BRAC: What It Means for the Walter Reed/National Naval Medical Center Consolidation in Bethesda

Posted Date: 
February 10, 2011

Guest speaker Phil Alperson, Montgomery County's BRAC Coordinator (center); joined by MCCC Economic Development Committee Co-Chair Stewart Edelstein of The Universities at Shady Grove, at left; and MCCC Vice President of Public Affairs Lisa Fadden, at right.

Maryland is considered one of the big economic winners in the current BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) process, but Bethesda faces major transportation challenges as the consolidation process nears completion on bringing the Walter Reed Army Medical Center together with the current Naval Medical Center on its Bethesda campus. Expected to be completed this fall, the merged hospitals will combine to form the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Montgomery County’s BRAC Coordinator Phil Alperson met with the Chamber’s Economic Development Committee to discuss the challenges that county, state and federal officials face in funding and completing needed road and other infrastructure improvements. The hospital consolidation will grow the number of employees at the site from 8,000 to 10,500 and the number of estimated patient hospital visits will double to one million annually. Alperson noted that unlike many base realignments around the nation and elsewhere in Maryland, the consolidation will result in some new jobs, but generally won’t yield “the economic bonanza” that it often would, due to the fact that Walter Reed is only moving about five miles.

Mitigating the anticipated traffic impact of the project is complicated by the fact that construction and related costs for base improvements under BRAC are funded for the work “inside the fence, so to speak,” notes Alperson. Under the federal legislation that established BRAC, local and state governments are generally expected to fund infrastructure improvements in the surrounding community. Maryland’s congressional delegation is continuing to seek federal assistance to support the costs of the projects.

Four major intersections in the area are undergoing improvements or slated for improvement and officials are continuing to work on a solution for underground pedestrian access to the site from the Medical Center Metro Station, across Rockville Pike at the National Institutes of Health.

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