Federal Times Blogs

Moran: BRAC move would snarl NoVa traffic

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The under-construction Mark Center in Alexandria, Va., next to I-395 at dawn Aug. 4/from U.S. Army's Flickr page

One of the most frustrating parts of living in the Washington area is trying to drive into the nation’s capital during rush hour.

And if the Defense Department follows through with its current relocation plans, commuting might get worse.

Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., said in an Aug. 6 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the department’s “ill-advised” plans to move 6,409 employees to the Mark Center complex in Alexandria, Va., will cause catastrophic traffic jams on roads — including Interstate -395, the main corridor Virginians take to commute into Washington.

The Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure committee originally recommended moving those employees — who now work at leased offices around the capital area — further south to Fort Belvoir in Virginia. But Defense officials decided to look elsewhere when an Army study found it would cause three to four hours of congestion around Belvoir, and tie up traffic along the I-95 corridor by up to two more hours.

But Moran said the Army’s latest transportation plan found that the move would result in “failing levels of service” on local roads, intersections and I-395. Those roads would be gridlocked even if enough commuters carpooled or took public transportation to cut single-occupancy vehicles by 40 percent, he said.

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OPM: Telework next week to avoid nuke summit

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Traffic’s gonna be ugly next week in Washington — way uglier than usual. President Obama and the leaders of more than 40 other countries will be meeting at the Washington Convention Center Monday and Tuesday for a major nuclear weapons summit, and several nearby streets will be completely closed. So the Office of Personnel Management is advising Washington-area federal employees to telework or use alternative work schedules on Monday and Tuesday.

The road closures are likely to snarl traffic throughout downtown Washington, and parking restrictions, detoured buses and the temporary closure of the Mount Vernon Square Metro Station won’t help either. 

OPM Director John Berry yesterday issued a memo to the government’s chief human capital officers that “strongly urged” eligible employees to telework. Employees under alternative work schedules were also advised to take Monday or Tuesday off. Non-essential, non-emergency employees can request to use annual leave, leave without pay, or compensatory time off to steer clear of the District those days. OPM advises employees who have to show up next week to carpool or take the Metro to reduce traffic, but be prepared for your commute to take a lot longer than normal.

Remember how much fun it was driving that first week after the snowstorms? Sounds like we’re in for more of those good times.

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Nuke summit to snarl traffic next week

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President Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and other world leaders are scheduled to meet in Washington next week to discuss Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs. For feds and other Washingtonians, that’s going to mean several closed streets around the Washington Convention Center, restricted parking, detoured buses, and the temporary closure of the Mount Vernon Square Metro station.

Check out the Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock here for more information, and start planning for your commutes next Monday and Tuesday to take longer than usual. Even if you’re not planning to go near the convention center, Dr. Gridlock notes that traffic problems will probably spread out to other parts of the district. Who knows — it may be a good day to telework.