Northern Va. Drivers In For Long, Hard Slog After Army's Realignment

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(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU News)  Next year, the Army will relocate hundreds of thousands of its employees as a part of its Base Realignment and Closure - or BRAC - process. The idea behind the process is to close under-utilized facilities and moves its employees to areas that make more strategic - and economic - sense.

Closing military bases is always political poison, especially for the Congressmen whose districts contain those bases. So the Department of Defense got around this by submitting to Congress an enormous list of bases it wants to close. This way, rather than voting on each base closure one by one, the Congressman could cast a single up-or-down vote on the list - which it did back in 2005.

But, just so there wouldn't be any room for political maneuvering, the Department of Defense also inserted a hard deadline in the BRAC legislation. All the closures and relocations would have to be completed by September 2011. No exceptions.

Local politicians in Northern Virginia really wish that deadline hadn't been included.

No area in the country is more affected by the BRAC process than Washington D.C.'s Virginia suburbs.

Arlington County alone is losing 18,000 jobs - more than any other jurisdiction in the country. Some of those jobs are moving to other states, but many are being relocated just down the road to neighboring Alexandria and Fairfax County.

Local officials are understandably terrified by this imminent job loss, but not for economic reasons. (The real estate currently occupied by the Army is extremely valuable and will be quickly devoured by the private sector after the big move.)

Rather, they're worried the moves will create a regional traffic nightmare, in an area already known for awful traffic.

For more, listen to this story on WAMU.