immediately decried the Army's decision, saying that the new work force -- essentially equal in size to the Pentagon -- plus a tourist attraction expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors a year would bring gridlock to that part of the county, which straddles Interstate 95.

Army officials countered that putting too many of the jobs or the museum on the Route 1 corridor would create gridlock there, where traffic also is heavy.

Yesterday, the Army acquiesced and agreed to put the museum on Fort Belvoir near the intersection of Kingman Road and the Fairfax County Parkway, just off Route 1.

A golf course currently is located at the Kingman site.

"After consulting extensively with our local congressional delegation, Fairfax County supervisors and other members of the public we are persuaded that the Kingman site better supports the region's traffic needs and the desires of our community neighbors," said Keith Eastin, the Army's assistant secretary for installations and environment.

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, praised the announcement.

"The Army has listened to the concerns of Northern Virginia leaders" and "shown willingness to compromise," Mr. Moran said.

Also yesterday, Mr. Eastin said the Army no longer would pursue a public-private financing arrangement for the museum. The Army had solicited proposals for private projects such as a hotel and conference center that would complement the museum and help pay for its construction.

A brief firestorm erupted over an unsolicited proposal for something akin to a military theme park next to the museum that would have included rides that simulate paratrooper jumps and tank battles. The Army nixed that proposal as inappropriate.

Without a public-private partnership, though, it is not clear how successful the private fundraising effort to build the museum will be.

The location of the museum -- as well as the additional 22,000 jobs -- are still subject to environmental and other reviews.

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