Federal workers have started moving into the Department of Defense's new Mark Center complex in Alexandria, Va., and so far, the traffic jams that many feared would come with the building's opening haven't arrived. But it may be too soon for motorists in the area to breathe a sigh a relief.
Katie Test works in commications for the education leadership organization ASCD, which is headquartered in the shadow of the new Mark Center building. For months, the organization's management has been prepping employees for coping with the extra traffic expected to come with the 6,400 federal workers the giant building will house as a result of the military's Base Realignment and Closure Process (BRAC).
But Test says in the past few weeks, she's noticed extra police presence more than any extra cars.
"I'm secretly optimistic, though I feel like I should knock on wood," she says. "I feel like if it weren't for the cop presence I probably wouldn't have noticed that BRAC had moved in."
City of Alexandria transportation director Richard Baier says one thing that's helped so far is DOD's plan to phase the arrival of workers. Only about one-third have moved into the building so far. He fears the complex will produce some serious traffic problems going forward.
"By the end of the year, they'll have about 4,900 people, and by October of next year, we'll have 6400," Baier says.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who's long criticized the project, also warns that traffic tie-ups near the building could get much worse when the Department of Defense sets up a security checkpoint for vehicles entering the complex.