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|REMARKS OF COUNTY EXECUTIVE ISIAH LEGGETT GOVERNORíS BASE REALIGNMENT AND CLOSURE SUBCABINET
|On behalf of the people of Montgomery County, I welcome you, Lieutenant Governor Brown, and the BRAC Subcabinet to Bethesda. I want to thank the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad for allowing us to use their facility today.
I also want to acknowledge the leadership of Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who is not able to be with us today. Congressman Van Hollen, Lieutenant Governor Brown, and I are leading the effort to ensure that federal, state and local governments do their part to deal with the impacts of BRAC on our community.
When the Subcabinet convened in Montgomery County two years ago, we outlined the challenges of fitting BRAC growth into a densely developed community with a transportation infrastructure that is already over capacity. Today we report back to you on the progress we have made to overcome these challenges.
2,500 jobs will relocate to Bethesda Naval Hospital when Walter Reed Army Medical Center closes by September 2011. Significantly, the number of visits to the Bethesda campus will double, from 500,000 to one million, each year. Most of those visits will be by car.
The new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda will succeed if the surrounding infrastructure can support that dramatic growth. This is difficult because many jurisdictions have roles to play and no single jurisdiction is in charge of the process.
Communities across the country would welcome this kind of growth as the harbinger of economic development – a bonanza that justifies the cost of investing in improved transportation and infrastructure.
But this won’t be the case for us. Our new jobs are moving just up the road from DC, and very few workers will relocate their homes because most of them already live in or near Montgomery County.
While these folks won’t relocate, they will still have to get to work. So, Bethesda won’t get the economic windfall many communities crave, but Bethesda will get the TRAFFIC -- which NOBODY wants.
It is symbolic that we are meeting at the Rescue Squad, because the mission establishing the crown jewel of military medicine in Bethesda will be compromised if gridlock prevents ambulances, doctors or patients from getting timely access to medical care.
It is our responsibility to ensure access to the campus. And when I say “our responsibility,” I mean all of us – the State, the County, the Federal Government, the Defense Department, and all the local stakeholders who are all in this together.
I want to commend the leadership of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, represented by:
o Captain Daniel Zinder, Deputy Base Commander for the National Naval Medical Center,
o Captain Michael Malanoski, Naval Support Activity – Bethesda,
o David “Ollie” Oliveria, BRAC Program Manager, and
o Jeff Miller, Transportation Program Manager
They are confronting the daunting challenge of consolidating two major military medical centers. And they are addressing their own transportation issues by upgrading their gates and campus roadways to help ease traffic on and off the base. They have a bold strategy to get Navy personnel out of their cars, to use other ways to commute. And they have been good neighbors, trying to ensure that Navy operations don’t infringe on the area’s quality of life.
The Navy also deserves praise for changing a Defense Department policy that will help our community in a very significant way. For the first time ever, DOD will use the Defense Access Road program, which has always expanded highways to relieve congestion, to instead help improve pedestrian access to mass transit. Funds are already penciled into the DOD 2011 budget for this purpose.
I want to acknowledge our Congressional delegation -- our federal partners, Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin. We have to be especially nice to them because federal dollars may be what saves us from a long-term BRAC traffic nightmare.
Community stakeholders are full partners in recommending ways to ensure the success of the BRAC mission in Bethesda. They are not shy about expressing their opinions and I can tell you, personally, that we have heard them, loud and clear. Here today are:
o John Carman, who has served for almost three years as Chairman of the County’s BRAC Implementation Committee. This is a volunteer local advisory body representing neighborhoods, businesses, major employers, and federal, state, and county government and planning agencies.
o Ilaya Hopkins is a member of the BRAC Committee and Chairs the Coalition of Military Medical Center Neighbors.
o Patrick O’Neill, of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, is also a member of the BRAC committee.
I also want to acknowledge officials who are representing Montgomery County government and who work every day with the local community and our government partners:
o Roger Berliner, Vice President of the County Council and represents Bethesda on the Council,
o Art Holmes, Director of Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation, and
o Edgar Gonzalez, Deputy Director for Transportation Policy.
Together we have kept our eye in the ball. We in Montgomery County have worked with our partners in Annapolis and on Capitol Hill to stay focused on our goal. We must help make BRAC a success and to serve the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who have been willing to make the greatest sacrifices.
Together, we have developed creative solutions to help ease congestion around the Medical Center, so that wounded, active, and retired service members and their families can receive the quality medical care that they deserve, without fear of being denied timely access because of gridlock.
After all, This is Walter Reed, and we have to get this right.
Again, we are glad to have the Subcabinet convene here today, so we can show you just how we have confronted the challenges that were thrust upon us by BRAC.
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