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DoD IG report faults Army’s Mark Center plan

- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 1, 2011

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. and Sen. Mark R. Warner harshly criticized the Army on Thursday for a report showing its transportation-management plan to accommodate 6,400 federal workers relocating to a Defense Department office complex in Alexandria was ill-conceived and logically flawed.

The report, released by the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, concluded that the traffic studies used to develop the Army's transportation plan for the Mark Center under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process were based on "faulty base line data," and, therefore, not reliable.

The report's release comes after an IG report in April that recommended the Army start from scratch and complete a "more technically robust, standalone traffic impact analysis" for the area around the complex, which the Army calls BRAC-133, on Seminary Road at Interstate 395.

"That's one of the astounding things about this — the Army is in a deep state of denial," Mr. Moran said. "You're entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own set of facts."

The Army, for example, underestimated the number of peak-hour trips in the area by 100 percent, Mr. Moran said.

The report recommends that the Army conduct a new traffic study that includes morning and afternoon peak-hour traffic counts. The Army, in its response, said the studies were prepared by transportation-engineering professionals and that to complete another one would not be a good use of funds.

"We do not believe a new traffic study will provide additional solutions to past or existing traffic issues along the I-395 corridor and interior arteries leading to the BRAC-133 site, and therefore do not concur with the findings and recommendations," L. Jerry Hansen, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army wrote in a letter dated Nov. 4 to Deputy Inspector General Randolph R. Stone.

The inspector general, though, found the Army's responses inadequate, and requested additional comments in response to the report by Dec. 30.

Mr. Warner said he was going straight to Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta on the matter.

"At some point, enough is enough," he said. "I don't use the term 'cooking the books' lightly, but that sure as heck appears to be what it has been."

Mr. Moran and Mr. Warner, both Democrats, said the Army should limit the transfer of workers into the site until a new transportation study is in place and transportation improvements are made.

Mr. Moran has sponsored legislation pending in Congress that caps the parking spaces to be used at the site at just under 2,000 until construction to alleviate congestion is completed.

In September, four members of Virginia's congressional delegation, including Mr. Moran and Mr. Warner, penned a letter to Mr. Panetta expressing concern with the Department of Defense's ability to prevent a traffic nightmare in light of the department's "aggressive" occupancy schedule, which dictates the transfer of almost 5,000 employees to the site by the end of the year.

The Defense Department has committed about $20 million in transportation improvements in the vicinity, and the Virginia Department of Transportation is planning to spend $80 million on a reversible ramp from the HOV lanes on I-395 to Seminary Road. But absent federal action, the 6,400 workers slated to be relocated to the Mark Center will be moved in before those improvements can be finished.

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