Creeping down Interstate 395 Tuesday morning with other frustrated Northern Virginia commuters, I suddenly realized that we would all soon remember such barely-moving traffic as the "good old days." In nine months, 6,400 federal workers will move to the Mark Center in Alexandria as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan to consolidate the federal workforce in secure facilities. "This is going to be chaos," Rep. Jim Moran, D-8th, told Federal News Radio, adding that the move will add up to two hours to everyone's commute. "It will be as though there was a car crash that took away two lanes of traffic on 395 every single morning." Moran has been trying to distance himself from the hare-brained decision to move thousands of defense workers to an area with no nearby Metro stops and no direct access to the interstate. But his fingerprints are all over this one. Here's the timeline:
2005: BRAC report approved by Congress
May 2007: Moran and then-Rep. Tom Davis, R-11th., add language to the 2008 defense authorization bill requiring the General Services Administration (GSA) to transfer their Metro-accessible warehouse in Springfield to the Army.
Sept. 2008: In a letter to Moran, fellow Democrat Gerry Connolly (then chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors) points out that the GSA site meets all of the Army's requirements as opposed to the Mark Center. "The Mark Center site has...security issues...coupled with minimal access to mass transit, creating major transportation issues for the region."
Oct. 2008: The Army's announces its final choice of the Mark Center, which Moran says "will benefit the region's commuters." Fairfax Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee, calls it "a prime example of one dumb land-use decision after another."
Three weeks after selling 16 acres for $105 million ($6.5 million/acre) to the government, Dennis Oklak, CEO of Indianapolis-based Duke Realty, makes a $2,300 maximum contribution to Moran's re-election campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission. Executives from Clark Construction, which will build the 15- and 17-story Mark Center towers for $695 million, donate another $10,900 to Moran's warchest.
Jan 2009: Construction begins
May 2010: Moran inserts language into the 2011 defense authorization bill capping parking spaces at the site to 1,000. "They can fill the office building as long as they don't drive to it," he says.
Sept. 2010: Moran, a former mayor of Alexandria, holds a town hall meeting to "discuss" the upcoming gridlock he supposedly had no power to prevent.
Oct. 2010: Republican challenger Patrick Murray blasts Moran's attempts to distance himself from the mess: "This is Jim Moran's district and nothing happens in this district without him knowing about it."
Nov. 2010: Moran is reelected after convincing 8th District voters that 1) the Army picked a less satisfactory site over the strenuous objections of the senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee; 2) Connolly mistakenly surmised that Moran had some input into the final decision; and 3) both the property owner and the construction firm rewarded Moran for opposing the $800 million deal.
In a desperate attempt to delay the day of reckoning, Moran announces that "Congress" has asked the Defense Department's inspector general to look into the BRAC "process."
Sept. 15, 2011: Date by which, under federal law, BRAC move must be completed.
Nine months to go, and there's literally no exit strategy in place. But Rep. Moran is right about one thing: It's going to be chaos.
Barbara F. Hollingsworth is The Examiner's local opinion editor.