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WaPo's Bob McCartney: Va. To Get A Break On BRAC

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BRAC move could be delayed

Lawmakers and commuters throughout Northern Virginia are likely rejoicing today, says Washington Post columnist Bob McCartney, after the House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that will delay much-maligned Department of Defense staffing moves scheduled for September.

The house voted 322-96 on a Defense Authorization bill Thursday that allows Defense Secretary Robert Gates to delay seven BRAC moves on the docket for at least one year, but maybe two or more years. The Senate is also expected to pass the bill.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) lobbied heavily for the provision, which was also supported by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. More than 6,000 workers from the Washington Headquarters Service, a division of the Department of Defense, were supposed to begin relocating from Fort Belvoir to the Mark Center, which is located on I-395 in Alexandria, in September.

But may fear it will cause a traffic nightmare, especially near I-395 and Seminary Road, where the new complex is located. "It's already very clogged, there's already severe congestion there all the time," says McCartney. "They want this extra year or two to have time to have road improvements, extra ramps and lanes, in order to help people get in and out of there more easily."

The bill also includes a provision added by Moran that will cap the number of parking spaces at the Mark Center until the road improvements are complete. If the National Defense Authorization bill is signed into law, the center will only be able to build 1,000 of a planned 3,800 parking spaces. "They're not going to have enough parking spaces there for at least two years," McCartney says.

D.C. Redistricting

The D.C. Council reached a compromise on the redistricting of the District's eight wards, and McCartney says Ward 6 residents are the ones that are the ones most up-in-arms. About 9,000 residents of Ward 6 on Capitol Hill will now vote in Ward 7, many of them from the neighborhood west of the Anacostia River known as Hill East.

"It's causing a lot of unhappiness in Ward 6 because that ward has developed, especially in the last decade, a much stronger identity and much more engaged citizens," McCartney says. "There's a real sense of solidarity there, as it’s become more gentrified, and more young families with kids have moved in."

The committee charged with redistricting did make one concession to the Ward 6 residents, however. Eastern High School and one middle school will remain as part of Ward 6. "People there would like to have a set of good schools leading from kindergarten to high schools," she says. "All one continuous stretch of schools, ll in the same ward, all with people represented by the same councilman."

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