Sen. Patty Murray today announced a $250,000 grant to fund a South Sound regional planning group that works with Joint Base Lewis-McChord to ease the impacts of the military’s growth in Pierce and Thurston counties.
The money from the Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment buys at least another year for the South Sound Military and Communities Partnership. That organization brings together about 15 local government and military agencies that meet to analyze growth impacts and prioritize projects that could help civilian communities adjust to the Army’s burgeoning ranks south of Tacoma. It has representatives from schools and social services, as well as city governments.
Its work helps the agencies lobby for public projects, such as upcoming improvements to the Interstate 5 exit that leads to Madigan Army Medical Center and the construction of two new schools on Lewis-McChord.
“Speaking as one voice in tight budgets is always the best thing to do,” Murray said a partnership meeting in Lakewood today.
Lewis-McChord is the nation’s third largest military installation. It grew rapidly over the past decade. It has more than 42,000 service members, including more than 34,000 active-duty soldiers. In 2003, then Fort Lewis had about 19,000 active-duty soldiers.
Lakewood Mayor Doug Richardson teased Murray about one of the region’s primary goals for Lewis-McChord: A road that would connect the Air Force side of the base at McChord Air Field to the concentration of Army buildings known as Lewis Main. That road would ease traffic on Interstate 5 because people living on the base would not have to get on the highway to travel between McChord and Lewis.
“Did you bring a check for that?” he joked.
“It’s not here. That’ll take some work,” she replied.