McDonnell asks for Mark Center delay

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has asked the Pentagon to delay relocating 6,400 defense workers to the Mark Center in Alexandria so officials have more time to complete transportation improvements to lessen traffic impacts.

McDonnell’s May 6 letter, released Wednesday, was sent to U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates. It comes after a report from the Pentagon's inspector general stated that the Army used faulty data to estimate the impact that moving thousands of defense workers to the Mark Center.

“Virginia is extremely fortunate to be home to a large number of military installations and we are pleased that our strategic location near the Capitol Region, our high quality of life and our pro-military policies have resulted in a significant investment and expansion of our military bases through much of the BRAC process,” McDonnell said. “However, to ensure that these transitions are successful and do not result in gridlock for commuters and military personnel alike, we must work together to ensure that our transportation system is ready before we shift large numbers of new employees to our military bases. That is why I am asking for better coordination of these DoD efforts with the Commonwealth and a phased-in approach at the Mark Center to ensure a seamless and successful transition.”

The earlier reports from the Department of Defense Inspector General and Virginia Department of Transportation predicted gridlock around the site if transportation enhancements aren’t completed. The workers are expected to transfer to the Alexandria site in September.

In the letter, the governor wrote, “The Commonwealth believes a combination of the improvements cited above and strict implementation and adherence to the Army’s Transportation Demand Management Program will resolve many of the impending traffic issues at Mark Center. However, since these improvements are several years away from full implementation, the Commonwealth recommends that the DoD delay full employee relocations to the Mark Center until the short-term and HOV/Transit ramp projects are operational. If this recommendation is adopted, we further suggest employee relocations should be coordinated with the Commonwealth, phased in and continually monitored to determine the maximum number of employees the transportation systems can accommodate.”