Housing Complex

Council: Anacostia-Bolling Air Force Base Plan Sucks

On the very southern tip of the District, there's a 905-acre federal reserve called the Joint Bolling-Anacostia Base (JBAB), consolidated in 2005 out of two separate installations. They've operated for decades without a Master Plan, despite a request from the National Capital Planning Commission that the Navy procure one. Finally, a plan has arrived—but the City Council says it's woefully inadequate.

A resolution passed yesterday takes the Navy to task for failing to consider the transportation impacts of increasing the population at the base from 13,200—that's 18.7 percent of Ward 8—to 18,386. Three-quarters of those people currently arrive in single-occupant vehicles, and the plan doesn't include measures to decrease that ratio, or address how all the new traffic generated will interact with the 14,000 more people who'll eventually come to the new Department of Homeland Security.

And in this case, the Council isn't even worried about a lack of parking–they're worried about too much parking. The base currently has 7,980 parking spaces, or 1.42 people per parking space, and the federal standard is four people per space. The Navy doesn't plan to increase the number of spaces, but it does plan to replace spaces destroyed by planned new buildings. "The result is that the public pays twice: once to rebuild the parking and again with the environmental cost of attracting more private vehicles to the Base," the resolution reads.

Perhaps more importantly from a holistic perspective, the new master plan doesn't increase public access to the 3.3 miles of riverfront that the base covers, like the Navy Yard has—or anything else to integrate with the economically downtrodden area around it. "A new master plan for the JBAB reinforces the isolation of the base from the rest of the community, instead of integrating the base into the community to help support the revitalization of Ward 8," the Council wrote. The resolution demands that the Navy resubmit a plan that addresses these problems, in order to comply with the President's executive order on sustainability and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Normally, it would be a fairly simple matter for the Navy to brush off such a request from the vote-less District government. But this time, the National Capital Planning Commission voiced similar concerns (while also expressing appreciation for the Navy's willingness to accommodate viewsheds by keeping the buildings low, which should be the least of their concerns), so the next submission may come back in better shape.

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    Given that the base is separated from the rest of the city by an Interstate highway, it's hard to knock the military for the base being isolated.

    And it's not like they've taken away great public access since 9/11 or something like that - the waterfront there has been off-limits for ages.

    I'd love to see a better transportation plan, but in the end, the city has a lot more to worry about. We're not going to get anywhere on this one.

  • hillman

    I have to agree. Bolling is an entity unto itself. No simple ways to fix that. Sure, waterfront access would be nice. But we already have waterfront access in that general area, and it is underused as is.

    Areas with bases being closed completely would love to have our problems.

  • Eric

    Problems of deep, intense poverty, unemployment, crime and undereducation, hillman?

  • Smoke_Jaguar4

    The layout of Bolling-Anacostia is incredibly wasteful. It's essentially the same car-centric, low-density, suburban sprawl model the military uses throughout the country.
    DoD could easily double the density of housing on B-A and still return land to the city. This would both reduce congestion in SE DC and return valuable land. Imagine a waterfront that would extend from the Anacostia river down the eastern shore of the Potomac. Behind that place high- and medium-density housing with mixed use business spaces. Tweak the zoning to promote co-ops for public sector employees.

    The real solution to B-A is to BRAC most of it, relocating its administrative functions to Ft. McNair, and move its housing to Ft. Belvior and Andrews AFB.

  • Hillman


    Poverty, unemployment, crime and 'undereducation' are not Bolling's fault. If anything, Bolling is the bright spot in that neighborhood.

    The 'problem' I was referring to was additional thousands of jobs coming into the area, thanks to Bolling.

    Other jurisdictions would literally beg for these jobs. In fact, they did beg.

  • Andrew in DC

    Just want to throw my 2 cents on here, as I commute to/from Bolling daily -

    The parking issue isn't going to go away. Too many of the personnel here must own a car because, unlike the Pentagon, the carless commute is a huge PITA. Shuttles run from Anacostia Metro, but it's not enough for those who reside here on the base, especially the way the AF spread out the housing density here. The people who live here, by and large, can't give up their cars because of the infrastructure around them.

    As for commuters, again, there are no good solutions here for to convert the preponderance or even a significant minority of that 13.2k-cum-18.4k into carless folk. I live 3.5 miles from the door of my office - and I still take a car because going by Metro/shuttle would change my commute from 7 minutes to 35+ each way. Most of the people I work with commute from all over the NCR - from Mannassas to Bowie. There's just no good solution to get to Bolling other than by car. We're squeezed enough as it is for parking. And until the at-grade 11th St Bridge is completed, biking is also a challenge. The street cars should help, though, so long as the Navy builds something on the inside of the Bolling gates to take advantage of the influx of people to their north Gate.

    Still, there's no "integrating" with the outside area. Bolling is isolated by 295, as IMGoph said. So unless we're going to bury the highway (Paging Douglas Willinger to your office, please) *and* bring in a massive amount of investment outside the gates to give the daily population something worth going to (that could compete with National Harbor)... oh, and solve the security issue outside the gates... Yeah.. that's just not going to happen.

  • Adam L

    I'm surprised that Bolling wasn't shuttered during BRAC. Most of what it provides are military support services that I imagine can easily be located elsewhere.

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    Smoke_Jaguar4: You make a good point, though, about the possibility of making the base denser and giving land back to the city. The northern end of the base is pretty sparsely populated. Giving that to the city and making Anacostia Park even bigger would be a nice amenity.

  • Andrew in DC


    By relocating the housing sections on B-A, to two locations poorly served by mass transit - haven't you just created more car-commuters?

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    Andrew: Sure, but they're all driving up 295 from southern Maryland anyway, so it's not like they even interact with the city in the first place.

