by: Kevin McCarty Updated:JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. —
What will Joint Base Lewis-McChord look like in 50 years? At the unveiling of a master plan for JBLM, commanders said they can’t be certain. But they want to prepare to make the huge military complex a better place to work and live.
At the ceremony Tuesday, base commanding officer Colonel Chuck Hodges said the plan aims to help the base catch up to a big growth spurt over the last decade, doubling the number of people who live on base, work there or depend on base services.
“We’ve had this significant growth since 2003 and now we’re trying to build the infrastructure to support that growth," said Hodges.
Around 180,000 people, including soldiers, airmen, family members, civilian contractors and retired veterans live, work or rely on medical and other services provided at JBLM. More than 26,000 military personnel and family members live on base full time. Hodges pointed out that the base is the number one selection for posting among new recruits in the Army and Air Force.
“Today, JBLM is the seventh largest city in the state of Washington," Hodges said during a presentation.
That makes traffic on and off base a nightmare, particularly on nearby Interstate 5.
“Who among us hasn’t been stuck in that traffic?” asked 10th District House Representative Denny Heck.
While the Department of Defense works to improve traffic on base, the state Department of Transportation has embarked on a plan to improve traffic on I-5 that is expected to be ready by next year.
“People would rather be doing a lot of things (other) than sitting in traffic on I-5 after work," Heck added.
The master plan also upgrades on base housing, creating neighborhoods within walking distance to stores, work and entertainment areas. People living and working on base now complain cross base traffic is slow and difficult, and amenities like grocery stores, gas stations and fast food restaurants are separated and widely spread out.
Hodges described the master plan as a living document, saying it would be reviewed every five years so changes can be made as the population of the base changes.