On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Virginia’s Department of Defense workers are on the move as a huge shift of military and civilian personnel gets underway. Crystal City will lose 13,000 workers, but instead of lamenting the loss Arlington County is looking ahead. In other changes, the population at Fort Belvoir is set to nearly double, and not everyone is welcoming a move to the Mark Center in Alexandria. We look at what Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, means for your neighborhood and your commute.
- Andrea Morris Is the Base Realignment and Closure Project Coordinator for Arlington County.
- Abi Lerner Deputy Director of Transportation for the City of Alexandria
- Marty Nohe Member, Prince William Board of County Supervisors; chair, Northern Virginia Regional Commission’s BRAC Committee.
- Terrie Suit Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs and Homeland Security, Commonwealth of Virginia
U.S. House member Jim Moran (D-8th District) discusses what brought BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) to the Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia, and the impact the 6,400 workers it brings will have:
Fox News Channel 5 covers Congressman Jim Moran’s test run of the proposed shuttle from the Metro to the Mark Center on September 29, 2010:
Information from Fairfax County, including land use impacts, about the transfer of 14,000-19,000 Department of Defense jobs to Fort Belvoir by Sept. 15, 2011:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It seemed far away at the time. With military moves, put into motion six years ago, are shifting the defense population across Virginia, and a lot of change is coming, too. The big story in Northern Virginia is the move to the Mark Center in Alexandria.
MR. KOJO NNAMDISixty-four hundred workers are set to move into a brand-new facility there. That wasn't part of the original BRAC plan. We'll talk about that. But what else is happening in Northern Virginia? A lot, and it will mean big changes for everyone who travels through the area. We'll get the latest on regional and local efforts to handle even more traffic along major commuter routes and talk about changes coming to Crystal City.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut, first, the big picture for Virginia. Joining us by telephone from Richmond is Terrie Suit, secretary of veterans' affairs and homeland security for the Commonwealth of Virginia. She serves as Gov. McDonnell's senior adviser on military relations. And her office has been focusing on how BRAC will affect communities across Virginia. Terrie Suit, thank you for joining us.
SECRETARY TERRIE SUITThank you, Kojo. It's great to be here with you.
NNAMDIA sixth of all BRAC changes are taking place in Virginia. We'll get to Northern Virginia in a minute. But what other sites across the commonwealth have you been working on, like, oh, Fort Monroe in Hampton?
SUITWell, we've had our hands full. Since 2005, lots of things are going on in the commonwealth, lots of movement down in the Hampton Roads area. We've seen the Fort Monroe closure process moving forward, and we're looking forward to having Fort Monroe back in the hands of the commonwealth this fall. So that's been a big one. Lots of activity at Fort Lee in Central Virginia with the growth there.
SUITActivity out in the Charlottesville area with Rivanna Station, which is an annex to Fort Belvoir, but it is a new station out there with a whole lot of military folks and civilian folks working hard. And then, of course, we've had a tremendous impact up in the Northern Virginia area with the Crystal City and the Mark Center and the Fort Belvoir. And, of course, Quantico, lots of growth at Quantico. So it's been a busy time in the commonwealth.
NNAMDIWhen the BRAC commission made its decisions in 2005, you were serving then in Virginia's General Assembly. Have you noticed any changes in the relationship between the DOD and the commonwealth since that time?
SUITAbsolutely, absolutely. At that time, our relationships were not as -- boy, I'm trying to give the right word for it. We had relationships. We didn't work at those relationships the way we should have. Now, we have a concerted strategy for making sure we are reaching out and interacting with the installation commanders, the military leadership on a regular basis. The governor is very proactive at developing relationships with the military leadership.
SUITAnd our General Assembly and our local governments have been fantastic at joining in that effort and doing the visits and sitting down at the table with our military community partners and discussing any issues that are important to them and important to Virginia as we all work together to live together in this commonwealth.
NNAMDIAllow me to invite our listeners into this conversation. You can call us at 800-433-8850. Are you affected by BRAC changes in Virginia and, if so, how? Call us at 800-433-8850 or go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. Indeed, if you want to know more about all things BRAC, you can visit our website. You'll find links to our BRAC series, all of the WAMU newsroom's BRAC reports and a map of the projects underway in our area.
NNAMDIThere are few videos on our page. For today, a clip of Congressman Jim Moran from this past Friday's "Politics Hour," talking about how BRAC came to Alexandria, a Fox News video from last September where the congressman does a test run on the proposed route from the Metro to the Mark Center and a Fairfax County government video from 2008 about BRAC projects in the Washington area.
NNAMDIAgain, though, you can join the conversation at 800-433-8850. Secretary Suit, the DOD is spending more than $5 billion on construction in the commonwealth as a result of BRAC. How much of that spending is on or for their own bases? How much has Virginia had to spend to get ready?
