Fort Meade plans laid out

The Baltimore Sun

Mike Duerksen jokes that he will soon need a helicopter to get to work.

The Northern Virginia resident is among thousands of defense workers whose jobs will move to Fort Meade in coming years as part of a Pentagon plan to consolidate bases nationwide.

Yesterday, as officials held a groundbreaking ceremony at Fort Meade for the mammoth new headquarters of his employer, the Defense Information Systems Agency, Duerksen estimated that his morning commute would be two hours.

"My wife and I have talked a good deal" about moving to the Fort Meade area, said Duerksen, a computer systems analyst from Fairfax, Va., who noted that the couple are longtime members of their church. "We probably wouldn't move up here."

Nearly 4,300 workers will work out of the new headquarters of the Defense Information Systems Agency, the biggest of the new tenants moving to Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County as part of the Pentagon's base realignment and closure process. The Arlington, Va.-based agency, established in 1960, handles the military's communications network.

Yesterday, at a ceremony attended by more than 150 people, including Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, officials laid out the plans for a 1-million-square-foot office building on 95 acres that are now a golf course.

Construction is scheduled to begin in July, and workers will begin moving into the building in October 2010. The relocation is scheduled to be finished by July 2011.

The headquarters, part of a $441.6 million project that will include seven buildings on the golf course, is being built by Hensel Phelps of Chantilly, Va.

Officials said yesterday that they are working to ensure that roads and schools can handle the influx of new workers. Interstate 175 is to be widened, but not until after many workers have moved in, said Robert Hannon, chief executive of Anne Arundel County's economic development arm.

The county is also studying changes for more than 50 nearby intersections, including new traffic signals and road widenings.

At the ceremony, Brown, the lieutenant governor, addressed some of the agency employees, who will have to decide whether to move to the area, endure long commutes from their current homes or find other jobs.

"We hope the two-and-a-half-hour drive is not a deterrence" to stay with the agency, Brown said.

Susan Baker, a computer scientist from Indian Head in Charles County, said her commute will increase by 20 miles each way.

"It takes just that much more time out of your days," Baker said.

She said she will wait until after the agency's relocation to decide whether the commute is too tough for her to stay with the agency.

James Campbell, a spokesman for the Defense Information Systems Agency, said officials are trying to make the transition as easy as possible for employees. They are studying ways to encourage carpooling. And they have increased to three days a week the amount of time employees can work away from the main office.

Duerksen said he has told his boss he plans to work from home three days a week when his job moves to Fort Meade.

That would be better than driving daily from Fairfax, a commute that he said could be much longer than two hours if traffic is heavy.

"I don't live to work," he said.

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