GREENBELT – A decision on the new home for the FBI is expected next month, and the General Services Administration (GSA) is reaching out to the communities around the shortlist sites in advance. The GSA is holding a series of public meetings, one each in Greenbelt, Landover and Springfield, Va., to discuss transportation mitigation measures […]
GREENBELT – A decision on the new home for the FBI is expected next month, and the General Services Administration (GSA) is reaching out to the communities around the shortlist sites in advance.
The GSA is holding a series of public meetings, one each in Greenbelt, Landover and Springfield, Va., to discuss transportation mitigation measures that will be recommended in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) due next month. The Greenbelt meeting was held Feb. 13, and members of the public heard about plans to improve traffic flow around the Greenbelt Metro station in the event it is chosen as the site for the FBI’s headquarters, as well as explanations for the increase in parking requirements since the draft EIS was released.
“We’re here tonight to present an update on the transportation changes since you’ve last seen this project,” said Aaron Hassinger, project executive at GSA. “I hope this presentation proves helpful in providing insight into the work already done as a preview of the upcoming release of the final environmental impact statement and as a catalyst for communication.”
If Greenbelt is selected, 10 roadway and infrastructure improvements would be necessary, according to Mark Berger with the engineering and planning firm Louis Berger. This is the same number included in the draft EIS, but one of the specific sites slated for improvement has changed. Overall, though, Berger said much of the information is the same.
“There’s been very little change between the draft and the final as far as the amount of mitigation. We’re just kind of highlighting, little by little, what was already done,” Berger said.
The big change between the draft and the final, however, is an increase in the amount of employee parking spaces required at the Greenbelt site. The EIS said 3,600 spaces would be needed, a ratio of one space for every three employees. However, subsequent analysis showed an additional 2,400 spaces would be needed, for a total of 6,000 and a ratio of one space to 1.81 employees.
Doug Grant, project executive with the FBI, said the agency’s function of protecting national security requires employees be able to arrive at work even if public transit, like Metrorail, shuts down in the event of an emergency.
“In the case of a national security emergency or crisis situation, our new headquarters must also support a sudden and unforeseen surge of additional staffing, to include FBI employees, local law enforcement and intelligence community partners. These crisis situations require 24-7 support when public transportation may be unavailable, either due to the time of day or the nature of the emergency,” Grant said.
Employees’ ability to telework is also limited due to the need for secure networks and workstations, Grant said.
Berger said another factor GSA used in deciding more parking was needed was data collected from two models: the Washington Metropolitan Council of Government’s transit demand model and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) land use and ridership model and development-related ridership survey. Then, the data generated from the models was checked against a similar federal campus, the Naval Support Activity Bethesda facility in Rockville. Berger said the site has the same number of employees (11,000) and a similar location near both the Capital Beltway and a Metro station. That facility has an employee transportation coordinator who conducts yearly surveys on how personnel there commute to work, Berger said.
“It was good to know that instead of just pointing to this model, we’re actually validating with somebody in the field who’s taking these surveys and actually knows what’s going on in his facility,” Berger said.
Modeling was also used to determine which intersections would need mitigation, Berger said. Data on existing conditions as well as planned future development independent of the FBI was added into a simulation, which finds routes the same way the Waze smartphone app does, he said.
“(The app) tells you go here, go here, because it’s looking at the actual traffic conditions. It’s trying to find the most optimal travel time for you. This model, that’s exactly what it’s doing,” Berger said. “It’s a balancing model to try to find out how to get every single vehicle of the FBI from the external area of the study boundary to the site.”
Traffic signals would be adjusted at Powder Mill and Edmonston Roads, Sunnyside Avenue and Edmonston, Greenbelt Road and Greenbelt Station Parkway, Greenbelt Road and Cherrywood Lane and four locations immediately around the FBI site. New lanes would be added at Edmonston and Powder Mill, Sunnyside Avenue and Edmonston Road, Greenbelt Road and Cherrywood Lane, and Greenbelt Metro Drive and the north access gate from the site. Several of the lanes are now proposed to be longer than in the draft EIS.
The new mitigation is at the southbound approach to the site from Greenbelt Station Parkway, at the WMATA garage. The new plan would forbid left turns at that location and have all cars turn right, then make a U-turn.
Berger said dynamic lane assignment – like currently exists in Landover surrounding FedExField – would be put in place for one of the locations, which would serve as an entry to both the FBI site and other planned development.
“It allows you to be efficient with your existing number of lanes and not adding extra lanes that are empty during the times of minimal use,” he said.
Berger said according to the models, those measures would still leave two areas of failing service, both on 495. By elongating the deceleration lane leading to the Beltway ramp into the station, Berger said one area can be brought up to acceptable levels. The opposite trip – merging back on the Beltway when leaving the site – would still be failing, however. Berger said the state highway administration has committed funds to make improvements there in the event the FBI comes.
He added that with the mitigation measures, commuters and residents should not face negative traffic impacts from the FBI.
“We’re also trying to ensure that the transportation system, in the future, is working at the same level or better than if the FBI weren’t placed here at all,” he said.