SUITSo, yes, most of what you're seeing on the DOD side is their internal, their (word?), their construction, their changes to the Gates' and transportation funding assistance. They utilize a group called the Office of Economic Adjustment to work with impacted communities and the state itself. And so we have received quite a bit of money, several million dollars, to assist with Fort Monroe, to assist with some, also, non-BRAC issues.
SUITWe had the recent announcement of the reduction down there in Hampton Roads of the Joint Forces Command. And so we also received some OEA money to help with that impact. We've had moneys from OEA up there in the Arlington area to deal with the Crystal City leases. So OEA has been very active in supporting us. And then the commonwealth itself, since 2006, has made significant investments.
SUITWe put $10 million into the DARPA project up there in the Arlington area. We've been -- we had to make a commitment in order to keep the jets, the aviation assets at Oceana and Virginia Beach. We made a commitment to fund $15 million a year split between the locality there and the state for acquisition of properties around the installation to reduce encroachment.
SUITAnd, now, we are encouraging all of our communities that have installations to work with the active-duty contacts on encroachment mitigation, reducing encroachment on those bases. The quickest way to lose a military installation is when you encroach so much with development that they can't do their mission anymore. And so we're working proactively to reduce that.
NNAMDIWhat kind of support has the commonwealth received otherwise from the Department of Defense?
SUITWell, like I said, the Department of Defense uses the Office of Economic Adjustment...
SUIT...to provide that support. And a good example, we've just received word that, in the federal budget, there will be $350 million for transportation up in the D.C. or in the Northern Virginia area, which OEA, Office of Economic Adjustment, will be facilitating. And so they've been very good at working with us as a partner on the funding side. They haven't been as great about some of the decisions.
SUITFor example, the Mark Center decision was not well coordinated. And we're all dealing with the negative impacts of that now.
NNAMDIA fallout from that, so to speak.
NNAMDITerrie Suit, you were raised in a military family. Your husband was in the Navy for decades. So you know that military jargon can be tough for civilians to understand. Has it been difficult for the DOD and communities to learn how to communicate with one another?
SUITYou know, it's interesting. You would think it would be, but I see a tremendous outreach. When we work with our DOD partners, they do change their language a little bit. And our localities have been bringing in a lot of former military personnel on the civilian side of the fence now to help them with that outreach.
SUITYou look around and most of our localities have point people, points of contact internally now, that come from a military background, speak the language and can communicate well with the military. So we're also seeing that a lot of our folks in decision-making positions in the localities have a military background of some sort. You know, one in every eight Virginians is a veteran, and so...
NNAMDISo you're not the only translator or interpreter. There are others.
SUITNo, no. We've got lots of them, lots of partners across the commonwealth, and they're doing a fantastic job.
NNAMDITerrie Suit, thank you so much for joining us.
SUITOh, I appreciate it, Kojo. Any time that we can help answer questions, we want to do that with you.
NNAMDIMaybe we'll need a translator ourselves. Terrie Suit is secretary of veterans' affairs and homeland security for the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is our ongoing discussion of the changes coming with BRAC in Virginia or the changes coming with BRAC, period. Last week, we discussed Maryland. This week, we're discussing Virginia. Next week, we will be talking about Washington, D.C., Walter Reed. 800-433-8850 is the number to call.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio now is Andrea Morris, base realignment and closure project coordinator for Arlington County. Andrea Morris, thank you for joining us.
MS. ANDREA MORRISThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Marty Nohe. He is a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and chair of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission's BRAC Committee. Marty also grew up on Fort Belvoir. Marty Nohe, thank you for joining us.
MR. MARTY NOHEGlad to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Abi Lerner. He is deputy director of transportation and environmental services for the city of Alexandria, Va. Abi, thank you for joining us.
MR. ABI LERNERThank you for having me.
NNAMDIOnce again, you can join the conversation at 800-433-8850 or by going to our website, kojoshow.org. We'd love to hear from you. First, I'd like to hear from each of you about what your job is and how BRAC has affected your work life. First, you, Abi.
LERNERI'm the deputy director of transportation. And our department needs to deal with transportation planning, traffic engineering, transit planning and roadway designs and implementation of a transportation infrastructure. We are going to be affected by BRAC in many aspects related to transportation, so we have been dealing with parking issues, with traffic issues, with traffic coming and cut-through traffic and, obviously, with the regional impacts that BRAC is going to have.
LERNERSo we've been very, very involved and working very hard on trying to address all those transportation issues.
NOHEYou know, thanks, Kojo. The -- this -- the BRAC realignment that we're dealing with in Northern Virginia has had a huge impact on every jurisdiction. And Prince William County, where I'm from, is maybe not unique, but unusual, maybe nationwide in that we have a large military installation, Marine Base Quantico, within our county. But we have a huge number of our residents who work at either the Pentagon or the garrison at Fort Belvoir.
