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New Report on DOD’s Mark Center Move Prompts Rep.Moran to Call for Delay, Possible Legal Action

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I just received the following press release from Rep. Jim Moran’s office, on the subject of the Dept. of Defense IG’s “damning” new report on the Army’s planned move to Alexandria’s “Mark Center,” the “looming traffic nightmare” it poses, plus calls for delay and possible legal action to forestall this looming debacle. I commend Rep. Moran for his efforts in this regard, and I certainly hope he succeeds!

DoD Inspector General Releases Damning Report on Army’s Mark Center Move

Moran renews calls for delay of occupation, suggests opportunity for legal action

Washington, DC – Stemming from a breaking report released by the Department of Defense’s own Inspector General (DOD IG), Congressman Jim Moran, Northern Virginia Democrat, renewed his calls for a delay in the full occupation of 6,400 employees to the Mark Center in Alexandria and highlighted the opportunity for legal action against the Army as a new way forward to prevent a looming traffic nightmare.

The DOD IG report provides damning evidence that the Army mishandled its legal obligation to prepare adequate environmental analyses prior to its decision to purchase and construct the Mark Center facility. The facility will accommodate the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) recommendation #133 endorsed by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“Unfortunately, the Inspector General’s report proved what we have said from the beginning – the Mark Center decision was flat-out wrong,” Moran said. “Clearly corners were cut and in some cases, what should have been obstacles to fast-track approval were ignored altogether.”

Lots more after the “flip”

 

The DOD IG examined two key Army studies used to justify the relocation of 6,400 employees from Metro-accessible office buildings in Northern Virginia to the Mark Center: the 2008 Environmental Assessment (EA) and its 2010 Transportation Management Plan (TMP). The review was requested by Moran in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2011 (H.R. 6523).

The DOD IG found the Army’s TMP insufficient to mitigate traffic; the Army’s EA may not support the service’s determination of “no significant impact” on surrounding roads; and recommends the Army begin from scratch to complete a “more technically robust, standalone traffic impact analysis”.

“I think we finally have the credible foundation for a legal challenge to this pending fiasco. It’s one of the only remaining options, but it’s a powerful one,” Moran continued. “The Commonwealth, local governments, civic associations, businesses and residents in the vicinity of the site would have legal standing – they will all be adversely affected. An alliance of such aggrieved parties with legal standing can seek an injunctive delay. I have sent a letter to the Governor and heads of the affected local governments requesting they consider getting involved legally as a way to hold the Army accountable for their faulty decision making process.”

Legal action could potentially delay occupation of the site well past the September 15 deadline as required by BRAC law. Moran sent letters to Governor McDonnell, the City of Alexandria and the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William.

Key findings and recommendations by the Inspector General include:

Traffic mitigations in the BRAC #133 environmental assessment (EA) “may not be sufficient” to support the finding of no significant impact on surrounding roadways.

Failure to adequately coordinate with stakeholders.

Failure to solicit sufficient public input.

Problems found in existing Transportation Management Plan included:

*Failure to consider overall traffic impact beyond 2011; Virginia Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration studies project impact 25 years after relocation of site.

*Only considered traffic impact within 0.3-mile radius around the Mark Center; underestimating the moves’ true impact on I-395. VDOT analyzes impact up to a 2-mile radius.

*Ignored impact of vehicles queuing to enter the parking garages.

*Failure to fully consider midday transportation for car-pooling individuals who may need to leave Mark Center facility for medical or family reasons.

*Failure to complete a regional travel demand modeling as required for the EA process.

*Recommended the Army update existing Transportation Management Plan.

*Recommended a new reassessment of the transportation effects.

Text of the letter to Governor McDonnell, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William below:

On April 20, 2011, the Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG) released its report on the sufficiency of the Army’s Final Environmental Assessment Implementation of 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Recommendation #133, and the Transportation Management Plan for BRAC #133 at the Mark Center.  As a result of the DOD IG’s final findings and recommendations, and given the severe impact occupation of the site in its present state would have on the quality of life of Alexandria City residents, I encourage the City to consider legal action.

According to its report, the DOD IG “determined that the proposed traffic mitigations in the BRAC #133 environmental assessment may not be sufficient to support the finding of no significant impact (FNSI),” and recommended that a new reassessment of the transportation effects be completed.  Further, the DOD IG found that the Army’s transportation management plan (TMP) “did not include or sufficiently address several critical demand management strategies” and recommended that the Army update the TMP and complete a “more technically robust, standalone traffic impact analysis.”

I believe the DOD IG report confirms what many have suspected all along: the Army’s FNSI was erroneous and its TMP insufficient to prevent unacceptable levels of traffic congestion in northern Virginia.  Due to the Army’s position that it will begin occupation of the Mark Center in August 2011, I ask that you consider taking legal action to force the Army to address the outstanding issues raised by the DOD IG.  An injunction would provide the judicial branch the opportunity to evaluate the Army’s actions to date at the Mark Center and buy the neighboring communities and commuters across Northern Virginia some relief while more effective mitigation measures are implemented.    

I thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

James P. Moran

To read the complete DOD IG report, “Assessment of BRAC 133 Final Environmental Assessment of July 2008 and Transportation Management Plan of July 2010,” please visit.

To read the Army’s 2010 Transportation Management Plan (TMP), please visit.

To read the Army’s 2008 Environmental Assessment (EA), please visit.

More on Rep. Jim Moran’s efforts to prepare for BRAC relocations, please visit.