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|Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 75 · No. 6 > Defense Access Roads|
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-12-004
Defense Access Roads
by Darcel M. Collins and Darryl D. Hampton
A little-known DOD program helps reduce the impacts on State and local roadways caused by base realignments and other changes at military installations.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) oversees more than 27 million acres (11 million hectares) of property in the United States and manages more than 4,300 facilities spread across all 50 States and several U.S. territories. These DOD facilities exist in both urban and rural areas and involve all modes of transport, from roads and rail to sea and air.
In recent years, the department has undergone mission changes that have involved relocating more than 123,000 military and civilian personnel. One of the major initiatives driving this transformation is the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005 (BRAC 2005), which is the latest round in a congressionally authorized process to help DOD reorganize its base structure to support the armed forces more efficiently and effectively, increase operational readiness, and facilitate new ways of doing business. BRAC 2005 aims to eliminate excess capacity, defined as underused or unused facilities or infrastructure, and to encourage "jointness" -- selecting the appropriate organizations from two or more military services to share facilities in some locations to improve combat effectiveness while reducing costs.
One effect of base realignment and closure is the impact on local traffic and transportation infrastructure. When personnel from closed bases relocate or commute to another base that remains open, this increase in defense traffic at that installation can place an unexpected burden on nearby State and local roadways. That's where a little-known DOD program known as the Defense Access Roads (DAR) program comes into play.
The DAR program, jointly administered by DOD's Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) Transportation Engineering Agency and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), represents a potential means for the military to assist in funding public highway improvements near impacted facilities. Specifically, the program can provide a share of defense funding for off-installation projects to mitigate transportation impacts resulting from sudden and unusual military actions. The terminology "sudden and unusual" is important, as DOD is not in the road-building business.
"In the circumstance of sudden and unusual military impacts, the DAR program can be a valuable resource for funding improvements at locations where DOD mission- support efforts have an adverse effect on nearby roads," says Acting Associate Administrator Amy Lucero of the FHWA Office of Federal Lands Highway, which oversees the program.
The relationship between roads and national defense became clear during and after World War I. One lesson learned was that while railroads alone could not meet the military's logistical needs, the road network was inadequate as well. In 1919, the War Department executed the first coast-to-coast military convoy, going from Washington, DC, to San Francisco, CA. During the 2-month journey, the Army convoy, which included then Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower, demonstrated that interstate roads were inadequate to military requirements. (See "The Man Who Changed America" in the March/April 2003 issue of Public Roads.)
In 1922, at the request of the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR, FHWA's predecessor), the War Department developed a map of the main roads that would be important to the military at a time of war. Named after General of the Armies John J. Pershing, the Pershing Map reflected the general's view that a system of highways that served the country's industrial and commercial needs would serve military needs as well. State highway officials identified these same routes as vital to their needs, and subsequently all these routes were included in the Federal-aid system approved in 1923. The Pershing Map was a precursor to the Strategic Highway Corridor Network, which DOD and FHWA still maintain.
During the period between the two world wars, BPR worked closely with the War Department on research that culminated in 1941 in a final study of defense requirements, including an updated version of the Pershing Map. On November 19, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Defense Highway Act of 1941, which initiated funding for two programs that later became the DAR and Highways for National Defense programs. Both initiatives immediately expended hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal funding to support the logistical demands of World War II. The former implemented connections from the major military installations to the network, while the latter focused on ensuring that national defense was served by adequate, safe, and efficient highway transportation and making upgrades to the Strategic Highway Corridor Network. During planning of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, BPR consulted with defense officials to ensure that military needs were addressed.
Investment in the defense transportation programs waned after World War II. However, the Highways for National Defense program worked with BPR -- and continues to work with FHWA -- to ensure that federally funded roadways served defense requirements. The DAR program became the action-oriented program it is today, paying for specific impacts on the roadway system caused by changes in DOD mission and infrastructure requirements, such as base relocations and closures, construction related to the Air Force's missile program, and home porting of Navy ships.
In addition to these highway-related defense programs, SDDC today manages similar initiatives focused on rail and maritime interests. The Railroads for National Defense program ensures that the civil sector's rail transportation system meets the current needs of national defense, while the Ports for National Defense program analyzes the throughput capability of the Nation's commercial seaports to ensure that they are capable of supporting the requirements of military deployment. Together, these programs support DOD's mission of deployability, or the capability to move forces from a home station to anywhere in the world.
