The Pentagon has agreed to provide almost $270 million for improvements around Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County and the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, yielding to pressure from elected officials who complained that mass transfers to the two facilities could worsen gridlock.
The Defense Department said it would fund a $180 million project to widen Route 1 to six lanes near Fort Belvoir and provide $88.9 million for intersection improvements and a new underpass in Bethesda.
The fight for federal help came about because the Pentagon’s guidelines don’t require it to support transportation enhancements when it transfers thousands of defense personnel unless the changes would cause congestion to double.
While that might be a reasonable standard for military facilities in relatively rural locations, in a region already beset with some of the worst congestion in the nation, traffic likely would reach complete gridlock well before its volume doubled.
The transfers — under the Base Realignment and Closure plan — were made more problematic because they involved tens of thousands of workers who already lived in the region, making it more likely that they would drive to their new offices. People relocating to the region might find housing closer to their jobs.