It appears that 30th State Senate district Democratic candidate Libby Garvey intends to raise the Mark Center issue every chance she gets. A few weeks ago, as we discussed at Blue Virginia, the Garvey campaign sent out a press release expressing its “outrage” over the “BRAC” (Base Relocation and Closure) facility slated to open this September on Seminary Road in Alexandria off I-395 at the “Mark Winkler site”. At that time, the Garvey campaign specifically pointed its finger at the Alexandria City Council, and particularly at Council member Rob Krupicka – one of her two rivals for the nomination – for not preventing this situation. Personally, I remain confused as to who’s at fault in all this, and feel like I need to take an extra-strength aspirin every time I think about this issue. How about you?
Press Statement on Mark Center BRAC Facility
Recently discovered safety concerns and the findings of the Inspector General at the Department of Defense clearly indicate that the opening of the BRAC facility at Mark Center should, at the very least, be delayed. There are simply too many questions over the way in which this project was handled. These concerns involve the safety of Department of Defense employees and those citizens who live near the Mark Center facility, inadequate consideration of transportation demands and difficulties, and disregard for the environmental impact of the project. There is no question at all about the ongoing traffic catastrophe that will be created immediately if this facility is occupied by its 6,400 employees before road improvements are complete.
I recommend that the following steps be taken:
1. The Obama Administration should immediately begin an interagency investigation of the Mark Center BRAC facility to determine if safety, transportation and environmental concerns were discounted and even disregarded in the process of approval and construction. If so, something like this should never happen again. The investigation should involve the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department, and the Department of Defense. Until this investigation is completed, plans to transfer employees to this building should be suspended.
2. The City Council of Alexandria, the Arlington County Board, and the Fairfax County Board should seek a court injunction to delay opening of the Mark Center BRAC facility until safety, transportation and environmental concerns are adequately addressed.
3. The Governor and/or the Virginia Attorney General should seek court action to determine if safety, transportation and environmental concerns were discounted or disregarded in the process of approving construction of the Mark Center BRAC facility. Enormous transportation problems already plague Northern Virginia, and coping with this project will only exacerbate an already very serious situation.
4. Community organizations and businesses should seek to file friend of the court briefs in support of the effort to secure an injunction to delay opening of the Mark Center BRAC facility. These could include, for example, the Northern Virginia Community College, Inova Alexandria Hospital, citizen associations, apartment complexes, assisted living communities, condominium associations. All will be affected by the opening of this facility, and all have a right to be heard.
It is clear that serious safety, transportation, and environmental concerns were likely discounted and disregarded as this project was developed, approved and constructed. Opening this facility will also open the door to continued expenditures of millions of dollars to cope with these concerns, while employees, commuters and residents struggle with their effects.
I am aware that there are those who will say that the investment is so great that it would be unwise to try to delay opening the building. I disagree. For transportation reasons alone, it is pure folly to charge ahead. With the current situation, let alone during necessary road construction, commuters will face much greater delays in getting to work. Employees at the BRAC building will be scarcely able to get to work. Children will not be able to get to Hammond Middle School. Patients and medical staff will not be able to get to Alexandria Hospital. Those who live near the facility will face enormous difficulties getting to and from home.
Others will say the law requires the building be occupied. I say we have elected officials and courts for a reason: the law must be changed to allow for sufficient delay to address safety concerns and to put in place reasonable accommodations for the volume of traffic created by this monstrous building.
Common sense says we should pursue all options to delay the opening of this facility. It is not too late to avoid the abyss that lies ahead.