Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Military Appropriations Includes Review of Roads

Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted 416-1 to pass H.R. 4486, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2015.

Language originally offered by Rep. Denny Heck (WA-10) was included in the report accompanying the bill. Heck’s language calls for changes to how the Department of Defense allocates funding for road construction near and on military installations.

In the bill now sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration, the DoD is directed to review potential road construction and expansion programs appropriate for the Defense Access Roads program, the only existing DoD program that provides funding for public highway improvements in and around military installations.

The level of congestion around our area is unsustainable for both military readiness and economic activity, said Congressman Denny Heck of Washington’s 10th District. I will continue to work closely with the committee to identify ways to upgrade the transportation infrastructure around bases such as Joint Base Lewis-McChord as soon as possible.

More than 60 years old, the DAR program was created when bases were expected to be located in relatively undeveloped regions, and no changes have been made to the program since 1978. The designated funding process forces highway improvement projects to compete with other construction projects like barracks, mission facilities, and maintenance buildings. Military installations located near urban areas often fail to qualify for DAR funding due to restrictive eligibility criteria.

The Committee on Appropriations states in its report:
Defense Access Roads project timeline.—The Committee is very concerned about the lack of use of the Defense Access Roads program within the Department of Defense. The Committee has heard of many worthwhile road construction/expansion projects in and around military installations that are in great need of funding. These projects would provide a great benefit to the installations and the surrounding communities. Therefore, the Committee directs the Department to review needed projects around military installations as well as a timeline on when those projects will be completed and report back to the Committee not later than 30 days after enactment of this Act. If the Department cannot provide a timeline, they should explain how the program can be changed to meet those requirements.

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