Drivers stuck in the increasingly heavy traffic around Joint Base Lewis-McChord can take some comfort from a new report commissioned by Congress. It not only recognizes their pain, it suggests ways to alleviate it.
Most prominently, the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board urges Congress to move quickly to fund road improvements in communities most affected by expansions at military installations – including JBLM – either by special appropriations or by reallocating unused stimulus funds. We second that recommendation.
Much of that new traffic on Interstate 5 near JBLM is a result of the military implementing the base closure and realignment plan (BRAC) approved by Congress in 2005 – which is taking units from bases scheduled for closure and distributing them to 18 others that are expanding.
JBLM is one that is growing – by leaps and bounds – not only when new units arrive but also when existing ones return from war zones.
Of the 18 bases that are growing, only four others are scheduled to get more new personnel and dependents than Lewis-McChord. When the base realignment process is finished, it’s estimated that JBLM’s Department of Defense population will have increased by about 13,500, and they’ll be bringing another 17,400 family members with them.
Many newcomers will live in base housing, but most will live in the cities and unincorporated areas of Pierce and North Thurston counties. And they’ll be joining the crush of vehicles on Interstate 5 between Olympia and Tacoma.
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