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ISSUE: Growing pains of post realignment
OUR VIEW: Community should act on study
A study of traffic tangles resulting from BRAC-related growth did not research the Fort Knox area. However, there’s no doubt that the economic benefits brought by the U.S. Army’s realignment is adding pressure on local roads.
The study hopes to motivate more federal spending on road needs. Local leaders and state government responded here to the realities of this growth. Infrastructure improvements are under way, including an investment of $112 million on roads.
If this process succeeds, the local area should get a piece of the action. It would send the wrong message to penalize communities that effectively responded in order to rescue the ineffective.
Time and again, efforts of the local military and civilian community have been praised for quickly recognizing the 2005 announcements of the Base Realignment and Closure Initiative would require action. It’s difficult to say too much about what’s been accomplished in such trying economic times.
The key, of course, was a clear and effective plan. Championed by One Knox with reinforcements from the Core Committee and local civic leaders, a priority list made its way to Frankfort. Thanks to the reliable efforts of our legislative delegation and key members of the Beshear administration, it became a central component of the state budget and survived the General Assembly’s processes.
Other state governments were not as responsive – in part, because other local communities lacked vision and leadership.
The central recommendation of the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board study calls on Congress to offer unused stimulus money to cover some costs of new infrastructure in order to deal with BRAC growth.
If that idea is implemented, Kentucky’s state government could attract some of the millions being invested to build and expand roads in response to development at Fort Knox. Another possibility deserves consideration: Moving ahead with the next phase of BRAC-related road needs.
If any of that money becomes available to Kentucky, local leaders should push for development of new access onto the post. Plans call for a new road, generally following the path of Fort Knox’s South Boundary Road, and an entry gate that could relieve stress on U.S. 31W.
The National Research Council’s report concentrated on urban areas where substantial construction is unlikely because of the metropolitan structure surrounding the posts and the lack of space for new roads. We need to make noise now to ensure that any federal money allocated consider all impacted installations, including Fort Knox.
Rep. Jimmie Lee offered one appropriate caution regarding the possibility of federal help. While welcoming assistance, the Elizabethtown Democrat stressed that the state avoid any agreements that would delay projects already on track toward completion. Federal money sometimes comes with strings attached that can diminish its value.
The report noted that standard road development projects can take nine to 20 years to complete, yet the traffic is here today. Again, Kentucky’s response has been excellent. In most cases, the local projects are due to be completed by 2014. Projects such as the extension of Ky. 313 and the yet unnamed Elizabethtown-to-Radcliff connector have been fast tracked and could take as little as five years from idea to operation.
In the meantime, local motorists experience daily the impact of the “big inhale” of Fort Knox’s new missions including the Human Resources Command. It’s likely to ease a bit here by September when the Armor Center’s relocation to Fort Benning, Ga., is complete.
Besides stimulus money, the report also challenges the Department of Defense and calls for relaxation of standards to qualify for the Defense Access Roads program in BRAC-impacted areas.
In recognition of the substantial financial benefit of the BRAC changes at Fort Knox, Kentucky is paying its share. Hopefully, this study will convince the federal government to contribute in a similar manner.