Maryland Lawmaker Highlights Coming Transportation Crisis
Helping mission growth communities bracing for significant increases in traffic congestion as a result of BRAC 2005 was a recurring theme in the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill passed by the House last week, with several provisions increasing the chances for affected communities to obtain federal funds to address transportation impacts outside the gates of a military installation.
During last week’s debate in the House over the legislation, H.R. 1540, Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards (D) took up the theme, introducing an amendment intended to prevent defense communities in future base closure rounds from having to deal with the potential for gridlock outside of an installation with only limited resources.
“My amendment clarifies that if a significant transportation impact will occur as a result of a realignment action, the action may not be taken unless and until the secretary analyzes the potential impact of the action on local businesses, neighborhoods, and local government. These can sometimes be quite significant and unaccounted for,” Edwards said in introducing her amendment.
The congresswoman’s district includes Joint Base Andrews, which is slated to grow from 15,000 personnel to 18,000 personnel after the current BRAC round is carried out. The realignment will exacerbate existing congestion throughout the Washington metro area, she said.
While the amendment, which passed by voice vote, will have little practical effect unless the language is incorporated into a future statute authorizing the next BRAC round, Edwards made clear the circumstances many defense communities now face.
According to a 2009 Office of Economic Adjustment study, she said, 17 out of 18 BRAC growth communities identified transportation as a top challenge and reported a $1.5 billion shortfall in funding to address near-term project needs. The Defense Access Roads program has aided communities in only a limited number of cases. BRAC-related transportation projects are forced to compete for federal funds with other transportation projects.
“While legislation mandates that BRAC growth be completed by 2011, major highway and transit projects typically take anywhere from 9 to 19 years to complete,” Edwards said.
To complete some critical projects before BRAC moves are completed, state and local officials are reprioritizing planned projects and implementing those that can be completed quickly, she added.