  • Chris in Eckington

    Most of the housing at Bolling/Bellvue is for people who work in the District, many outside of Bolling (the White House, Navy Yard, etc.) Most of the commuters who come to Bolling do so because it is the HQ of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a mainly civilian work force. And it is doubtful that they would have BRACed the northern portion (the Former Anacostia Naval Station) since it is where the President's Marine Corps Helicopters are based.

  • DC Commuter for 7 years

    As someone who used to commute to the Pentagon from the Stafford Area, I loved DC's infrastructure. Commuter Buses, Metro Bus, Metro Rail, walking downtown. It's GREAT!!!

    As someone who used to commute to Bolling before it became JBAB... DC Infrastructure in that area is HORRIBLE.

    When my job moved from the Pentagon to Bolling I tried to commute intelligently.
    - I tried to commute by Bus or Slug to the Pentagon (or other "Hubs") and take Metro Rail or Metro Bus, but there is almost no access to the base for commuters. One shuttle bus going back and forth from Anacostia Metro and Metro Bus stops OUTSIDE the gate. You can see the Pentagon from Bolling but it added over 30 minutes to my commute. ONE WAY.
    - I tried a carpool, but there weren't many people coming to Bolling or Annacostia. I usually ended up driving in solo when people backed out or no-showed.
    - I tried a van pool... We shall not speak of that again.

    The DC Council, DC Metro, and JBAB Leadership need to work together to come up with a better plan for getting people onto the base. Once the base is better linked to DC Infrastructure then you can start talking about removing parking or increasing the size of the workforce on base without a similar increase in parking.

    Give a little to get a lot.

  • Smoke_Jaguar4

    One way to deal with the congestion: charter a ferry boat system on the Potomac to connect all the military installations with waterfronts: Ft Belvoir, JBAB, Navy Yard, Ft McNair, the Pentagon.

    Then create a second civilian ferry with stops at National Harbor, DC Waterfront, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Georgetown, Reagan National, Alexandria. Build METRO transfer point at Reagan, Waterfront, and Thomas Jefferson.

    Perhaps add an Anacostia River run with stops at Good Hope Rd, Pennsylvania Ave, National Arboretum, RFK/Armory.

  • Natalie

    As someone who commutes from Waldorf to JBAB, I cannot carpool because of my location. I have to be at work by 630am and I get off at 3pm so that is earlier than alot of people get up and get off of work. I can take a Shuttle that leave at 530 every morning but, it does not leave work until 4pm. So instead of getting home at 4pm every day, I would be lucky if I got home by 530 with the traffic.
    My friend had her car stolen once, and her tags stolen once from the local metro bus stop so I'm not woilling to risk it.
    It does stink having to drive since it is stop and go both ways,on 210 and 295,so my car goes not get great fuel economy, even with it being a 4cyl stick. Other than saving gas, I don't really see any incentive for folks to car pool. Between lack for car poolers going my way, and the amount of extra time it adds to commutes for taking shuttles, no thanks.

  • CommutesToJBAB

    The attitude displayed by the city council and some of the posters here is exactly why I won't spend a dime in DC, and I'm at JBAB 5 days a week for work. I won't even buy lunch in the building, because that would give DC tax revenue.

    Yes, I drive up I-295 every day to get there (coming from VA), and no, I don't interact with the city. Why would I want to interact with the city? With the exception of the federally run areas and a very few city run areas, the place is a cesspool. Why give the city a nice piece of waterfront that they'll just ruin like most of the rest of the city is ruined?

    The idea of moving JBAB functions to Ft. McNair is ridiculous - where on Ft. McNair would you put the 5000+ DIAC employees? Parking at McNair, while not as bad as JBAB, is still not great. Well, we could metro to McNair...if we want to walk through a horrendous neighborhood to get to work, that is.

    I don't get DC...any other metro area in the city would kill for the thousands of jobs on JBAB, and DC can only complain.

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    Maybe we complain about people like you, CommutesToJBAB, because you make over-generalized, ignorant, non-factual, downright stupid statements about things you clearly don't understand and have no real experience with. Most of the city is a cesspool? Keep your money. You're one exurban moron, we don't need your money. There are plenty of bright people out there who will gladly spend time and money here, because they've don't have their head firmly planted in their own behinds.

  • CommutesToJBAB

    No worries, I will keep my money and spend it in my state.

    If you look at the council resolution, it even blames JBAB residents for the high unemployment rate in Ward 8. Why would anyone leave the base to go through or into crime ridden neighborhoods when they can get what they need on base?

    DC trying to force JBAB residents into the local community is nothing new. When we lived there, the city tried repeatedly (and failed) to stop the Bolling school busing program that made it possible for many JBAB families to keep their children out of the DC public schools. They weren't interested in what the families wanted or what was best for the children - they just wanted to force the military families into DC public schools. Luckily, their attempts were shot down every time. I did see in the plan mention of a charter school - hopefully, DC won't try to stop that as well.

  • DC Commuter for 7 years

    @IMGoph: You said to Andrew:
    Sure, but they're all driving up 295 from southern Maryland anyway, so it's not like they even interact with the city in the first place.

    I WANTED TO interact with the city. I would have LOVED to go out into DC and grab lunch. I would have LOVED to go shopping at some of the specialty outlets in town. If I'd had a window, I'd would probably have been able to see Nationals Park from my building, I would have LOVED to catch a game there.

    Politics and posturing has stopped DC from getting more of the business from the 13,200 people currently on base.

    The DC Council, DC Metro, and JBAB Leadership need to work together to come up with a better plan for getting people onto and off of the base. Once the base is better linked to DC Infrastructure then you can start talking about lost revenue and taxes.

    If they could stop paying DC taxes on base, JBAB would become a city in and of itself.

    Give a little to get a lot.