BRAC committee evaluates its future
Community groups to push local representatives for money
A committee advising on traffic improvements surrounding the new Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda may not be able to call it quits when the facility is complete.
Due to construction delays, many of the traffic projects will not be complete by September, the month that the committee's term expires, and County Executive Isiah Leggett, who created the committee, believes it should continue to operate past the September opening of the medical campus.
"I believe the community civic and business leaders and government representatives needs to stay together and work together to monitor BRAC-related affairs and advise me of concerns that may arise," Leggett wrote in a letter dated Nov. 10 to the Coalition of Military Medical Center Neighbors, a group that is represented on the Base Realignment and Closure Implementation Committee.
Leggett established the BRAC Implementation Committee, a group of homeowner associations, and federal, state and county officials, in 2007 to identify how the merger of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center, at 8901 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, would affect the surrounding community. Between the county and the state, the traffic projects include four intersection improvements, bike path and sidewalk improvements and a Metro access project. Only the sidewalk and bike paths will be complete by the time the hospital opens.
Implementation committee members agreed that the group should see the projects through to completion and last week outlined goals to make that happen.
Much of the committee's discussion focused around a list of deliverables, authored by one member, Ilaya Hopkins, who is a member of the Coalition of Military Medical Center Neighbors. The group represents about 10,000 homes in the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital.
Hopkins suggested encouraging a community push for federal funding and prioritizing projects, to best spend money as it becomes available.
"We're at a critical juncture right now, where we have all these well conceived plans that are more or less supported by local stakeholders and we just really need the funding to make it happen," said Hopkins.
The state has set aside $34 million for the traffic projects and the federal department of defense will give $20 million for the Metro project. But much more money will be needed to complete the job. The total cost of the improvements is estimated at $157 million, but that number fluctuates with project developments.
Committee members agreed that community members should make greater strides to reach out to their local representatives and agreed they would try to schedule meetings with congressional representatives in the coming weeks.
The group is less united about how the money that is available should be spent.
The state has established a tiered program that prioritizes portions of projects that could be implemented in stages, or as a whole, with enough money.
At the top of that plan are renovations to the intersection of Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane and an additional lane on Connecticut Avenue at Jones Bridge Road.
But some members think the money should go toward public transportation efforts, specifically the Metro project.
"I think what we're looking for is getting the biggest bang for the dollars," said Deborah Michaels, who represents the Glenbrook Village Homeowners Association.
Michaels said emphasizing public transit could also help ease the burden on roads.
The county planning department is expected in early December to make staff recommendations on the four alternatives proposed for the Metro project. Those options range from road crossing improvements along Route 355, to a road renovation that would tunnel Route 355 underground and allow for a street-level crossing.
Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown recently launched a website dedicated to BRAC, in an effort to provide up-to-date information about BRAC progress in Maryland.
Major BRAC projects are loosely estimated to cost a total of $157 million.
Those major projects include:
Intersection improvements (expected completion)
-Jones Bridge Road and Rockville Pike (April 2012)
-Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue (Spring 2013)
-Old Georgetown Road and Cedar Lane (Summer 2013)
-Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane (2014)
Shared use paths (expected completion by September 2011)
-Jones Bridge Road, Rockville Pike to Connecticut Avenue
-West Cedar Lane, Old Georgetown Road to Rockville Pike
-Cedar Lane Bridge, to Rock Creek trail
Metro access project (expected completion undetermined)