State moves forward on BRAC intersection projects in hopes of federal funding -- Gazette.Net



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Marylandís State Highway Administration has decided to move forward with plans to spend $11 million to prepare for additional road work to relieve traffic congestion near the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, even though the state does not yet have the money to foot the bill.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center will merge with National Naval Medical Center in September, bringing an additional 2,500 employees and doubling annual visits to the campus to 1 million.

To help handle the influx of traffic, the state and Montgomery County have planned $165 million in intersection improvements, bike paths and sidewalks, and a Metro access project. About $100 million is still needed to complete the work, which state and county officials hope they can secure from an appropriation in the federal fiscal 2012 budget that sets aside $300 million for transit projects in communities with military hospitals affected by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, a federal mandate for military consolidation.

To date, the state has been preparing for construction according to a plan that would use $29 million in state funding already secured to complete the most important elements of the intersection projects.

With the release July 21 of application guidelines for the $300 million federal appropriation, state transportation officials have decided to move forward with an additional $11 million in construction contract bidding for the next stages of those projects.

"With hopefully [a portion of the] $300 million, SHA has decided to move," said Barbara Solberg, assistant division chief of highway design for the Maryland State Highway Administration. "There is some risk to us, because they're not funded right now."

The plan assumes that the state and Montgomery County would receive at least $11 million from the federal appropriation by October 2012. The state and county will work together to submit applications for eligible projects, and the applications are due Oct. 7.

The first phase of projects includes work at the intersections of Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane, Rockville Pike and Jones Bridge Road, and Connecticut Avenue and Cedar Lane. Projects include widening Rockville Pike south of Cedar Lane and reassigning a southbound through lane on Rockville Pike to a designated left turn lane at Jones Bridge Road. The next stages of work at those intersections include widening along northbound Connecticut Avenue from Manor Road and road widening at the intersection of Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane.

State Highway Administration officials announced Tuesday at a meeting of the BRAC Implementation Committee that they will move forward with contract bidding for additional work at the intersections of Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane and at Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road.

"We don't have schedules assuming full construction for the projects, because we still don't know how much money we're getting and when," said Andrew Scott, who handles BRAC projects for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Scott said he intends to bring project applications to the BRAC Implementation Committee, a group of military, state, local and neighborhood stakeholders who meet monthly, for comment and consideration.

"It's really the same way we've been tackling BRAC around this table for years — it's a collaborative approach," Scott said. "It's teamwork and it's public involvement."

sgantz@gazette.net