NOHEMany of them will be working at Mark Center. So we're sort of sandwiched in between two very large bases that are very heavily affected by this. One of the lessons that we picked up very early on was that, while every jurisdiction has to take responsibility from mitigating the impacts of BRAC and capitalizing on the opportunities that BRAC brings within their county or city, it's not a problem that respects jurisdictional boundaries.
NOHEWe have to recognize that, just like traffic jams, BRAC sees itself as a regional problem or a regional challenge. And we need to address it regionally. So the Northern Virginia regional commission, of which I'm vice chair, about a year ago, formed our BRAC committee, of which I'm chairman.
NOHEAnd we've been bringing together folks throughout the region, military, civilian, local government, business community, getting them to the table and trying to figure out how do we deal with this, not just as Alexandria or as Prince William County. But how do we deal with this as Northern Virginia and part of the national capital region?
NNAMDIAndrea, I guess, your work life is all BRAC all the time.
MORRISThat is a funny statement, a very true statement. Arlington is a downsizing activity in this round. We're losing 17,000 jobs, and 13,000 of those are in Crystal City. So in 2005, after the act became law, the county felt the need to institute a comprehensive redevelopment plan, a comprehensive plan to respond to BRAC. And my position was a result of that.
MORRISAnd so I am project manger of everything that impacts BRAC from the workforce development, economic development, to the planning, the transportation and community impacts and on and on and on.
NNAMDIWell, BRAC is bringing a lot of changes to Arlington County, Crystal City in particular. Thirteen thousand jobs will be moving out of that area. What has Arlington done to get ready for this?
MORRISWe instituted a planning activity in 2006. We applied for funding from the Office of Economic Adjustment, OEA, and received a grant that was about $1.4 million to support the planning activity, a very comprehensive plan. That's a 40-year plan that looks out. What do we do? How can we remake Crystal City, really, on its face? Crystal City, historically, has been a bricks-and-mortar location.
MORRISWhen I first moved here in August of 2001 and happened upon Crystal City, it scared me.
MORRISBecause the buildings were just so dull and...
MORRISAbsolutely. And there were -- there just seemed to be no life. And I live in Crystal City as well. So this is a huge statement for me to make. But the plan was to give Crystal City a remake, make it into a 24-hour destination, if you will, a place where people can live, work, play, that would attract visitors. We have the hotels to support the activity.
MORRISOf course, Reagan National Airport is there, and we have open spaces that would support and attract. So the plan was finished and -- thankfully, last year, on December of 2010. It was a long and involved process, to say the least.
NNAMDIA farmer's market, movie nights...
NNAMDI...transportation access, a lot of Bikeshare, promoting the airport proximity and all of the like, a kind of remaking of Crystal City. If a civilian Department of Defense does not want to move, does that employee have to move?
MORRISThey do not. They do not.
MORRISMy office, which is the BRAC Transition Center in Crystal City is an office that supports the worker, no matter whether they want to relocate or not. But about 70 percent of them are choosing not to relocate with their jobs.
NNAMDIAnd we thought it would be less than that because of the economy, that a whole lot more people would be choosing to relocate. But that hasn't proven to be the case, has it?
MORRISIt has not proven to be the case. History shows us that about 25 percent follows, and we're having about 30 percent follow. So it's adjusted somewhat. But the economy has not affected it as much and partly because of the housing.
NNAMDIWhat kinds of emotions are people sharing with you when they come in to your office about all of this?
MORRISWow, that's an incredible -- incredibly diverse question.
MORRISThere's angst. There is anger. There is concern. There is a sense of challenge. This is happening to me. This is happening to my family. What we say is that BRAC is moving jobs. But jobs are people, and people are family units. And so it impacts the entire family. We have families who have parents that they're taking care of and also children that they're responsible to and for.
MORRISAnd so, because of those networks that are already in place, they cannot relocate. The opportunities are not available in the receiving end to get the parents, again, adjusted to a routine and then to get the children in schools and to get the systems set up. And so what we're finding, again, as persons are coming in to the office is, I need help, I am desperate. There's a sense of desperation now.
MORRISIt is real. We are in June, almost July, essentially, and BRAC has not been changed. And that's been our mantra from the beginning. It's law. It's law. It's not going to change unless and until Congress does something different, and that still has not happened. So there is just a range of emotion. There's a counseling function to what we do, a literal counseling function as well as a support of finding alternative employment and developing career paths.
MORRISAnd then we also have the business side. We support the business community as well, from the retailers and the small businesses to the contractors. There's a huge impact. It's very comprehensive.
NNAMDIMarty Nohe, on the other hand, you grew up on Fort Belvoir, which is gaining a lot of jobs.
NNAMDIHow do changes you've seen there over the course of your lifetime compare with the changes underway right now?
