The announcement that the federal government will provide funding to ease the transportation problems it created through its base realignment and closure decisions was welcome news. But it doesn’t create a new plan to address those problems.
The workers are moving to their new locations, many in parts of the D.C. region that did not have roads and transit lines sufficient to handle the influx. What the local governments have, following Tuesday’s announcement, is a pledge that they’ll have more money to pay for the fixes they already were planning.
The local governments in Maryland and Virginia may be able to speed up their timetables some, but shovels aren’t going in the ground tomorrow. The improvements are years from completion. Meanwhile, the new workers — and everyone else who works and lives near the consolidated bases — will have to endure the upheaval that comes with any construction project.
For example, money will now go to several projects designed to relieve congestion created by the merger of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.
Montgomery County noted in a statement Tuesday that the projects include construction of a new entrance and improved pedestrian access at the Medical Center Metro station, as well as improvements to nearby intersections along Rockville Pike, Connecticut Avenue, Cedar Lane, Jones Bridge Road and Old Georgetown Road.
Getting that extra money can’t be bad. But there’s not one new project on that list. Maryland, Montgomery County and Metro have been working on plans for all of them, and you’ve read about all of them.
But what’s happened so far? As staffers and patients were being transferred to Bethesda over the summer, a new signal was added at North Wood Road to get as much traffic as possible into and out of the medical center during peak demand periods without seriously worsening the already heavy traffic on Rockville Pike. The county’s Department of Transportation improved the bike paths and sidewalks around the medical center.
We’re now more certain that the other improvements will happen, thanks to the additional federal money, but they won’t be getting underway soon enough to blunt the impact of the additional workers. And the state and county will have to come up with a plan to blunt the impact of the construction itself.