About 40 people attended a ribbon-cutting Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the APG-CSSC Transportation Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The Transportation Center is designed to educate APG's 21,000 civilian and military employees about transportation alternatives to driving their personal vehicles to and from work each day.
The area surrounding the military installation has grown in recent years because of the BRAC 2005 process.
The federal BRAC process brought many new employees to Aberdeen Proving Ground from New Jersey, and the installation is Harford County's largest employer and the third-largest employer in the state.
About 60 percent of the APG workforce lives in Harford County, but the remainder travel from neighboring counties and even neighboring states.
Jim Richardson, director of Harford County's Office of Economic Development and another speaker at the event, noted afterward that extra chairs had to be brought in, an indicator of the public interest in the Transportation Center.
Richardson said officials with the Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor and other Harford County agencies have been working on transportation issues since the BRAC process was announced about a decade ago.
The CSSC, headquartered in Aberdeen, is part of the Office of Economic Development and is funded by federal grants to work with Harford County and its regional partners to accommodate BRAC-related growth. The Transportation Center is the result of a joint effort between CSSC and APG.
"Certainly this is one aspect of the transportation [improvements] that we're glad to see come on board, because we can build all the roads we want, but getting people to do transportation in a smart way is more beneficial for everybody," Richardson said.
The Transportation Center, staffed by Transportation Services Coordinator Syreeta Gross, a Harford County government employee, consists of literature available in the lobby of APG's Recreation Center or through Gross, who will be interacting with the various commands that call APG home, and defense contractors in Aberdeen and Edgewood.
"Everybody's just excited," Gross said.
Those interested can learn about mass transit, ride-sharing programs through carpooling or van sharing, the Guaranteed Ride Home Program, which allows enrolled employees four free rides home in case of an emergency, and more. Gross said free rides could be taxicab, vanpool, transit, even rental car vouchers.
Richardson said alternate means of transportation benefit the local environment and the community.
"So we really feel very much like this is a positive," he said.
"BRAC represents a great opportunity but also a great challenge for our state," U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, one of the featured speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, said in a statement.
"In these tough times, additional high-paying jobs are obviously welcome," he continued, "but now we must all do our part to preserve the great quality of life that existing residents enjoy all across the state. A big part of that is reducing traffic and looking for smarter alternatives to driving by ourselves to work each and every day."
Gross said two people came up to her after the ribbon-cutting to ask about transportation options. One man wanted general information, and the other, who rides his bicycle to work, wanted to know what could be done to make his ride easier.
"People come in, they tell me where they're commuting from, the issue that they have, and I can present them with their options," she explained.
Gross is available in the Recreation Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and is in Edgewood on Wednesdays. More information is available by calling 410-278-5491 or visiting http://www.apgyourrideishere.com.
Information can also be found at the APG-CSSC Transportation Center page on Facebook or at @YourRideisHere on Twitter.
Tuesday's ribbon-cutting event, held in the Recreation Center, included remarks from Ruppersberger, a Democrat whose district includes Harford County; Steven Overbay, BRAC coordinator for the CSSC; Karen Holt, BRAC manager for CSSC; Gary P. Martin, deputy to the commanding general for the Communications-Electronics Command at APG; Col. Gregory R. McClinton, garrison commander at APG; as well as Richardson and Gross.
Overbay, who served as the event's emcee, mentioned other BRAC-related improvements to local transportation networks, such as upgrades to the MARC train station in Edgewood and improvements to the intersection of Route 715 and Route 40.
Ruppersberger also discussed mandated cuts to the federal budget, known as sequestration. Those cuts include furloughs for federal employees this year, including those at APG.
"The people of APG perform the most cutting-edge research and development – all to protect the warfighter and enhance our ability to win on the battlefield," he stated. "I want you to know that I will keep that in mind as I continue to urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work toward a compromise that will help us end sequestration."
Twitter.com/DavidInHarfordCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun