BRAC projects in Bethesda wait for funding
Intersection projects could move forward
Plans for road projects to alleviate the increased traffic expected with the merger of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center come closer to completion every day. The source of the millions of dollars needed to pay for those projects and when the money will arrive remains uncertain.
The most promising plan local and state representatives are working on is to use $300 million from the U.S. House of Representatives version of the fiscal 2011 appropriations bill for hospitals affected by Base Realignment and Closure mandates, which would include the Walter Reed Military Medical Center, as well as at least two other hospitals. That bill is not expected to be approved until spring.
But without matching language in the Senate bill, a final vote not expected until the spring and a September deadline for the hospital merger's completion, federal officials are scrambling to make money available sooner and state developers are beginning to contemplate a piecemeal approach.
"You have to realize we're not on Plan A right now, we're on about Plan D," said Phil Alperson, BRAC coordinator for Montgomery County. "This is our best shot right now."
The same amount of money, $300 million, was approved in last year's defense appropriation fund, but ultimately could not be used because it was tied to the wrong account, Alperson said.
Federal lawmakers are working to get that money released in this year's continuing resolution, which Congress will vote on sometime between October and December, Alperson said. If the $300 million is approved with the continuing resolution, it would be taken out of the fiscal 2011 appropriations bill.
Walter Reed's move to Navy Med is expected to increase by one third the number of employees, to 10,500, and is expected to double the number of annual visits to the campus to 1 million. The new medical campus opens in September 2011.
Officials have developed a three-pronged strategy to address the traffic increase that calls for renovations at major road intersections, pedestrian and bike paths and improved pedestrian Metro access. The total cost is estimated at $157 million, but that number fluctuates with project developments, the largest of which, the Metro access project, is still in development with a cost range of $25 million to more than $60 million, said Alperson.
Plans for BRAC projects continue to move forward, but without a way to pay for many of them, only so much can be done.
"Is the money coming in or isn't it?" said Alperson. "We have to know."
Meanwhile, state and county officials are weighing the pros and cons of starting projects with the little money that is available, even if they will not be able to complete the work.
The state has set aside $34 million that will be used for four intersection projects. Targeted intersections are: Cedar Lane/Rockville Pike, Connecticut Avenue/Jones Bridge Road, Jones Bridge Road/Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road/Cedar Lane.
An additional $20 million is included in the federal defense access road fund and will be put toward a project that improves pedestrian access to the Medical Center Metro station across the road from Navy Med.
A tiered implementation plan prioritizes phases of the projects and could be used to begin work on the four intersections scheduled for renovation with the $34 million. That plan prioritizes the first stages of improvements at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road and at the intersection of the Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane, said Andrew Scott, who oversees BRAC activity for the state Department of Transportation.
The DOT, which is handling the intersection projects, plans to meet in October to talk about how to move forward, he said.
"There's a lot of work we can do to keep the project moving, but we will need to decide soon whether we move forward with the Tier 1 or wait," said Scott.
The most efficient way to go about the projects would be to wait until enough money is available to complete them without break, said Scott.
But the increase in visitors and employees will come September 2011, regardless of whether the traffic projects are complete.
"The tradeoff we have to look at is how long do we have to wait for the federal money versus providing relief?" said Scott.
Major BRAC projects are loosely estimated to cost a total of $157 million.
Those major projects include:
-Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane
-Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue
-Jones Bridge Road and Rockville Pike
-Old Georgetown Road and Cedar Lane
Shared use paths
-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