Friday, February 11, 2011

NAS Says Feds Need to Pony Up for BRAC

Last year, Senator Mark Warner pushed through legislation directing the National Academy of Sciences to study whether existing federal law on the funding of local transportation improvements relating to military facilities was adequate. The Washington Post also covered the report here.

Existing military regulations require a doubling of local traffic before the military will invest in local off-base transportation improvements. On U.S. 1, this would require traffic through the base to go from 60,000 cars per day to 120,000 cars per day because of BRAC. That's basically equal to interstate traffic and is an unrealistic standard. The study is now out.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended moving over 181,000 personnel to military bases. The largest relocation in the United States was the 24,100-person relocation to Fort Belvoir. The Belvoir relocation is expected to add 13,000 people to surrounding roads (1,200 cars per day to U.S. 1 near Woodlawn and thousands more south and west).

The study states the following:

The Fort Belvoir BRAC action will have significant adverse impacts on the region’s transportation system, but especially Fairfax County’s primary and secondary road network. … These adverse impacts are especially significant along Richmond Highway (U.S. Route 1), as it bisects the Main Post. … Additionally, Fairfax County’s secondary roads surrounding [the Main Post and Fort Belvoir North] will experience severe congestion, particularly during peak periods. This includes increases to delay times, queuing lengths, volume/capacity ratios (V/C) and overall degradation of the level of service (LOS) at numerous intersections. (DoD 2009, p. 50)

Deputy Garrison Commander Mark Moffatt reported to the committee that it can take 45 min to travel 1 mi in and around the Main Post during peak periods. Shuttles to the transit station 7.2 mi from the Main Post require 18 to 20 min in the peak and considerably longer in the off peak.
The report goes on to talk about the effects BRAC is expected to create.

Costs At least 30 major highway or transit projects have been identified as necessary to serve Fort Belvoir (including the Mark Center discussed next), only 10 of which have some funding and only four of which are fully funded (DoD 2009, p. 53). The estimated capital costs of unfunded BRAC-related transportation projects for the three Fort Belvoir facilities range from $626 million estimated by the Army to $1.9 billion estimated by Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) (DoD 2009). The latter estimate includes approximately $600 million to extend Metro to Fort Belvoir as well as road improvements not included in the
Army’s estimate. The implication of these remaining unresolved problems is that an already heavily congested area will become even more so when 13,000 additional employees, as well as hospital patients and contractors, are added to the traffic mix.
Finally, it goes on to talk about the long-term implications:

It is clear that many thousands of employees, both military and civilian, are being moved from employment centers located nearer the center of the region, with well developed highway and transit networks, to more remote locations further from the center where road and transit service is comparatively poor, where long experience has shown that competitive transit service is virtually impossible to achieve, and most people do and will travel in individual cars.

Existing transportation facilities serving the Fort Belvoir area are already overloaded and suffer severe congestion even before the new employees arrive. As discussed in Chapter 4, these changes are occurring when funds available for transportation improvements are inadequate and large backlogs of unfunded projects lie dormant on extended waiting lists. Even if funding were available, the time required to achieve planning and environmental clearances and public participation associated with new transportation facilities is outside the 2011 deadline locked into the BRAC legislation. Both military and local authorities charged with planning for these changes have been working diligently to solve these problems and have put in place some road expansions, planned new transit and shuttle services, and prepared aggressive traffic management plans. While they have found some new funds and reprioritized others, it is also clear that they have added to the long lists of unfunded transportation projects in the region. They have sounded warnings about possible dire conditions that may be on the horizon.

The report concludes by pointing out that existing federal law is not adequate to address the issues presented by BRAC relocations occurring in metropolitan areas. The report makes several significant recommendations:
  • Better coordination in developing base master plans between the military and local government;
  • Department of Defense should fund off-base transportation improvements;
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation should also coordinate transportation planning with military authorities;
  • The military needs to think more about transportation in making its personnel decisions;
  • The Federal Government should consider a special one-time appropriation to address the transportation problems created by BRAC.
Basically, it's time for the federal government to pony up for the disaster that's about to occur. Our federal elected officials - Senators Webb & Warner, and Congressmen Moran & Connolly are doing all they can to do this, but it's clear this is a national problem and time is running short to do something.

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