For Maryland, the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process means more jobs, a stronger economy and our contribution to national security.
With thousands of jobs coming to the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) region this month, there has been much discussion about the state's efforts to mitigate some of the growing pains from BRAC. I understand the uncertainty that many feel about the region's ability to handle the influx of new residents.
As Chair of Gov. Martin O'Malley's BRAC Subcabinet, I have worked with both the private sector and partners in every level of government on our efforts to prepare our physical and human infrastructure for BRAC.
Even in the midst of one of the worst economic downturns that our country and state have experienced in decades, Gov. O'Malley and I have made a strong commitment to BRAC, investing $3 billion in transportation, higher education, school construction and other infrastructure projects.
When the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) was forced to cut $2 billion from its capital program, we decided to protect $135 million for the most critical road intersections surrounding our BRAC-growth installations at APG, Ft. George G. Meade and the National Military Medical Center at Bethesda. At APG, the state has programmed and dedicated approximately $57 million for short-term highway and transit improvement projects in support of BRAC.
We have already begun construction on the region's top priority project, improvements at Route 40 and Route 715, and have funded additional improvements at Routes 40 and 159 to be constructed in 2012. Key intersection improvements along Route 22 have also been funded for design and certified by the Department of Defense as eligible to receive funding for construction from the Defense Access Roads program.
The state's thorough planning and investment have inspired partners who are helping to shoulder the burden. Our partners in the private sector, local, state and federal government have been able to advance priority projects and promote transit travel through Transportation Demand Management programs that help take cars off our roads, reducing traffic. Partners at APG and in the surrounding communities have committed to important initiatives, including increased MARC train service at the Aberdeen and Edgewood MARC stations, APG shuttles to and from transit facilities, and expanded Rideshare options. Capital improvements and construction projects at the Edgewood station are scheduled to begin next month, while the Maryland Transit Administration and MDOT are working closely with the City of Aberdeen to advance Transit Oriented Development and related improvements at the Aberdeen MARC station.
Improving the quality and capacity of our essential roads, bridges and highways within the tight confines of budget restraints has been a challenge, but we've made real progress. Maryland's balanced approach to tackling BRAC's impact on our infrastructure network looks at implementing short term, lower cost projects while continuing work on long term capital projects. Coined the "High-Low" approach, it has been recognized as an innovative best practice by the National Governor's Association and is carefully guiding MDOT's work. We are making smaller improvements as funds allow, partnering with other stakeholders and planning for the day when all of the BRAC-related initiatives will be fully funded.
Another vital BRAC-related need is workforce development, training and education. Over the past three years, we have funded 39 BRAC higher education grants totaling $3.7 million to colleges and universities, several in the APG region. This spring, seven new degree programs will be offered in the APG region due in large part to our higher education institutions stepping up to educate Marylanders for future military and defense contracting jobs. Furthermore, in December the North East Higher Education Task Force established by the Maryland General Assembly will present recommendations to expand higher education options in the APG region.
Despite the work left to be done, the long-term benefits of BRAC to our state should not be overlooked: the creation of quality, high-paying jobs; improved transportation and educational opportunities; and the establishment of Maryland as the epicenter of cyber security. As we do our best to match our existing state and federal funds with the most critical BRAC-supporting projects, let us concentrate on the outcomes. Growing pains usually result in growth and that's where the BRAC projects in Maryland are headed.
Anthony G. Brown,
Maryland's Lieutenant Governor