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Assessment needed for I-395 near Mark Center

Sunday - 4/10/2011, 10:26pm  ET

Mark Center (WTOP Photo/Hank Silverberg)
The new Mark Center is seen across I-395. (WTOP Photo/Hank Silverberg)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A big plan to alleviate predicted traffic congestion around Alexandria's new Mark Center hit a major roadblock.

The Federal Highway Administration notified Virginia that plans to widen the Seminary Road on- and off-ramps of Interstate 395 will require an environmental assessment.

About 6,400 defense workers are to move to the Mark Center by the fall as part of Base Realignment and Closure plan.

Virginia Department of Transportation officials say the environmental study is unnecessary because the ramp will be built along existing right of way.

The assessment would set back construction by 18 months.

The state is already under fire for not producing enough roadway to handle the expected influx of 6,400 defense workers moving to the Mark Center along Interstate 395 by September.

At a briefing earlier this month, Virginia Department of Transportation BRAC coordinator Tom Fahrney provided details for widening the ramps to help with increased traffic, along with adding a bus and carpool ramp. He said the state planned to build an $80 million reversible ramp into the HOV lanes with direct access to Seminary Road.

He said the ramp could be under contract by late 2012 and completed on a very aggressive schedule by 2014.

Those dates are now uncertain given the federal government's request for an environmental report.

Traffic studies show there will likely be gridlock in the Seminary Road, Beauregard Street and I-395 areas by the end of the year.

BRAC mandated large scale moves among military personnel in the region. When it is all completed, counting traffic to the Pentagon, there will be 84,000 defense workers commuting along the I-95/395 corridor.

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