Pat on the BRAC

September 13, 2011

After years of talk, BRAC has finally arrived. Effective this week, Aberdeen Proving Ground has officially made the transition from a $3.5 billion a year installation to a $20 billion facility.

Make no mistake about it: this is a big deal. Anyone who has visited the post in recent months and years can see massive new construction that has replaced a lot of decidedly ancient-looking buildings that had lingered until about a decade ago. Out with the Cold War architecture, in with the new.

The changes on post have come gradually. The new buildings weren't constructed overnight. So to say BRAC has arrived really isn't an apt description. Even so, a gathering of local, state and federal officials last week served as the final run-up meeting to the official BRAC activation.

The consensus reached: The preparations made by Harford County for the increased use of Aberdeen Proving Ground could serve as a model for other communities that anticipate military growth because of the actions of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

We beg to differ.

There may be some reason for the county, state and federal governments to pat themselves on the back when they talk about the things that have been done to get ready for an influx of new people coming to work in Harford County, but it's hardly been an exemplary effort.

Comments published recently in this newspaper by the state's leading elected official on all things BRAC, the lieutenant governor, notwithstanding, there has been something of a cart before the horse mentality when it has come to getting ready for federal growth at APG. The county has been quick to make it easier for residential developers to build new houses, essentially letting them partially finance some projects with taxpayer money, it has been less vigilant about having infrastructure needs in place in advance of BRAC.

Similarly, while the state has made grand plans for upgrades to state roads that provide access to the post, construction on those upgrades has not kept pace with construction on the new facilities on post. Traffic, long a problem outside post during rush hour, has been getting worse, and that can be expected to continue. And there isn't likely to be any relief for post commuters who want to take a train to work in an effort to avoid traffic jams, because little has been done to upgrade commuter rail stations.

Sure, projects are in the works on many fronts to deal with BRAC's arrival. But an exemplary effort would have been one that was ready when folks got here, not one that's still getting ready for years after they arrive.

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