"Our national defense programs are critical to ensuring that our civil sector infrastructure can support deployment of military forces, even during mission changes like those we are currently experiencing," says Robert Korpanty, chief of the Office of the Special Assistant for Transportation Engineering at SDDC.
How the DAR Program Works
The legal authority for the DAR program originates in Title 23, United States Code, "Highways," section 210 (23 USC 210). In 1978, to implement the authorities given in Title 23, DOD and FHWA together developed a set of eligibility criteria that includes replacement roads, new access roads, increased capacity by doubling traffic, and low-type roads. A replacement road is a new road or upgrade to a parallel road that replaces capacity lost when a public roadway is closed due to military necessity. A new access road is a public road that creates new access to a military facility. Doubling traffic is defined as a 100-percent increase at a particular location or turning movement (such as right or left turns) requiring a transportation upgrade. Finally, a low-type road is a rural county road that has limited carrying capacity and requires upgrade to sustain consistent movements of military equipment.
The commanding general of SDDC is the DOD agent responsible for determining eligibility for the DAR program and certifying roads as important to national defense under Title 23. The DAR program office in SDDC and the Office of Federal Lands Highway at FHWA provide oversight for the execution of the eligible projects. Funding these projects is the responsibility of the military service departments -- Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy -- which fund DAR projects as part of their construction programs. It is important to note that DAR projects must compete within the normal DOD budgeting process, as is the case with any other military construction projects such as on-base housing, utilities, and roadways. Thus, a determination of eligibility and certification for the DAR program does not guarantee funding.
State and local highway agencies are expected to develop and maintain adequate highways accessible to defense installations in the same way they do for nondefense-related traffic generators, such as new commercial developments or residential subdivisions. Officials with DOD installations coordinate closely with local authorities to ensure that transportation improvement programs include upgrades and maintenance projects to support ongoing, long-term defense transportation needs.
However, when local transportation authorities are unable to provide solutions through their regular programs, DOD installation commanders can initiate a DAR needs report, which describes the current deficiencies of the access road and the defense-generated impacts. The report also outlines the project proposed to mitigate the condition and provides supporting traffic data. If applicable, SDDC can request that FHWA perform an engineering field evaluation to validate traffic data and conditions. During the evaluation, all parties -- including SDDC, the military installation, FHWA, and State and local officials -- meet to discuss the potential project and any concerns or possible solutions. The FHWA field evaluation report includes the agency's assessment of the roadway's condition, a recommendation for an appropriate scope for the project, its estimated cost, and the schedule for mitigating the transportation impacts.
Project Funding And Execution
Based on the available information, including the field evaluation report, FHWA staff members concur on whether the condition meets the eligibility criteria for the DAR program. SDDC makes a determination and recommendation on the cost share that the military should contribute toward the proposed improvements. Determination of the cost share is based on projected military impacts and availability of local funding. Once the proposed scope of work and the amount of the defense contribution to funding are agreed upon, SDDC's commanding general certifies the road section as important to national defense. The certification is required before any DOD funds can be released to public highway authorities.
Because there is no separate appropriation available for DAR projects, SDDC coordinates with the individual military service to budget funding for the project. Typically, the U.S. Congress approves the funding under the annual appropriations for military construction and veterans affairs. Other special appropriations, such as funds for BRAC 2005 activities, could be used to support DAR projects, depending on the priorities of the funding source.
Once appropriated, the DAR funding is transferred to FHWA for project execution. FHWA typically distributes funds to the State, county, or other local transportation authority for completing the project unless one of the division offices of FHWA's Office of Federal Lands Highway takes the lead. A project memorandum of agreement establishes specific roles and responsibilities for the officials involved in the DAR project. Upon completion, long-term maintenance of the improvement becomes the responsibility of the owning highway authority.
The following recent and ongoing DAR projects illustrate examples from Virginia, Florida, Maryland, and Hawaii.
Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Immediately following September 11, 2001, the Army closed the State-operated Beulah Street/Woodlawn Road corridor through the North Post of Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, VA, due to security concerns. Prior to the closure, this route handled both Army and non-Army traffic demands and provided a connection between heavily traveled Telegraph Road and Richmond Highway. Removal of the two-lane access routes through this portion of southeastern Fairfax County substantially diminished the flexibility of traffic movement. In 2003, the Army conducted a preliminary engineering and environmental study to evaluate the feasibility of establishing a connector road between Telegraph Road and Richmond Highway.
The SDDC commander certified the project as important to national defense on July 15, 2004. After extensive negotiations, in 2006 the Army, Fairfax County, the Commonwealth of Virginia, FHWA, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation settled on a final alignment for the new connector (Mulligan Road), which will cross primarily Army property. The State and county requested that the road include four lanes to handle the projected long-term traffic demand. At the request of the Army and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), FHWA's Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division agreed to execute the environmental planning, design, and construction of the project. In late 2007, FHWA completed the environmental planning, which included agreements on land exchanges between the Army, VDOT, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Army agreed to donate the easement for the sections of roadway that will cross Army property and to pay for design and construction of two of the four lanes of Mulligan Road as a replacement for the two taken away as a result of the permanent road closure.
Congress appropriated the Army's portion of funding for the project in fiscal year 2008, and Virginia added a widening of Telegraph Road in 2009. The project is under construction with estimated completion in September 2013.
Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
As a result of BRAC 2005, the 7th Special Forces Group from Fort Bragg, NC, were directed to head south to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The environmental study for the move noted transportation challenges with locating a new facility on undeveloped property along State Route 85 (SR-85), which bisects the northern part of the Air Force base. The key problem was that numerous crossings, coupled with possible closures of a high-speed and high-volume roadway due to oversize military equipment, could create safety and security problems at the base.
Additional analysis during the evaluation process in 2009 led to a recommendation that SR-85 be grade-separated from one of the crossings at McWhorter Avenue. On November 3, 2009, the SDDC commander certified the intersection of SR-85 and McWhorter Avenue as important to national defense. In fiscal year 2010, Congress appropriated funding for the improvements.
The DAR project will replace the intersection with a half-cloverleaf interchange to allow uninterrupted traffic flow along SR-85 and between the new Duke Field and base training ranges. The project is under construction, with anticipated completion in February 2013.
Naval Support Activity, Maryland
Another consequence of BRAC 2005 was closure of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, which occurred on September 15, 2011. The entire hospital staff moved to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a consolidated location at the Naval Support Activity Bethesda facility in Maryland. The multifaceted medical facility includes personnel from multiple branches of the military. The hospital increased the facility personnel by 2,500 and is generating thousands of new visitors daily. Traffic studies related to the transformation recommended numerous transportation upgrades, two of which were evaluated for defense funding.
The studies looked at two intersections adjacent to Naval Support Activity Bethesda on Rockville Pike at South Wood Road and North Wood Road. SDDC recommended, in conjunction with planned gate improvements, that the Navy make intersection modifications at North Wood Road under a State encroachment permit. The intersection at South Wood Road had a recurring safety problem due to pedestrian-vehicular conflicts, and the large increase in staff and visitors is expected to exacerbate that issue. The SDDC commander certified the intersection at South Wood Road and Rockville Pike as important to national defense on September 29, 2009, thereby confirming eligibility to employ DAR funding.
The improvement recommended during the environmental evaluation was a grade separation for the pedestrian movement, which will provide unimpeded access from Metro, the local transit system, to the military medical centers. DOD provided funding for construction of a shallow tunnel under Rockville Pike. Montgomery County is designing the project to include a number of options, such as including high-speed elevator access and potential vehicular access between the military medical centers and the National Institutes of Health across the street. These options might be implemented if additional funding becomes available. The project is currently being designed by Montgomery County.
Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii
In addition to security- and BRAC-related mission changes, another set of circumstances that might lead to involvement of the DAR program is organic growth at a DOD facility coupled with existing roadways with safety deficiencies. For example, the Army's Pohakuloa Training Area on the island of Hawaii is accessible only by Saddle Road (SR-200). The original road, built by the U.S. military in 1942, was narrow and had numerous safety deficiencies. Over time, Saddle Road was opened to the public and became a main arterial in the local roadway network, connecting the east and west sides of the island. The training demands at the facility grew significantly over time, and the limited structural section (narrow lanes and single lane structures with limited weight capacity) proved to be a hazard to military equipment that traversed the route.
