Roads lag in BRAC plan

Economic slide slows work on intersections near Proving Ground

October 04, 2008|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

While Aberdeen Proving Ground undergoes an expansion that is expected to bring as many as 10,000 new jobs and more than 1.5 million square feet of office space, the state roads surrounding the Harford County post might not be ready for the influx.

The state's economic downturn has delayed construction of several key intersections and pushed road improvements and mass transit extensions years into the future.

More than 350 government, business and community leaders learned what is happening at APG, which is expanding as part of BRAC, the nationwide military base realignment, during a conference in Edgewood yesterday. While most of the information was positive, officials expressed concerns about the lag in transportation funding.

"All the main construction is on federal property," said Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie, whose district includes much of APG. "Without these intersections outside the base, how will traffic get around?"

By September 2011, BRAC will be fully implemented, with much of the preliminary work already under way, said Col. Jeffrey Weissman, garrison commander.

"BRAC is no longer coming," he said. "It is already here. It is changing the face of APG."

Several buildings are under construction, employees are relocating to jobs at APG, Harford's largest employer, and jurisdictions surrounding the Army post are launching projects to meet the demands of the expansion.

About 40 percent of employees at Fort Monmouth, a New Jersey base that is closing, plan to relocate to APG with their jobs, officials said. The Army will have to fill the rest of the positions, officials said.

Economic development administrators from Harford County and five other jurisdictions within an easy drive of the base spoke of their preparations for BRAC. State and federal officials provided information on funding for various projects. But roads and mass transit, critical to the success of BRAC, may lag behind the expansion.

"We are going to get buses," said county Councilman Richard Slutzky, who represents Aberdeen. "That is the only resource they can get to us in the time frame."

Maryland is not alone in its transportation concerns. Communities near the 22 installations targeted for BRAC across the country have all made transportation upgrades a priority, said Patrick O'Brien, director of the federal Office of Economic Adjustment under the secretary of defense. Communities have requested more than $1.5 billion in road projects at a time when revenues from gas taxes, tolls and vehicle titling could drop by $1.1 billion nationwide in the next several years, officials said.

Harford Councilwoman Veronica Chenowith said the conference offered great information, but disappointing projections on the roads.

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