Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Traffic Tsunami

The BRAC coordinator for HoCo is a guy named Kent Menser. Kent regularly sends out an email newsletter called “BRAC Bits” to all interested stakeholders in the activities at Fort Meade.

Yesterday I received BRAC Bit #83. It summed up the coming jobs tsunami quite succinctly.

“The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Defense Media Activity (DMA) and Adjudication Co-location Buildings are on schedule and the first DISA contingent will be in their new building in January 2011. The total square feet of these three buildings total approximately 1.3 million square feet. But, when it comes to Fort Meade construction, BRAC is just the beginning. The installation has a number of new buildings and building expansions on the books, the biggest being the construction of the “Cyber Campus” on the remainder of the golf courses. This campus will consist of DISA, DMA, Cyber Command Headquarters and elements of NSA. In fact, the NSA portion of this campus may total up to 5.8 million square feet of new construction.”

Those won’t be empty square feet either. They’ll be filled with lots of engineers and all manner of information technology professionals. Most of these people will commute to work by car.

“Fort Meade-related growth, including the expansion of NSA's main campus on Fort Meade, is generating unprecedented transportation challenges for the region. Altogether, the Fort Meade workforce – together with major concentrations of private sector jobs in the immediate Fort Meade area – can be expected to more than double from today's 50,000 level to roughly 120,000 by the 2025 – 2030 time frame. Assuming today's Fort Meade-related commuting patterns remain essentially as they are today – with an average one-way commute of about 20 miles – mitigating the regional impact of this growth would require construction of about 250 lane-miles of new arterial highway capacity at a cost of $4.3 billion.”

This helps put the Town Center redevelopment plans into a better perspective. Columbia has the opportunity to provide housing for 5,000 of these new workers in an area adjacent to a four lane divided highway with grade separated interchanges to the north ( Route 175) and south (Broken Land Parkway) of the redevelopment zone. You would be hard pressed to find a more compatible place for channeling growth.

No matter what HoCo does or doesn’t do, the job growth at Fort Meade is going to happen and throughout the county traffic will increase. Workers from adjacent counties will flow into and out of HoCo in unprecedented numbers.

It’s both a challenge and an opportunity.
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