On June 28, 1989, the SDDC commander certified 13 miles (21 kilometers) of Saddle Road as important to national defense. To improve the roadway's alignment outside the training area and to bring the road up to current design standards, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (Hawaii DOT) has rebuilt or realigned a total of 31 miles (50 kilometers) to date. Planning and construction of the link has taken two decades because the project has been executed in phases as funding becomes available. The project is nearing completion for the section from the city of Hilo to milepost 42, past the Pohakuloa Training Area property. A new grading phase of the project is under construction west of milepost 42 and will construct a new 10-mile (16-kilometer) section to SR-190.
"Not only do these projects improve safety within the military training area, but the DAR efforts were the catalyst for the Hawaii DOT to pursue improving the entire 50 miles [80 kilometers] across the island," says Terry Haussler, director of the Office of Program Development in FHWA's Office of Federal Lands Highway. "When completed, these improvements will greatly improve the safety of and open up access to the cross-island connector."
Change on the Horizon
As demonstrated by these examples, the DAR program is active across the country, implementing projects in both urban and rural areas. Given the magnitude of anticipated impacts, some congressional leaders have suggested that the DAR program should become an even larger contributor to address transportation needs near military facilities. Congress clearly is concerned about the military's impacts on local transportation systems, as demonstrated by its commissioning of several recent studies by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB). These studies suggest that changes to the DAR program may be on the horizon.
According to GAO's January 2011 report, High-Level Federal Interagency Coordination Is Warranted to Address Transportation Needs Beyond the Scope of the Defense Access Roads Program (GAO-11-165), "communities surrounding 18 military installations expecting BRAC-related growth had estimated over $2 billion in defense-related transportation needs. This has resulted in an increased interest in the...DAR program to help mitigate adverse transportation impacts."
Similarly, TRB's Special Report 302: Federal Funding of Transportation Improvements in BRAC Cases, also published in 2011, reports that the "time period by which BRAC decisions must be fully implemented (September 2011) is far too short for some bases and surrounding communities to avoid significant added traffic congestion for military personnel and other commuters during peak travel periods. The resulting traffic delays will impose substantial costs on surrounding communities and may even be harmful to the military."
Further still, the TRB report concludes, "the existing funding mechanisms [through DOD and USDOT] are incapable of addressing the problems in terms of both the speed with which they can be implemented and the resources they have available."
In addition, a study by SDDC, "Defense Access Road Program Criteria Study," describes how an urban DAR criterion could be added that would allow DOD to contribute a proportional share to projects to fix failing levels of service on congested roadways that would not otherwise meet the program's current eligibility criteria.
Recommendations from these studies vary and cover a range of challenging concepts, including expanding the program's scope to include other modes of transportation and incorporating measures to manage transportation demand. The recommendations also describe opportunities for greater communication, coordination, and elevation of defense transportation needs in the local planning process.
The impacts of recent actions resulting from changes in the military mission -- such as BRAC and Grow the Force, an initiative to enhance overall U.S. forces and reduce stress on deployable personnel -- will become more apparent in coming years. DOD will continue to work with communities on solutions to transportation challenges as they arise.
"I have been impressed with how effective the DAR program is at allowing the department to collaborate with Federal, State, and local governments when common infrastructure challenges require development of balanced transportation solutions," says Bruce Busler, director of SDDC's Transportation Engineering Agency.
For its part, FHWA is committed to supporting DOD with technical expertise and guidance on all DAR projects. "The two agencies will continue working together to develop and implement recommendations that will make the program better at providing assistance to State and local governments," says FHWA's Haussler, "especially as funding transportation improvements becomes ever more challenging in the coming years."
Darcel M. Collins is a transportation specialist with FHWA's Office of Federal Lands Highway in Washington, DC. She manages the DAR and Park Roads and Parkways programs. Collins has a B.S. in mathematics from Bowie State University and an M.A. in management and leadership from Webster University.
Darryl D. Hampton, P.E., is the senior engineer for the DAR program in the Office of the Special Assistant for Transportation at the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's Transportation Engineering Agency at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. He graduated from Old Dominion University with a B.S. in civil engineering. Hampton is a registered professional engineer in Virginia.
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