More than one year after Congress first allocated $300 million for projects needed to accommodate the traffic growth associated with the realignment of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, officials in suburban Maryland and Virginia finally should be able to use the funds.
In December 2009, the states’ congressional delegations had inserted the funds under the defense health program account as part of the fiscal 2010 defense spending bill. Because DOD lacks statutory authority to spend health program funds on transportation infrastructure, however, Maryland and Virginia could not spend the money.
Several attempts to fix the technical glitch in spending bills that have come up in the past year failed to pan out. The states’ lawmakers successfully added the funds to the FY 2011 spending bill the House passed in February and despite contentious negotiations between the two parties since then over how much spending to cut from the federal budget, the BRAC transportation funds survived last Friday’s deal.
The spending bill puts the $300 million in the account of the Office of Economic Adjustment to award the funds for transportation infrastructure improvement projects associated with medical facilities affected by BRAC. Under the FY 2010 spending bill, Maryland and Virginia would have split the funds. The language in the FY 2011 measure, however, opens up the program to another community accommodating mission growth — the city of San Antonio, home of Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.
Maryland would spend its share on a variety of planned road, sidewalk and transit projects needed to alleviate traffic headed to the National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, reports the Gazette. Virginia likely would use the money for various projects to reduce the rush-hour delays expected for workers traveling to Fort Belvoir, which will house the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.
If Friday’s budget deal is enacted into law, the transportation funding would represent one of DOD’s largest infusions of spending on outside-the-gate needs. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the FY 2011 budget compromise Thursday, giving the president one day to sign the legislation before the new continuing resolution expires Friday.