Saturday, September 11, 2010

Driving in DC #5

The Borg is coming, and this is what it looks like in Washington, DC:

Yes, that's right, it's the Department of Defense's Mark Center, located just off of Exit 4 of Interstate 395 in Alexandria, VA.  If anyone hasn't seen it yet, the building is big and imposing.  Even as it was going up as just a steel skeleton, I would think, "Holy moly, that thing is huge."  It's only 17 stories, which by New York City standards is actually pretty low, but it's designed to hold over 6,400 employees and the site itself is 16 acres -- enormous by NYC standards.

And it's the impending influx of those 6,400 employees that makes this the "Driving in DC" entry.  The nearest exit for this building is off of Seminary Road, and that already isn't pretty around rush hour.  The Army's Traffic Plan (pdf) says they plan for 3,840 parking spaces and that 20% of employees will use the shuttle buses.  Other reports say the shuttle buses will shuttle to the Mark Center from the King Street, Ballston, Franconia/Springfield, the Pentagon, and West Falls Church metro stops.

I sincerely applaud the traffic engineers' efforts to tackle this really, really difficult problem.  Obviously, military planners want a centrally-located auxiliary office building that's near the Pentagon, but not AT the Pentagon. That means inside the Beltway ... and there just aren't very many locations within the Beltway.  But, aaugh, I don't think and extra 3,800 cars coming in and out of the Seminary Road exit are going to make for a more pleasant experience on I-395 at 5pm.  And no matter how you slice it, there is some serious left-turnage involved for those coming in from the south:

(The Google Maps photo is old and doesn't reflect the new construction over the past two years.)  Add to this the other 15,000 or so workers who are being relocated to Fort Belvoir, and I-95 becomes nearly impassable.  Ouch.

I'm not the only one who's concerned.  In May, Virginia representative Jim Moran stuck language into the 2011 Defense Spending Bill that would reduce the number of parking spaces available for the new Mark Center to 1,000, unless the Army could "fully mitigate the impact on local traffic."  I'm not sure that's a productive way to go about doing things, but I'm sure it got people's attention.

As for me, I plan to watch traffic snarl on the webcam when the site opens in a year or so.

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