A new approach to funding transportation projects near military bases has some traction in a military appropriation bill that recently sailed through the House of Representatives on a 416-1 vote.
The idea promoted by Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, would allow Department of Defense funds to be used to help finance public highway improvements in and around military installations.
Over time, it could provide a source of funding to help alleviate traffic congestion on and around Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The Defense Access Roads program is more than 60 years old and hasn’t been updated since 1978. Military bases near urban areas often fail to qualify for funding from this pot of money due to restrictive eligibility requirements.
In the bill headed to the U.S. Senate, the Department of Defense is directed to review needed road projects that would benefit the military bases and the surrounding communities.
One word of caution: H.R. 4486, the Military Construction, Veteran Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act is also the source of funding for VA, which is under intense scrutiny for alleged mismanagement at VA hospitals. The bill is likely to be caught up in the VA maelstrom in the weeks to come. The Senate should act swiftly both to care for veterans and to solve the traffic problems in and around JBLM.