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Cardin seeks funds for BRAC traffic ills

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Montgomery County officials will receive federal money for traffic problems expected when the Walter Reed Army Medical Center is combined with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, said yesterday.

Mr. Cardin and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, have requested funding for counties affected by the military's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan in the Senate fiscal 2008 federal budget. The amount will not be finalized until the bill comes out of a committee.

Mr. Cardin said federal officials should give the county money because they made the decision to move thousands of people to Bethesda and should not burden the county with the consequences.

"I think the federal government has a responsibility to do something about that," he said after a closed meeting with the county's Chamber of Commerce. "There is a commitment to help in regard to the traffic problems."

The BRAC plan calls for Walter Reed Army Medical Center, off Georgia Avenue Northwest, to close and transfer most of its operations to the medical center in Bethesda, which will undergo a $2 billion expansion to make room for the new doctors and patients.

The combined facility will be renamed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The addition of more than 1,000 jobs and more than 400,000 patients each year is expected to cause major traffic problems along Wisconsin Avenue, where the medical center is located.

Maryland officials are increasingly relying on their representatives in Congress to bring home federal funding to prepare for BRAC, as the state faces a $1.5 billion state budget shortfall.

Mr. Cardin and Miss Mikulski announced Monday that they had secured a $4 million grant from the Labor Department to help Maryland businesses and workers prepare for the influx.

The grant will go to the Susquehanna Workforce Network to invest in the work force as 45,000 to 60,000 jobs arrive in the state because of BRAC.

"BRAC will have an enormous impact on Maryland, and this grant will enable the state to plan effectively for the new jobs and skills that will be required by this expanded mission," Mr. Cardin said.