Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007

County seeks millions from state to prepare for military influx

Prince George’s leaders say additional personnel at Andrews, Meade will put strain on roads and public transportation

E-mail this article \ Print this article


Prince George’s will need millions in state money to help upgrade its roads and transportation system in the next three years to handle growth at two nearby military bases, local officials told a special state task force Tuesday.

At a meeting at Bowie State University, county officials and business leaders said more than 24,000 military personnel being assigned to Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs and Fort Meade just outside Laurel in Anne Arundel County could wreak havoc on county roads. Officials said the new personnel along with previously expected county growth could bring an additional 165,000 daily car trips to county roads in the next decade.

Officials declined to give a specific dollar amount for the cost of improvements. However, one top project to improve Branch Avenue is already estimated to cost $62.6 million.

‘‘We’re impacted on two ends. We’ve got Fort Meade on one side and Andrews Air Force Base on the other side,” said David Byrd, deputy chief administrative officer for government operations and environmental services in the county.

Prince George’s was the last of 10 counties to present its wish list of needs to the state’s Base Realignment and Closure subcabinet, which consists of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who serves as chairman, and nine state officials from various departments. The group has been charged with creating a strategy to deal with military base growth expected as the military closes some installations and adds personnel to Andrews and Fort Meade.

By 2011, the Department of Defense plans to relocate more than 60,000 workers to the state, the largest buildup in Maryland since the early days of the Cold War, subcabinet officials said. Workers will be transferred from other bases across the country that are being shut down as the government consolidates intelligence services and other operations.

Byrd said booming home and office construction – such as Konterra Town Center, a community being built in the Laurel area that is expected to bring at least 4,500 homes and 5.3 million square feet of office and retail space – should easily accommodate the 2,700 new workers at Andrews and 22,000 slated for Fort Meade. County research estimates that the military growth could also bring an additional 14,000 jobs in the county, ranging from private defense contractors to retail stores, since the population influx is expected to spark business growth.

‘‘We’re positioned to take advantage of it. We will work with you,” County Executive Jack B. Johnson told subcabinet members. ‘‘We can’t develop though, unless we have the roads.”

In their report to the group, county officials cited 18 roads to be upgraded in the next three years and said that the state should consider extending Metrorail and bus lines to alleviate congestion, as well.

‘‘Branch Avenue is number one in terms of construction,” said Byrd, who also said improvements should be considered a priority for Pennsylvania Avenue to get cars moving.

County business people also hope to use growth at Andrews to revitalize the surrounding area, explained M.H. Jim Estepp, president of the Andrews Business and Community Alliance, a county nonprofit organization formed by business, civic, faith and community members to work with the base and improve economic development in the area.

‘‘We envision a city center, where residents can walk to work, shop, eat and be entertained,” he told subcabinet members.

But county officials also hope the state will help fund a Metrorail extension to the base to promote growth.

‘‘I know it costs a lot, but not nearly as much as all those lines in Northern Virginia will cost you,” Estepp told the panel.

Using the wish lists from each county, the task force will create a list of recommendations for the Maryland General Assembly to take up in January. The subcabinet is expected to release its report later this month.

E-mail Daniel Valentine at dvalentine@gazette.net

Priority road projects

Prince George’s County officials say these roads need to be improved in the next three years to handle military base growth:

* U.S. Route 1 (Baltimore Avenue)

* MD 197 (Laurel-Bowie Road)

* MD 201 (Kenilworth Avenue)

* MD 212 (Powder Mill Road)

* Old Alexandria Ferry Road

* Dower House Road

* Suitland Road

* MD 5 (Branch Avenue)

* Auth Place

* Auth Road

* Auth Way

* Coventry Way

* Suitland Parkway

* MD 4 (Pennsylvania Avenue)

* Woodyard Road

* Allentown Road

* Westphalia Road

* Piscataway Road

SOURCE: Prince George’s County BRAC Action Plan