Fort Meade proposes Metro extension

In preparation for the explosive growth expected for the area around Fort Meade, officials announced details yesterday of a three-decade master plan that includes extending a Metro rail line from Greenbelt to the Army post and points north.

Col. John W. Ives, Meade's commander, signed off on the proposal as a formal step to manage growth in and around the 5,300-acre installation in western Anne Arundel County as it solidifies its place as a national center of information and defense technology.

As part of its base realignment and closure process, the Pentagon proposed last month to transfer at least 5,300 jobs to Fort Meade, Maryland's largest employer with about 40,000 jobs. The White House is to receive final recommendations in September.

Many of the realigned jobs would be related to the super-secret National Security Agency, which is on the post.

State officials estimated last week that such an influx would create at least 5,000 more jobs within seven years, mostly through defense contractors that serve the NSA.

But the officials believe that figure is just the tip of the iceberg. They estimate that many more thousands of jobs will be created in the coming decades in Anne Arundel and Howard counties by Fort Meade's presence, squeezing thousands of more people into the area, further straining roads and contributing to a regional housing crunch.

Ives said this master plan, more than three years in the making, will pave the way for more job growth and provide transportation solutions, such as a Metro line.

The colonel, who plans to retire this summer after three years of overseeing Fort Meade, gave details at a farewell luncheon in his honor with political and business interests, including Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens and Howard County Executive James N. Robey.

Owens and Robey provided input to the plan, and Ives acknowledged their roles in asking them to witness his signing of the document.

"This plan will accommodate tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects," Owens said.

As part of the plan, officials are considering using Meade's 400-acre golf course in the center of the base as a site for federal agencies that require the security that a military installation could provide. Such a move could bring 20,000 more jobs to Fort Meade, Ives said.

A new golf course would be built on the base's southeast corner, over a capped landfill that sits across a rail line from Odenton.

To respond to such a concentration of workers, Ives recommended extending the Washington Metro's Green Line north about 10 miles from Greenbelt to a station at the National Business Park, where most of the NSA contractors work. Ives said such an expansion could eventually reach north to Baltimore.

Few other details about the proposed Metro extension were available, as most aspects of the master plan will remain confidential for national security reasons, a Fort Meade spokeswoman said.

Owens said she will be briefed next week on specifics of the plan, which also addresses the need for added protection to the base, water and energy conservation, and preservation of historical structures.

Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for Metro, said the agency has been in "very informal discussions" with Fort Meade officials about their plans.

"But there's no plans in the foreseeable future to do it," she said.

Howard executive Robey said a Metro extension "is something we would all certainly like to see."

Ives did not say who would pay for these initiatives. Anne Arundel transportation officials have estimated that extending the Metro would cost about $100 million per mile.

Ives also unveiled a proposal for a 16-acre site off Route 32 near Tipton Airport that Howard and Anne Arundel counties could develop for a bus maintenance facility.

The two counties have long been searching for a place for such a facility that would serve their bus systems.

Owens said that site could also serve as a transfer point for bus and MARC commuters. State officials are planning to expand the parking lot at the Odenton rail station to accommodate more riders.

Fort Meade officials will meet with state transportation officials next week to discuss their plan, Ives said.

Such proposals to expand a Metro line and create a bus maintenance facility must be approved by the state, transit officials said.

Anne Arundel transportation leaders have said that the county's population density doesn't justify extending the Metro line from Prince George's County, but Owens said that the growth in jobs, new office space to accommodate defense contractors and the thousands of houses going up from Crofton to Columbia would justify such a transportation upgrade.

John Erzen, a spokesman for Prince George's County, said yesterday that county officials had not heard any details about the plan but would welcome talking with Army officials about the Metro expansion.

"We think it would be a benefit to our citizens," he said.

Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.