NOHEWell, I think that's actually been a challenge that a lot of people have recognized. I'll just tell a quick story. Recently -- I didn't actually live on Fort Belvoir most of my life, but my father spent most of his military career there. We didn't move around as much as some military families. And recently, my mother wanted to show me, on Google Earth, imagery of the house that we lived in when I was born.
NOHEIt's not there anymore. And that was -- she -- we were looking, I know there was a house here. I know the address. And so there's a bit of visual change that's very dramatic. I think the character of the base is going to be changing a great deal. There are going to be -- there's going to be a tremendously -- tremendous increase in the number of people that are stationed there. It's going to be -- have to become, by definition, a much more active base.
NOHEAlso, when I was a kid, there was a larger residential component to the base than there's going to be. A big part of the function was to provide housing for military personnel, and there's -- as a part of their overall mission, that's going to become a much smaller part. Another big change and, I think, that's affecting the garrison -- I don't speak for them in this regard -- but they're going to have a much larger civilian presence on the base.
NOHEThey have huge areas that are almost entirely going to be dedicated to governmental but non-military activities. So that's a culture change for them. Along with that, you know, we're -- it's part of a growing region, and, as such, any change in this region these days comes with growing pains. And things like transportation, things like the availability of water and sewage systems, these are things that they've had to take on that maybe weren't something that were thought a lot about in years past.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. But when we come back, Abi, the Mark Center is what we'll be talking about. You can call, 800-433-8850. Has your job been BRACed? Are you moving with it or looking for a new job? 800-433-8850. Or go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation of BRAC, Base Realignment and Closure in Virginia. This month, we have been doing, every Monday, looking at the changes that BRAC is bringing to this area. If you'd like to know more about all things BRAC, you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. You'll find links to our BRAC series, all of the WAMU newsrooms BRAC reports and a map of the projects under way in our area.
NNAMDIToday, there's video there from "The Politics Hour" last Friday, where Congressman Jim Moran talked about how BRAC came to Alexandria. But if you'd like to join the conversation right now, it's 800-433-8850. Do you commute along 95 and Virginia now? We'd love to hear what your commute is like and how you think it will change, 800-433-8850. Joining us in studio is Andrea Morris, Base Realignment and Closure project coordinator for Arlington County.
NNAMDIMarty Nohe is a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and chair of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission's BRAC Committee. And in studio with us also is Abi Lerner, deputy Director of Transportation and Environmental Services for the city of Alexandria, Va. Abi, the move to Mark Center comes on Sept. 15. What does the commute look like on Sept. 16 in and around Alexandria?
LERNERI want to clarify that in September, they're going to start moving in personnel. But the completion of the move is not expected until the end of the year. So in September, they'll have approximately 2,500 employees moving into the building, but the completion will be at the end of the year. We do anticipate significant impact to traffic operations.
LERNERAnd we have been working with the Department of Defense and with the Virginia Department of Transportation to implement some measures that will need to be implemented to address the impasse. The preliminary studies that have been done show delays in and around the area of the BRAC facility in the immediate vicinity of five to 10 minutes for the last quarter mile. So the employees will also be affected throughout their entire trip.
LERNERBut for the last quarter mile or so, we expect to see delays that range from the five to 10 minutes for just that short distance. So we do know that there will be long queues and that there will be delays. The city has been trying to address a number of those issues. The city just allocated budget to place traffic control personnel at critical intersections to try to help sort of prevent people from blocking the intersections and move traffic along in a more coordinated fashion than if you don't have anybody there directing traffic.
NNAMDIThose traffic control directors better be nimble on their feet. Here's Diane in Alexandria City, Va. Diane, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DIANEThank you. Good afternoon. This question is for Abi Lerner. VDOT had originally told DOD that the fight was not viable and that more traffic analysis was needed. The city of Alexandria took quite a different stand. And to support this, people only need to go to the city website, the BRAC portions, to look at letters, particularly from the secretary of transportation, April of 2010, to Mayor Euille.
DIANEIn that, it clearly states, as well as the original letters, that the city, in response to the EA and the funds in August of 2008 stated, and I quote, "traffic studies undertaken when the city approved the Mark Center office density carefully determine what roadway improvements would be necessary. This includes the widening of Seminary Road, expansion of the turning capacity from Seminary Road into the Mark Center site."
DIANE"With these improvements, which are to be made at developer's expense, city staff is comfortable that sufficient capacity will be created by the proposed and developer-agreed-to improvements. No additional transportation studies are warranted."
NNAMDISo, Diane, you feel that the city of Alexandria is to blame if the sky falls, if a boondoggle occurs starting Sept. 16. What would be your specific question for Abi?
DIANEI'd like to know how they got it so wrong since we are now looking at short-term improvements, which are 18 months out, midterm improvements, which are three years out at a cost of $20 million, a long-term improvement currently on the table...
NNAMDIOkay. Allow me to have Abi respond. I think we've got the point. You feel that the city of Alexandria got it wrong.
