BRAC arrives in Harford

Improvements are under construction at Routes 40 and 715 leading to Aberdeen Proving Ground, the first significant highway project in Harford County resulting from BRAC. County officials, however, say the State of Maryland hasn't done enough to upgrade roads that are becoming more congested because of BRAC. (Nicole Munchel | Aegis staff, Patuxent Homestead / August 15, 2011)

The Army's Base Realignment and Closure process is officially drawing to a close, and the impact from BRAC has been something of a mixed bag for Harford County, especially with the rocky economy.

Most local stakeholders seem pleased with the economic boost BRAC has provided so far, but they also say the process has not necessarily revolutionized life in Harford County — at least not yet.

While there has been considerable movement of civilian jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground and to office parks within a few miles of the post where additional defense contractors have congregated, some of the other economic and social impact on the county appears to be muted.

Harford, for instance, remains mired in a four-year housing construction slump, one that mirrors the national economic slowdown.

"Like" exploreharford's Facebook page

With the exception of roads leading to the gates at Aberdeen Proving Ground, dire predictions of clogged highways from one end of the county to the other haven't materialized, despite clear statistical evidence that more people are working inside Harford County than was the case five years ago.

Nor are the local schools seeing any influx of additional students directly from BRAC; to the contrary, the county's public school enrollment has been slowly declining.

While many in the private sector say they aren't sure BRAC has so far had the impact they were led to believe it would, some in local government say the greatest impacts are yet to come.

Implementation is here

One thing is known, and that is Sept. 15 is the official federal deadline for the BRAC relocation process to be completed at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Still, there is some wide variance locally as to just what this means.

"In that regard, I think you would find if you talk with people on the installation [APG], BRAC is done," Karen Holt, regional BRAC manager for the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor, said. CSSC is the name adopted by Harford County and other local stakeholders in the BRAC process.

"I think it [BRAC] was done under budget and ahead of schedule, in terms of the construction that happened on Aberdeen Proving Ground," Holt added.

But that doesn't mean the impact from all things BRAC will stop in September.

"Our view has been that implementation means we are just beginning to see the impact from BRAC," Bob Thomas, spokesman for Harford County government, said Friday.

While Thomas said some people outside government may feel they haven't seen a huge economic push from BRAC since the relocation process began in 2005, "if you go onto Aberdeen Proving Ground, you can clearly see it's a far different place from what it was six years ago."

"It must be noted that BRAC officially begins next month in mid-September — it doesn't end then," he wrote in a later e-mail. "Harford County, especially APG, will see more defense contractors and employees relocating to the area as BRAC officially unfolds."

Traffic issues just beginning

As Thomas pointed out, one impact from BRAC yet to be completely realized, on both sides of the Aberdeen Proving Ground fence, is traffic.

Many who work on the post proper have cited more traffic congestion on the main roads leading into APG, Routes 22 and 715, despite county and state efforts to improve flow along the latter.

Thomas said the county government has been well aware of the potential traffic issues from the beginning.