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B-CC Chamber Applauds Congressional Delegation for BRAC Infrastructure Improvements in Bethesda traffic nightmare

Bethesda, Maryland – April 18, 2011 – The Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce (B-CC Chamber) today announced its appreciation to the Maryland Congressional Delegation for their leadership in securing $300 million for transportation infrastructure improvements associated with BRAC medical facilities. A substantial portion of these funds is expected go to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, which will open its doors this summer to 2,500 more employees each day and a half a million more visitors each year.

At a press conference held at the National Institutes of Health, speaking on behalf of the B-CC Chamber and the BRAC Implementation Committee (BIC), Chamber Chairman Patrick L. O’Neil (Lerch, Early & Brewer) stated, "We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to our Congressional Delegation, spearheaded by Congressman Van Hollen and also led by Senators Mikulski and Cardin, for helping to secure the funding needed to improve the infrastructure surrounding the new Walter Reed, and thereby ensuring that Bethesda and Montgomery County will continue to be the world renowned healing and medical research center that it is."

"About 25 stakeholders are represented on the BIC and because of the hard work and collaboration of these citizens, business and schools, in conjunction with our local, state and federal government representatives, we are now "shovel ready" with well-vetted infrastructure plans as soon we receive this much needed federal funding," said O’Neil. For four years, the members of the BIC have been meeting on a monthly basis to forge a comprehensive and integrated plan to address the major influx anticipated with the new hospital.

"While there are significant impacts of BRAC on the local community, the nation needs to understand that these federal dollars are needed for a greater purpose … to serve our nation’s most deserving patients – the wounded warriors from our armed services, as well as their families who come from all over the country to be with their loved ones and who are so critical to their successful recoveries," said O’Neil.

The Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber is proud to be part of this unique and close-knit community that works together for the common good. From the B-CC Chamber and our 665 members, to citizen associations, to local schools, to the top staff of our local, state and federal governments … it is because of this cohesive community and their unwavering commitment that we are celebrating this funding today.

In addition to being the economic engine of Montgomery County with thousands of businesses, a vibrant downtown with more than 200 restaurants and hotels, Bethesda is a world renowned medical research center in its own right. Encompassed within a few miles, this center includes Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the National Institutes of Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Suburban Hospital/Johns Hopkins, National Library of Medicine, and more than 1000 health related and bioresearch businesses.

Download a full copy of the press release


Bethesda braces for a BRAC traffic nightmare

By Patrick L. O’Neil, Bethesda (Feburary 19, 2011)

On Sept. 15, the gates will open at the new Walter Reed Medical Center on the campus of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. But will anyone be able to get there?

The new Walter Reed sits in the heart of the region’s most congested commuter corridors along Rockville Pike, Connecticut Avenue, Old Georgetown Road and Jones Bridge Road. Starting with the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) consolidation at Naval Medical in September, the congestion is going to get worse — a lot worse. Think last month’s snow-related traffic nightmare, except as a regular occurrence.

When federal BRAC legislation mandated that Walter Reed combine its operations with Navy Medical to better serve the nation’s wounded warriors, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase business community welcomed the news, with one caveat — it had to be done right. By all accounts, the expanded medical facilities will allow our most deserving patients to receive the highest level of care. Congress has invested billions of dollars to provide state-of-the-art equipment and resources to aid their recovery. But Congress has failed to provide the necessary resources that will allow caregivers and families of wounded service personnel, who are critical to that recovery, the ability to reach the campus in a timely manner.

In broad terms, Bethesda is bracing for thousands of new employees, and over 500,000 more patients and visitors each year because of BRAC. Already-intolerable gridlock will become nightmarish. Shovel-ready plans have been devised that could mitigate these BRAC impacts on the surrounding transportation infrastructure. However, Congress has refused to properly fund them.

To be fair, our local congressman, Chris Van Hollen, has shown exemplary leadership in trying to get the needed funding. But we need his colleagues to get on board, and soon. Without congressional action, what the country is left with is a first-class medical center with seemingly Third World access outside the gates.

The writer is chairman of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.

Source: The Washington Post (Sunday, February 20, 2011)

Learn more about BRAC at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/brac

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