LERNERWhen the preliminary studies were done, they were done in a typical way that a traffic impact analysis is done for a particular development that was on a limited basis in terms of the geographic coverage and with certain tools that were available at that time with a number of assumptions. And that analysis is what prompted putting that language in the letter.
LERNERHowever, after BRAC -- after the BRAC approval, the city has conducted more in-depth analysis that includes microsimulation and a bigger geographic area for the studies. And those studies have also been updated with new assumptions in terms of regional growth. And those studies have determined that the impact is greater.
LERNERAs a result of that, the city had been working with DOD to fund those additional improvements that were identified after those initial studies.
NNAMDIHere's what's also happening. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act contains a provision that would allow the secretary of defense to delay seven of the relocations mandated by BRAC. And on May 31, Representatives Jim Moran, Gerry Connolly, and Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner, wrote the secretary of defense expressing concern with the recently submitted Army Transportation Plan for the implementation of that BRAC recommendation.
NNAMDICiting inaccuracies throughout the plan, the lawmakers call on Secretary Gates to delay the Mark Center move for one year. How does the city of Alexandria feel about that?
LERNERWe have been supporting that position, and we have been -- at the same time that we support the position, we have been doing the analysis and coming up with the series of improvements that are needed to mitigate the traffic impact associated with BRAC. The caller mentioned some of the short and midterm improvements.
LERNERIn addition, VDOT has been working with the city in identifying long-term improvements because the short and midterm improvements will not be sufficient to address all the issues. So some additional long-term improvements are to be implemented.
NNAMDIDiane, give me a short answer, please, because we're running out of time. Do you approve of this one-year delay?
DIANEWhat is the point? Nothing is going to be different in the one year. The short term, which are the short term, are 18 months out. Midterm is three years out. The long-term improvements of the...
NNAMDISo you don't think the one-year delay will make any difference whatsoever. But, Diane, thank you so much for your call. Andrea, there's a possibility that that move to the Mark Center in Alexandria will not happen on Sept. 15. For the purposes of this conservation, we're going to presume that the move is on. But what would a delay mean for Arlington?
MORRISBecause those jobs are located in Crystal City, by and large -- excuse me -- it means a few things. First, it means that the county will work very diligently with Alexandria and continue its relationships with DOD to make the transition as smooth as possible. We don't have a position to say yes or no necessarily, and the reason being because the jobs are leaving no matter what. We're still losing the jobs.
MORRISThe decision is not to resend the decision, but to delay the decision. So that's the first statement I'll make. And then, secondly, because those jobs are located in leased facilities, the developers have a lot of decision-making to make. Do we allow them to continue to stay? If it is for a year, what will that do to Arlington's redevelopment plan? Big question. All of those have to be taken into consideration, and we are engaging those conversations currently.
NNAMDIShe said, not looking nervous at all.
NNAMDIHere is Leanne (sic) in Woodbridge, Va. Leanne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Leanne. Are you there? Leanne, come in.
LYNNThis is Lynn.
NNAMDIOh, Lynn. Go right ahead, please, Lynn.
LYNNYes. My question is this. I've been in and around the military for pretty much most of my life. And I -- for the life of me, I don't understand how that location was chosen in the first place, especially for its ingress and egresses for those people who are traveling on I-95, one of the most heavily traveled interstates in the United States as far as getting to that building.
LYNNI just viewed the new Geospatial campus that it just built, that was also a part of BRAC, and that was beautifully done. I don't understand how this location was chosen. And I'll take this question off the air.
NNAMDIIf you go to our website, kojoshow.org, right now, you will see the interview that we had with Congressman Jim Moran on the Friday Politics Hour. And he will talk about how this decision came about and how BRAC came to Alexandria. I guess the question we're looking at now is whether it will happen on Sept. 15 or whether it's likely to be delayed for a year.
NNAMDIBut if you want to get that response, I would advise you to go to our website because we don't have the time right now to go over all of that again. In case you're just joining us, we're talking with Abi Lerner, deputy director of Transportation and Environmental Services for the city of Alexandria, Va. Andrea Morris is the Base Realignment and Closure project coordinator for Arlington County.
NNAMDIAnd Marty Nohe is a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and chair of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission's BRAC Committee. Marty, I wanted to get back to Fort Belvoir for a while. The DOD spends more than $50 billion in Virginia every year and employs nearly a quarter of a million Virginians. How have you and your colleagues tried to strengthen your relationship with the DOD over the last, oh, six years since 2005?
NOHEWell, and Andrea touched on this earlier. I think it's important to know that, at the local and regional level, we have always had relationships with the garrisons. I think that one of the lessons that's come out of BRAC is that it's not enough to have those relationships. You have to have strong relationships. You have to constantly cultivate them.
