Eagerly-anticipated details on the application process for federal funds geared for certain BRAC-related transportation improvements were released Thursday. Now, county and state officials will begin discussions on how best to pull together proposals to request money for transportation projects near the according to Phil Alperson, Montgomery County’s BRAC coordinator.
The naval hospital will become the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center when it merges with Walter Reed Army Medical Center in September, a part of the federally mandated Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The facility will see 2,500 new employees and nearly double the amount of visitors, which has many worried the additional traffic could turn the already congested area surrounding Bethesda’s Route 355 corridor into a traffic nightmare.
Language allocating $300 million for communities with BRAC-impacted military hospitals – which could include Bethesda, Fort Belvoir and San Antonio – was approved by Congress earlier this year. The funds will be distributed through the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment, which this week laid out details on how local agencies and jurisdictions can apply for the funds.
“This is Walter Reed – this project is about serving the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which is mandated by law to be a world-class facility to provide medical care and treatment to our wounded warriors and retired military,” Alperson said. “In order for the new hospital to be successful, people have to be able to get there.”
In Bethesda, intersection improvements and upgrades to the Medical Center Metro station-- including a pedestrian tunnel beneath Route 355 and deep elevators -- are among the projects planned, but many of the projects are dependant on the federal funds. Some state and federal dollars have been set aside for the intersection improvements and the Metro upgrades, but about $100 million more is needed, officials have said.
Alperson praised the area's Congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen (D-Md.) for working to have the funds allocated.
OEA is asking jurisdictions and agencies to first submit proposals for projects in need of funding, which will then be judged by a panel to determine if they fit certain criteria. Agencies with the “highest ranking” proposals will then be asked to submit a formal application.
The tentative criteria include the “extent to which the transportation issue impedes the provision of care,” the “magnitude of the transportation issue that affects the military medical facility,” the “applicant’s ability to execute the proposed project,” and the “extent to which the proposed construction project resolves the transportation issue.”
“Our projects are well along the way and we’re confident we can submit a strong request,” Alperson said.
The Medical Center Metro access project is “ahead of the game” because the federal environmental reviews necessary for it to move forward have already been completed and approved, Alperson said.
“The county took the lead and did the necessary environmental reviews anticipating possible federal funding, and they did that without having the federal funding,” Alperson said. “They crossed their fingers and hoped it would go through….we’re way ahead of the game. That’s a huge advantage for us in a competitive application process.”
Proposals are due in by Oct. 7, and OEA will announce which projects have been selected to move forward with the formal grant application process within 30 days following that date.