- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Metro Chief Executive Officer Richard A. White yesterday said extending the Blue Line would be a practical solution for getting people to and from work if thousands of military jobs relocate to Fort Belvoir.

Mr. White said Metro studied a five-mile extension to Fort Belvoir a couple of years ago, at the request of Metro Board Chairman Dana Kauffman, Fairfax County Democrat.

The most likely scenario would be a regular subway or a light-rail line from the Franconia-Springfield station, because a CSX freight railroad right-of-way would make it easier and cheaper than other routes, Mr. White said.

“We’ve studied it and evaluated it, now it’s just a matter of seeing whether there’s a need to do it and the means to do it,” he told the Associated Press.

A Defense Department base closure plan could move 18,000 jobs to the southern Fairfax County facility. They would come from several locations — including Arlington County, Bethesda and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest.

The plan is still a preliminary one, with local governments and Fort Belvoir having to weigh in.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission must submit its final report to President Bush by September. Both the president and Congress must approve.

Mr. Kauffman said it is too soon to predict the impact on traffic.

“We know where the jobs are going, but we don’t know where they’re starting their commute from,” Mr. Kauffman said.

He added that if people now riding Metro were forced to drive, the region would need to extend the Blue Line.

Fort Belvoir has 24,000 workers, making it the largest employer in Fairfax County.

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, has said traffic around Fort Belvoir is already at gridlock and is worse since the Army closed a road at the base for security reasons.

Mr. Moran told the AP that the decision to move jobs from the Pentagon, the Homeland Security Department and the Justice Department makes no sense and will cost taxpayers more to build new buildings and infrastructure such as transit.

“If the feds are going to pay for it, we could do it tomorrow,” Mr. Moran said. “If the locals would have to pay for it, we’ll go to a bus/rapid transit system.”

Although cost estimates are rough, Mr. Kauffman said a study figured that it would take $700 million to $800 million to build a rail to Fort Belvoir.

“Even if we get funding to do it, it’s still going to take several years,” Mr. Kauffman said.

An extension that size would normally take four or five years to build, but Mr. White said it could be expedited.

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