NOHEI think we've been very fortunate to have base commanders at both Quantico and Fort Belvoir, who are very receptive to input from the localities, are not afraid to come to us and tell us what they think needs to be done, to ask us for help, to articulate what is and is not impossible.
NOHEI'll point out the regional commission's ability to bring all the localities together on this, actually, comes from an offer on the Department of Defense's part, to say, you know, what do we need to do to take this to the next level? I think that there are some lessons that we can already take from this though. And I would share this with any jurisdiction that has a relationship with the Department of Defense.
NOHEAnd that is the Department of Defense, in any form, is a great employer to have in your jurisdiction. Don't take them for granted. The jobs may not always be there. And sometimes, even when new jobs come, they may bring with them challenges for which you're not ready. And I'll just give you some real-life examples. We talk a lot about the transportation.
NOHEBringing a lot of new personnel into your base means a lot -- sometimes means bringing a lot of new kids into your schools. And you may not have empty desks at the elementary school, which is closest to that main gate. You may have capacity issues with your telecommunications. There may not be enough cell towers nearby. These are things that we've had to give some thought to.
NOHEBut the base has been a -- both bases have been a fantastic partners for us in Northern Virginia. And there are still things we need to overcome, but we're getting there.
NNAMDIHow do you figure out? It seems that one of the biggest challenges for communities that are BRAC-impacted is trying to figure out how to pay for the programs that residents would like to have in place in order to ease this transition. How big a challenge has it been for you to find the money to make things happen?
NOHEThe biggest impact, moneywise, has been on the transportation side. The Commonwealth of Virginia or VDOT estimates that the Commonwealth of Virginia has spent about $441 million statewide on BRAC transportation issues. And that's been the biggest challenge. I think it's important to note -- and I talked -- Andrea and I come to this with different perspectives 'cause hers is a jurisdiction, which is seeing a net loss of DOD employment.
NOHEI come from a jurisdiction which is seeing a net increase of DOD employment. With these military jobs, we're also seeing an increase in private investment to go along with that. And, of course, all the jurisdictions are struggling to capitalize on those opportunities. But the private investment that comes from those contractors, who may not be located on the base but are rather going to have their facilities, you know, out in the community, you know, taking up empty office base, they're bringing a lot of investments, which is a very positive thing for our tax base and for the residential taxpayers.
NNAMDIBut, Marty, anyone who drives in Northern Virginia will notice changes on the road three months from now, if they haven't already.
NNAMDIYour organization, it's my understanding, would like to see everyone working in Northern Virginia, everyone consider changes to their commute, not just BRAC workers. Why?
NOHEWe would suggest that everybody who drives in the highway in Northern Virginia needs to reevaluate the way they do their commute in the context of these changes. Some of this reevaluation is probably overdue. Maybe we should have been talking about this a long time ago. But the impacts of the Mark Center, for example -- that's the 800-pound gorilla here, I think -- they don't just affect folks who are employed by DOD.
NOHEThat's going to affect every single person who drives north of the Mixing Bowl. And, in fact, it's going to affect people south of the Mixing Bowl. So we need to be looking at ways to encourage people to do the things that we talk a lot about but don't always succeed in executing. More (word?) work, more ride sharing, more use of public transit, more innovative thinking about how do I get to work, when do I need to be in my car. And it's really a challenge we all have to take on.
NNAMDIAndrea, speaking of a possible delay of the move to the Mark Center, it's also my understanding that your time in this job is coming to a close because it's a temporary DOD-funded position. Do you feel like you've achieved everything you wanted to?
MORRISWow. Do we ever feel as if we've achieved everything?
NNAMDIWell, sometimes when the kids move out of the house.
MORRISWell, I'll tell you this. I'm very confident and very comfortable with the project. We've built a project that has integrity, that produces a product that is reliable and validatable, that people -- and I use the word, reliable. Again, I'm going to say it again. I get questions, and I get calls. And people stop in to the center consistently and purposely seeking us out because of the work that we've put in over the five years.
MORRISOur -- the breadth of this project is so deep. We -- we're not only losing, we're also expanding at the (sounds like) Guard site. And that's an Arlington Boulevard impact that it has really been lost in this conversation. And so, because of our experience on the gaining side, on the downsizing side and the workforce impact and the economic development impact and, again, the planning and infrastructure, we have created a comprehensive knowledge base, if you will, about BRAC and the impacts to it that we've become sort of the go-to.
MORRISAnd I'm proud of that, and not a boastful statement. I'm very humbled by that, actually, that people trust what we put on our website. It's a site that people go to rely on and look up every day what's going on, where can I get the information. And so, as I began to transition out, it's bittersweet. I'm very, again, confident, comfortable and proud of the project and the work that we've put -- that I've laid down and know that it will continue as it needs to, even if I'm not there.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, if you have called, stay on the line. We will try to get to your calls. If not, 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Do you frequent Crystal City for business or pleasure? Tell us what brings you there, 800-433-8850. Or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to email@example.com. We're discussing BRAC in Virginia. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's Monday in June, so we must be discussing base realignment and closure. Today in Virginia, we've been discussing the BRAC move throughout the month of June every Monday. And you can find out about everything BRAC by going to our website, kojoshow.org. In studio with us today is Andrea Morris, base realignment and closure project coordinator for Arlington County.
