Coming Soon: The Mother of all Gridlock

Monday - 5/9/2011, 4:00am EDT

What do you do if you have the second worst traffic in the nation? How do you fix it?

First, the problem...

  • The metro Washington area is one of the least fun places to commute to work. Although we have an excellent, clean Metro (subway) system, there are lots of places it doesn't go. A lot of those places are the home office of several hundred thousand civilian federal workers, military personnel and contractors. Many people still drive to work. Round trips of 50 miles, between the 'burbs and the beltway, are not unusual. Within the Maryland-DC-Virginia metro area, traffic in Northern Virginia is by far the worst. Especially in the traffic-choked area around Ft. Belvoir.

Next, the solution...

  • You order 6,400 Defense civilian workers, now housed in and around the Crystal City, Virginia area to move to the traffic-choked area at Ft. Belvoir and the new Mark Center. Crystal City, home to many federal agencies, is served by the subway system that also connects to the Pentagon. Ft. Belvoir and the Mark Center are reachable only by car, a very limited bus system or by bike or on foot. Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) represents many of those who are due to be transferred as part of a long-pending BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) move. He says it will create a permanent traffic "disaster," that will be compounded by near-permanent construction and repairs in that area. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) says the state doesn't have enough prep time to meet the tentative BRAC-move deadline.

If the solution doesn't make a lot of sense to you, welcome to a very large and growing club.

This week Federal News Radio and sister station WTOP will air a series of reports on the BRAC moves in and around Washington, including Ft. Meade, in nearby Maryland. Several thousand BRAC workers have been, and will be, moving in the crowded Ft. Meade area which also houses the huge, high-security headquarters of the National Security Agency. We'll take an in depth look at what the moves will mean to the community, commuters and impacted neighborhoods, government operations and to you and your daily routine.

Check out the BRAC Impact series here starting today. You may not like what you hear, but you will definitely learn a lot that you need to know.

Pension Not Guaranteed

Friday's column addressed employee fears that Congress will change federal retirement benefits. One reader asked the logical question:

    "Aren't federal pensions protected the way the government protects private sector?"

The short answer is not really.

As another reader put it:

    "Answer: Can we say ENRON? Or any other company that went under, taking the employee's expected pensions with them? There are few certainties in this world. The only guarantee in life is that sometime, hopefully later then sooner, death occurs.

    "As for the high 5 vs high 3, we are already locked in for 2-3 years at the same salary. When the freeze is lifted the increased income will not be much higher for 2 more years. So at this point I don't see whether it makes much difference or not. What matters is the lack of a pay hike to help with a $50 gas tank when it should be a $20 gas tank.

    "And EXXON reports record profits." Anon Please

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

When in Sweden, an "entomology researcher" advises anyone walking in the woods should immediately swat away any bumblebee-like insects that seem to hover in front of their face. UPI explains why, but put the spoon down first.


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

BRAC Impact Series
The Defense Department is spending more than $35 billion to move 123,000 employees and change the makeup of more than 8,000 bases across the country under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) initiative. The impact on military personnel, their families, their communities and the agencies that work with DoD is just beginning to be understood. In our special week-long report, BRAC Impact: A Federal News Radio and WTOP In Depth Series, we will explore the effect moving hundreds of thousands of workers across DoD will have on the military and the contractors that support them.

Bill would freeze agency hiring until deficit disappears
The bill, introduced by Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.), would exempt USPS employees and law enforcement from a hiring freeze.

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The death of Osama bin Laden is bringing an elevated level of security to your agency to counter possible retaliatory actions. What are some changes you might see at your office?

Tags: pay and benefits, Mike Causey, BRAC, pensions