By BOBBY MCMAHON
ANNAPOLIS (Sept. 11, 2009)—Maryland will need to spend an additional $315 million to $470 million on transportation projects around three military sites, according to a new study by the Government Accountability Office.
The report, released Wednesday, found that the $95 million the state has allocated to improve transportation infrastructure around Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Meade and the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, all of which are expanding under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)plan, is inadequate. The planned projects include improving intersections around the three sites to ease traffic congestion.
"State and local government officials said they plan to fund and complete these improvements but are uncertain whether they will have the sufficient funds to do so," the study states.
Philip Herr, the lead author of the study, said other states are facing comparable financial problems as Maryland. As the base realignment moves forward, Herr said that even with an influx of stimulus money states are still struggling to finance highway projects.
"A lot of states are finding that the stimulus money is coming in," Herr said, "but that revenues are down because of the recession."
Andy Scott, the Maryland Department of Transportation official who coordinates BRAC activities, said the "order of magnitude" of the funding shortfall is correct, but that the state has been able to pare down some costs as it works through the design process.
Still, he said that the widespread economic decline and competition with other transportation projects has meant difficulty finding money for these projects.
"BRAC created new needs, but didn't provide the money to address it," Scott said. "There are no BRAC funding sources on the federal or state level."
One source of potential funds, Scott said, could come from the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, which offers grants to state and local governments for transportation projects through the stimulus package. The state has submitted five grant proposals, including a request for $58 million to improve intersections around the three sites, but Scott admits funds in the program are scarce.
"There's a lot of interest across the country in getting those dollars," Scott said.
Another avenue for funds could come from federal money, particularly the transportation bill that is currently working its way through Congress. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, has submitted more than $200 million in BRAC-related projects for the coming year, and Bridgett Frey, spokesman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, said the congressman would work with all involved "to leave no stone unturned" in addressing traffic congestion and transportation issues related to BRAC.
Until these funding sources arrive, though, Scott said the state will continue to design and undertake projects as money allows.
"Without these improvements, traffic will definitely get worse," Scott said. "There's no question about that."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.