NNAMDIMarty Nohe is a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and chair of the Northern Virginia Regional Commision's BRAC Committee. And Abi Lerner is deputy director of transportation and environmental services for the City of Alexandria, Va.
NNAMDIWe got an email question from Anne, who says, "My specific concern is with Lincolnia Street, which is not directly in the Mark Center area and which I hope will not be altered to relieve traffic in the area. Lincolnia Street, between Chambliss and Braddock, has a charm all its own and provides its own relief from traffic in Little River Turnpike. I hope the traffic engineers have no designs on it." Abi.
LERNERYeah, that is correct. We don't have, at this time, any plans to make any modifications to Lincolnia Street.
NNAMDIOkay. In that case, we can move on to Corey in Washington, D.C. Corey, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
COREYHi. I'm just calling to talk about a restaurant that I really like from Crystal City. This is a response to your question about do you come there for business or pleasure?
NNAMDIYes. What's the restaurant that you go to Crystal City for?
COREYThe restaurant I wanted to mention was Kabab Palace in South Eads Street. It's a 24/7 kebab restaurant. And it's frequented by a big mix of people, from the community of cab drivers to Pentagon officials, to all sorts of people. And I've lived all over the world. I've lived in the Middle East, and it's the best kebab I've ever had in my life. So...
NNAMDIWell, I'd like Andrea Morris to be able to assure you that it's not going any place. But I don't know if she can.
NNAMDIIt's not going anywhere?
MORRISNo. We don't have any intentions on altering 23rd Street on that side. I actually live on Eads, and so I know exactly where he's speaking of. And as far west as -- the direct impact will be Route 1.
NNAMDIAnd, Corey, I guess you can end those sleepless nights now. That's not going any place, at least in the short term. Thank you so much for your call. On to Tim in Bethesda, Md. Tim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TIMYeah, hi. Thanks for taking my call. I just want to make a comment, if I could. I'm curious about the reaction of the panelists. I found that the news coverage of this BRAC 133 program -- as a member of the private sector who's been intimately involved, actually, with the whole program's planning and now current execution, I just found it astonishing how much negative press is received for it because, from my perspective, it's hugely beneficial to have this massive influx of personnel, people who, you know, pay for lunch every day, buy coffee, get their dry cleaning done near the office.
TIMIt's a boom for that part of Alexandria. And so I'm just surprised why the tenor of the discussion hasn't been more about, you know, what a great thing for the economy, the local economy, as opposed to what a nuisance it is to have to deal with traffic, you know, a bit more often than we otherwise do, although traffic is always bad everywhere around the Beltway, it seems so. And I'll take your response off the air. Thank you.
NNAMDICare to respond to that, Marty Nohe?
NOHEWell, I think Tim makes a really good point, that I think that, with anything this large, everyone comes to it with their own perspective. I do believe that, on balance, this realignment is going to have a very positive impact on Northern Virginia in terms of employment, in terms of our relationship with the military, which has such a large presence in the region.
NOHEWhat I think the challenge we face -- and, again, the transportation is where I'm looking to Abi here -- the transportation is where we deal with this the most. What I think we find in local government is that, when positive things are taking place, people notice them slowly and over a period of time. When there's challenges that arise, people notice right away. So I think Tim is exactly right.
NOHEI think that there probably has been a disproportionate amount of media attention placed on the negative, as opposed to the positive. And we probably do need to talk a lot more about that. On the other hand, you know, what I find fascinating about Northern Virginia is traffic is to Northern Virginia what rain is to Seattle. Wherever you go, people talk about it. It's what people know about us.
NOHESo you ask someone, you know, what do you think of our police department? And they say, your police are great. Just too bad it takes so long for them to get through traffic to respond. And the examples are myriad. So I think that the challenge is the negatives of this are immediate. And...
NNAMDII want to pursue that point for a second, and the point that our caller made, Andrea. BRAC means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. You're, on balance, helping Arlington County cope with losses. Yet one cannot help noticing that you seem both a bit optimistic, maybe even enthusiastic. Why is this?
MORRISWell, don't let the county board hear me say that I'm enthusiastic about losing 17,000 jobs, please.
NNAMDINo. But you seem to be enthusiastic about the whole notion of being able to meet challenge and craft change -- meet challenges and craft change.
