Application details for the for communities with BRAC-impacted military hospitals could be outlined as soon as Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen (D – Md.) told members of the Montgomery County Council at a Monday meeting.
The BRAC update was among the discussion topics during a lunch meeting between the council and Van Hollen, a part of a series of informal sit-downs between the council and state and federal officials, according to a council news release.
If allocated, the money would help fund a variety of transportation improvements around Bethesda’s , which will merge by September with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, adding 2,500 employees and nearly doubling the amount visitors to the facility. The move is part of the federally mandated Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Officials and others have worried the additional traffic the transition would bring 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 via an application process, but local BRAC stakeholders have been waiting on details about the process to receive the funds.
“I’m confident that we will meet all the criteria,” Van Hollen told councilmembers Monday. “We were exhibit A that pointed to the need for this. It’s designed to address the exact situation we face in Bethesda.”
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 to complete the intersections and construct the pedestrian tunnel and Metro elevators, according to Phil Alperson, the county’s BRAC coordinator.
Van Hollen said Monday details on the application process could be available this week, potentially as early as Tuesday.
“Lots of communities around the country are impacted by BRAC, but we were able to make the case this was a very important, unique case because this will be the National Military Medical Center placed in what is already a very congested area,” Van Hollen said of his efforts to secure the transportation funds.
Van Hollen said he wanted to ensure the area didn’t become a “parking lot.”