- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2007

Virginia lawmakers are trying to bar the Department of Defense from moving thousands of workers to Fort Belvoir until roads around the base are upgraded to handle the influx of commuters.

An amendment to the House defense authorization bill, which passed yesterday, would require the Army to certify that 13 transportation projects totaling $446 million are “substantially completed” before moving 9,000 workers from leased office space in Arlington to the base in southern Fairfax County.

“This is basically saying we should put the horse before the cart,” said Rep. James P. Moran, the Virginia Democrat who authored the amendment. “If [the Defense Department] wants the people moved, then they ought to pay for the transportation necessary to move them or work it out with the county.”

The 9,000 workers are fewer than half of the 22,000 workers Fort Belvoir is set to gain by 2011 from the military’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan. The additional workers will nearly double the number of people who work on the base.

An Army study released in March identified the 13 transportation projects as crucial. If they are not completed before the new workers arrive, commuters will face hours-long delays, the study said.

The Defense Department has not funded any of the projects, and county leaders have expressed outrage that the state and county are left to pay for the Defense Department’s decision.

The amendment does not require the department to help shoulder the cost of the road improvements, but Mr. Moran said he hoped that the department’s desire to move the workers within the BRAC timeline would spur them to shell out some of the money.

Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said he appreciated the congressman’s effort to lessen the transportation tangle BRAC is likely to cause for the county.

“We want to be supportive of BRAC and we want to be supportive of the mission of the Army, but we need federal help to do that,” said Mr. Connolly, a Democrat. “The transportation impacts are very substantial and they have to be addressed. You can’t just put the entire burden on the state and the county.”

The measure will not disrupt the BRAC plans of any other states because it only affects workers in Northern Virginia, Mr. Moran said.

“This amendment is self-contained within my district,” he said. “It simply delays some people that are already living here and using Metro and leased office space.”

He and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican who also supports the measure, have been working together for months to locate some of the jobs coming to Fort Belvoir near the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.

The defense authorization bill transfers the ownership of a land parcel near the Metro station from the General Services Administration to the Army.

Mr. Davis said he hopes Fort Belvoir will place as many as 9,000 workers on the site to help alleviate traffic problems.

“We’re just trying to protect it in the Senate now,” he said.

A spokesman for Virginia Sen. John W. Warner, a Republican, said Mr. Warner would “examine” Mr. Moran’s amendment but did not say whether he would support it. Mr. Moran noted Mr. Warner has been supportive of the BRAC plan in the past but hoped he would add a similar amendment to the Senate bill, which is expected to be debated next month.

“I’m trusting that he will put what’s in the best interest of his constituents ahead of an unreasonable demand from the Defense Department that accomplishes nothing in the way of national defense,” Mr. Moran said.

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