MORRISI appreciate that. I really do appreciate that comment. And on its face, this is an economic shock for Arlington, to say the least. To lose 17,000 jobs in any other jurisdiction would decimate it, absolutely decimate it. Because Arlington has a history of being very deliberate in its planning and its economic development pursuits, we have a resiliency about us -- and I'll use that term -- that affords us the opportunity to think forward.
MORRISAnd as soon as this was announced, our wheels started spinning. What does it mean to us? And so we had to answer who we are. How do we get that way? How do we ensure that we are able to maintain this and then position ourselves to expand afterwards? And so that's the tenor and that's the tone that we've taken with this. Now, those jobs that Tim spoke with -- spoke about are coming from Arlington.
MORRISAnd we're not just necessarily happy about that, but it's the fact. And so the fact is the fact. It happened in 2005. We can't do anything about it, but we can reposition ourselves. We can take this opportunity to recreate and build something that's going to position us for even further gross and growth, if I may say it that way. To capture the private investment that Marty spoke about earlier is critical.
MORRISThe Pentagon is in Arlington. We don't expect that to go anywhere. And so that's always going to have some spin-offs and some effects that no other jurisdiction can boast, frankly. And so I do have somewhat of an enthusiasm about it when it comes to the workers in particular and being able to help them and support them and transform this negative for them into a positive.
NNAMDIEnough of this optimism. Let's go back to problems for a second here. Abi, it's my understanding that, even without a cap on parking, there are just 3,700 spaces at the new DOD building at the Mark Center, enough for about 60 percent of the employees who are coming aboard. Is there anything that Alexandria can do about that parking problem?
LERNERSure, sure. The city has been working on the parking issue. So one of the things that the city just did is they implemented a daytime parking district around the BRAC building. So only people that have a valid Alexandria sticker will be able to park in that district, thus trying to prevent some of the BRAC employees from parking into the neighborhoods and affecting the parking situation for the areas around BRAC.
LERNERIn addition, the city has been working on a transportation management plan with DOD. And as a result of the transportation management plan, there will be new transit services that are going to be provided. We -- there's going to be enhanced DASH buses. DASH is the transit provider for the City of Alexandria. From the King Street Metro to the BRAC building, with 10-minute frequency, some of those buses are going to be expressed from the Metro to the BRAC facility.
LERNERThere is also -- the city has been working with WMATA on starting a service, frequent service from the Pentagon to the BRAC building -- once again, trying to get people to get out of their private automobile and moving into these alternate modes. So the city has been working very hard on trying to take the necessary measures to give options to those employees that do not have parking at the building.
NNAMDIWell, Marty, it's my understanding that parking is an issue to all of the BRAC sites in Northern Virginia. Why are there not enough parking spaces?
NOHEWell, actually, as far as we can tell, that's by design. As a matter of fact, all of the BRAC sites were actually mandated, in 2005, to reduce parking by 30 percent, which -- there are probably a lot of reasons why that decision was made. I think -- I suspect a large part of it was that the federal government is trying to encourage people in this region to switch over to mass transit, ride sharing, whatever those alternatives might be that fit their personal lifestyle, but that represent a change for them.
NOHEBut I think that -- going back to the challenges here, four of the five BRAC sites in Northern Virginia are not served by Metro. And that has been the --maybe the biggest part of this discussion, is that because Metro is such an important part -- specifically Metrorail is such an important part of our overall network -- how do we compensate for that lack of Metro stops near these sites and in the context of lack of parking? And buses are going to be a part of it. Ride sharing is going to be a part of it.
NNAMDIIs there a chance that we'll see movement on the long-imagined, long-desired ferry service on the Potomac?
NOHEFerry service is something we've been talking about. There are a lot of moving parts of that. Like anything, it has to compete against other unfunded needs in the region. It seems to me that the best opportunity we have to use ferry is actually across the Potomac. There's been a bit of discussion, a good deal of discussion about providing ferry service from the North Woodbridge area up to Fort Belvoir and, ultimately, to the Pentagon or Old Town Alexandria.
NOHEThat is a bigger undertaking than, I think, we initially thought. But there are a lot of -- there's a lot of enthusiasm about the question of how can we move folks across the Potomac from Maryland to either Alexandria or to Fort Belvoir? And this may be just the thing that we need to make that into a reality.
NNAMDIWell, I'm afraid that's about all the time we have. Martin or Marty Nohe is a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. He's also chair of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission's BRAC Committee. Marty, thank you for joining us.
NOHEThanks for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Abi Lerner, deputy director of Transportation and Environmental Services for the City of Alexandria, Va. Abi, thank you for joining us.
LERNERThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Andrea Morris is the base realignment and closure project coordinator for Arlington County. Andrea, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to know more about all things BRAC, you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. There you'll find links to our BRAC series, all of the WAMU news rooms, BRAC reports and a map of the projects under way in our area. Next Monday, we'll be looking at BRAC and the District of Columbia, the closing of Walter Reed and the opportunities thereby made available in Washington, D.C. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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