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WASHINGTON, DC-The month before the General Services Administration is expected to name the site of a new lease for the Department of Transportation, the department has requested funding in an appropriations bill to buy its own facility.

According to an Oct. 19 letter from Rep. Bud Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, DOT attempted to place language into a fiscal 2001 appropriations bill requesting $450 to $750 million for the facility, which could give the department 1.8 million sf of space. Not only is that larger than the 1.3 million-sf lease that GSA is currently authorized to seek for DOT, the language would transfer GSA’s procurement authority to DOT.

The attempt was blocked by Rep. Shuster, who sharply attacked the proposed language in a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert. “Attempting to hastily purchase a major headquarters facility at the end of a session using appropriations bills is certainly not regular order and not something I can support at this time,” he wrote.

While the attempt failed, it does raise questions about whether DOT officials are fully willing to accept GSA’s choice of its next headquarters lease. It would not be the first time a Federal tenant has resisted a GSA decision. Another government agency, the Federal Communications Commission, for years fought GSA, which wanted to relocate it from its M Street NW offices Downtown to a new building in the Portals site in the far less developed Southwest neighborhood.

The 1.3-million-sf lease for 20 years at an estimated annual cost of $55 million is one of the Federal Government’s biggest real estate procurements in years. It includes provisions for the government to acquire the property. There are five finalists for the project. They include the current site at Seventh Street SW, two proposals for the Southeast Federal Center at M Street SE and New Jersey Avenue, the Portals site at 14th Street and Maryland Avenue and a four-acre lot on New Jersey Avenue NW behind the Gonzaga College High School football field.

Officials at DOT did not immediately return phone calls. A spokesman at GSA said DOT’s attempt was “ill-advised.”

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