Thursday, October 29, 2009

Van Hollen Prods DOD on BRAC Traffic

Congressman Chris Van Hollen has inserted language in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 calling on the Department of Defense to pursue traffic mitigation measures for the expanded Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda. The bill has been passed by the House and Senate and awaits President Obama's signature.

The relevant language exists in two sections.

First, Section 2714(a)(8) instructs the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a master plan that:

includes a community development plan that incorporates multiple options to alleviate traffic congestion related to the expansion of the National Naval Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, including a review of options
(A) to expand adjacent highways;
(B) improvements to nearby intersections;
(C) on-facility site queuing; and
(D) multimodal expan-sion that could include expanded support for buses and subways.
Second, Section 2714(d) contains this statement as a Sense of Congress:

Given the anticipated significant increases in local traffic in the vicinity of the National Naval Medical Center, and the unusual impact that such traffic increases will have on the surrounding community due to the planned expansion of the installation, it is the sense of Congress that--
(1) multiple methods are available to the Department of Defense to implement the defense access roads program (section 210 of title 23, United States Code) to help alleviate traffic congestion, including expansion of adjacent highways, improvements
to nearby intersections, on-base queuing options, and multi-modal expansion, including expanded support of buses and subways and other measures; and
(2) all of the efforts to alleviate the significant traffic impact need to be pursued to ensure readily available access to health care at the installation.
This is not the end of the story. The county government and the surrounding communities will still have to wrangle with the military and the state government to complete the improvements on a pretty tight schedule. The old Walter Reed facility in D.C. is scheduled to close by fall 2011 and the Bethesda expansion should be finished by then. But Van Hollen has made it clear that Congress expects this work to proceed without excuses. That's a useful statement for county officials and for residents in Bethesda and Chevy Chase.

We reprint the text of this portion of the bill below.