The Maryland state government is not meeting needs for major road upgrades and technology education programs in Harford County to accommodate base realignment at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford State Sen. Nancy Jacobs says.
Jacobs was in Annapolis for Tuesday's meeting of the Maryland General Assembly's Joint Committee on Base Closure and Realignment, where she said she's not happy with some of the answers she received from state agencies to earlier inquiries she made about the state's BRAC commitments to Harford and Cecil counties.
She suggested later that the state government has dragged its feet at a critical time and, with the realignment process coming to a close from the federal government's standpoint, Harford County's needs have gone unmet.
Jacobs, a Republican who is the State Senate's minority leader, serves on the joint committee on BRAC. Her legislative district encompasses parts of Cecil and Harford and includes Aberdeen Proving Ground in the latter.
"Nearly 7,000 jobs have now arrived in Maryland under the military's Base Realignment and Closure plan (BRAC)," Jacobs said in a statement issued following Tuesday's meeting, "Many of those jobs have come to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, with thousands of employees transferring from Ft. Monmouth, N.J., to Harford County. The influx of these employees and newly hired staff is creating traffic issues that are plaguing those using roads leading to and from APG, especially during rush hours."
Jacobs said she had asked the state agencies overseeing the BRAC process to give answers about when promised road improvements will be made and why little change is evident at this late stage in the BRAC process. She said the lack of progress is of particular concern because, in the eyes of the federal government, the implementation of BRAC as it relates to APG is due to be complete on Sept. 15.
In response to her queries regarding improvements to the intersection of Routes 40 and 715 in Aberdeen, Jacobs summarized the state administration's response: "This project is fully funded and relocation of utilities is well under way. Not much construction is yet noticeable to drivers. Heavy construction is expected soon. The expected completion date is summer of 2013."
With regard to improvements to other intersections at Route 40 and Routes 7 and 159, she said the administration replied: "Bids for additional work are expected in the fall and construction is planned for spring. The completion date for Phase One is the winter of 2013 or early 2013. The funding for Phase Two, a widening of US 40, is not secured at this point."
"I am disappointed in the lack of progress on the US 40/Md 159 intersection because the funding is already in place," Jacobs said in an interview following the meeting. "In fact, the winning bid came in under budget with a great cost savings that should be used on another BRAC related construction project in Harford County. Yet, the state refuses to commit to that."
The senator said she also asked about improvements to three intersections along Route 22 leading to APG and was told: "Design is complete. Funding is not currently in place. Two of the intersections at Paradise and at Beards Hill roads are eligible for Department of Defense funding under grants for Base Access Improvements that the state is pursuing."
Jacobs, however, said, "We can't get commitments from our Congressional Delegation to move on trying to secure this funding," which means unless the state decides to fund the improvements with its own money, she said, those projects could be stalled indefinitely.
Jacobs said she also asked for an update on improvements to the Edgewood MARC train station and was told: "Phase One is complete with expanded parking and platform improvements. Phase Two calls for replacement of the existing trailer with a permanent structure. The plan calls for construction to begin in September 2011 with a fall 2012 completion date. The Maryland Department of Transportation is awaiting Board of Public Works approval."
The need for a permanent station building at what is one of the most heavily used commuter rail stops in the MARC system has been apparent for well over a decade and has been discussed among local legislators and state agencies since before the state and Harford County knew the area would be getting thousands of new residents and jobs because of BRAC.
Jacobs said she also made inquiries about workforce technology education and training opportunities and wasn't happy with the answers she received to them, either.
"Another disappointment is that Maryland universities have not stepped up to the plate by offering degree programs in the northeast part of the state to train people for future military and defense contractor jobs at APG," her statement from Tuesday reads. "While Delaware's university system immediately responded to that need, Maryland's universities have not yet committed to providing high level degree programs in the area in science, math and technology. The state's BRAC office just recently put out requests for proposals to Maryland's universities."
Jacobs said the requests for proposals should have happened long ago and, as a result, "a great opportunity is being missed."