SENATE OF MARYLAND
ANNAPOLIS. MARYLAND 214O1-1991
June 14, 1996
I think it might be an appropriate time to review what is happening and what is about to
happen at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
Since its opening in 1943 the base has been the driving force of St. Mary's County's
economy. Since the Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge opened 20 years ago the base has
also taken on that role for southern Calvert County. Now with the base expansion the
economic importance will become even more magnified for both counties.
First a review of what's happening on the base. The 1993 U.S. Base Realignment &
Closure Commission (BRAC) ordered the move of the former Naval Air Development
Center at Warminster, PA and allied activities in Trenton, NJ to Pax River. The 1995
BRAC ordered the move of Naval Air Systems Command headquarters from Crystal
City, Virginia to Pax River. The result is the consolidation of the Navy's air test and
evaluation components with research and development activities at the new Naval Air
Warfare Center/Aircraft Division at Pax River.
The result of the two decisions means an increase of 4400 positions at Pax River, or a
36- percent growth. The overall number of jobs in the community will increase by 16
percent. The direct annual salary impact of the expansion was estimated by BRAC to
be $200 million. The ripple effect in the community or additional indirect impact was
estimated to be $230 million. Base officials have revised those figures upward to a net
effect of $542 million in annual new spending.
With those types of population and disposable income changes it goes without saying
that there will be staggering changes in the communities outside the base, not only in St.
Mary's but also in southern Calvert. So far, of the comparatively small number of
people who have relocated here in the first wave, 68 percent have moved into St.
Mary's, nine percent into Calvert and four percent to Charles. Again this is just the first
wave. Officials believe that southern Calvert will be getting a larger percentage of the
total when the dust settles.
That these people will have an effect on the infrastructure of surrounding communities is
a foregone conclusion. In previous columns I have talked about the state's recent
commitment to schools and roads. The needs have been recognized and a great effort is
being put forth to see to it that our community will be able to accommodate the new
people with the least amount of disruption to those of us already here.
I recently attended a public hearing on the future of roads in the Prince Frederick area.
Presented were plans for widening Routes 2/4 through the town center and a number of
long- range alternatives which would preserve a corridor for a future bypass. I believe
that the state should precede with planning for the widening but should not go ahead
with the bypass options.
I believe that with the widening and other improvements such as parallel access roads
along the commercial stretches the existing road will serve the community well into the
future. To effectively take land by preserving a road corridor for a bypass which may or
may not be ever needed is not fair to landowners.
The commercial section of Prince Frederick is established along the existing road.
Calvert County planning has put the commercial activity clustered in several shopping
centers to minimize the number of traffic lights. Traffic slows down somewhat but flows
pretty well through there right now. I frequently travel that section of road to and from
Annapolis so I am familiar with the traffic patterns.
That gets me back to the discussion of the base expansion. I am very aware of the
concerns of the Navy for a limited access highway corridor between the base and D.C.
I wholeheartedly support that in theory. But in practice we can't completely ignore the
existing communities along the way. It is not unreasonable for traffic to slow down
slightly at Calvert County's few existing town centers like Prince Frederick. It is then up
to Calvert County to plan so that the impact from future commercial development
doesn't further impact the road.
I was surprised at the hearing at several comments from Calvert County citizens against
the Navy. Undoubtedly those citizens don't work at the base but travel north to D.C.
They seemed to imply that what was good for the Navy could be good for St. Mary's
County and bad for Calvert County. As I have pointed out Calvert stands to gain
greatly from the base expansion. There will be opportunities for contractors to locate in
Calvert, people will chose to live there because of affordable housing and commercial
enterprises will prosper from the increased economic activity.
The base expansion is a win/win situation for both Calvert and St. Mary's counties. We
need to strike a balance between accommodating the Navy and preserving what makes
this such a great place to live. I am convinced the local officials of both counties are
determined to see that happen. Visionary planning in both counties will go a long way
towards insuring success.