UPDATE 6:10 p.m. Some in Bethesda are unhappy with the Maryland Transit Administration’s recent proposal to shut down a commuter bus that delivers people from Columbia, Burtonsville and Olney to the Walter Reed Military Medical Center Campus.
The MTA has given notice of three public hearings in which it will propose to shut down three commuter buses that use the ICC because of low ridership. Bus No. 203 delivers people from the Route 29 and upper-Georgia Avenue corridors to Bethesda’s traffic-heavy section of Rockville Pike at the secure Walter Reed base.
Ilaya Hopkins, a civic activist and member of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee, will testify against shutting down the commuter bus at a June 6 hearing in Gaithersburg. Bethesda residents involved in Walter Reed’s BRAC move to the Naval Military Medical Center have long been concerned with added traffic from a large increase in employees traveling to the base.
Phil Alperson, Montgomery County’s BRAC coordinator, said he will also testify against the route cuts. Members of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board agreed to oppose the discontinuation of the route at their meeting on Monday.
Arlington County transportation planner and blogger Dan Malouff called the move a “classic bait and switch from highway builders,” who promise a multimodal road to build political support for a project before cutting those other modes later.
“What we’ve done is simply make some proposals,” said MTA spokesperson Terry Owens. “But we’ve looked at ridership on some of the routes and they have not met expectations, thus the proposal is to consider scaling those back to reallocate those resources.”
If the MTA follows through on the proposals, the 203, 202 and 205 routes would be discontinued on August 1.
Owens said the MTA anticipated having an average of about 20 riders per trip with that number growing to 30 riders per trip over a 24-month period. The 203 route is averaging fewer than 15 riders per trip.
“It’s those kinds of numbers that have us taking a look at this and scheduling these public hearings,” Owens said. “We are talking to elected officials, stakeholders and others about our proposal. Certainly, we want input from a wide cross-section before we make any decision.”
Flickr photo by BeyondDC
The skydivers will be part of a barbecue and concert appreciation day for staff on the Walter Reed and Naval Support Activity Bethesda campus.
At about 11:30 a.m., the skydivers will land on the front lawn near the Navy Exchange, according to the NSAB Public Affairs office.
NSAB warned county government that could lead to slower traffic in front of the base due to rubbernecking.
The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. From 9 a.m. until the concert is over, the gate directly across from the Medical Center Metro station will be closed to vehicle traffic and open to bicycles and pedestrians, which could also cause traffic issues.
How Did White Flint Get Its Name? — The name came from the white quartz rock that was found throughout Montgomery County, not the White Flint Mall, which came along in the 70s. The first known use of the name in the area was in 1930 with the White Flint Country Club. Developers and residents are now debating what to call the rapidly developing section of Rockville Pike. [Friends of White Flint]
B-CC’s Beakes Establishes Herself As County’s Top Distance Runner — The Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School sophomore runner finished 10th in the 3,000 meters at last week’s Penn Relays, 11 seconds faster than her goal time. She has finished first in every other individual race of more than 400 meters this year. [The Gazette]
Walter Reed Pharmacy Investigates Potentially Deadly Prescription Mistake — The Bethesda military hospital, which provides prescriptions for branch clinics throughout the D.C. area, somehow provided a Virginia woman with a potentially deadly heart stimulant instead of the Vitamin B12 injection she had been prescribed. [Washington Post]
B-CC Names New Field Hockey Coach — The high school announced last week that JV Field Hockey coach Morgan Kauffman would take over as coach of the varsity squad. Kauffman, a Pennsylvania-native, played college field hockey at Bucknell, where she was an all-conference player. [Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Athletics]
Flickr photo by im_apatel
Examiner Editorial: Do Away With Rockville Pike ‘Death Lane’ — The ever provocative Washington Examiner editorial board yesterday came out against the State Highway Administration’s proposed extra lane for Rockville Pike at Cedar Lane. The Board labeled it a “death lane,” because an independent traffic analyst hired by residents against the project concluded it would cause safety issues in a merge area. SHA officials at the March 19 meeting cited in the editorial denied that, saying the designed merge area is standard throughout the state and country. [Washington Examiner]
Walter Reed Cracking Down On Parking Restrictions — Military officers have been patrolling the entrance of the base’s 1,100-space patient garage to keep staff and visitors out so veterans have spots. [WTOP]
Bethesda Magazine Profiles Marc Elrich — One developer calls Elrich, the At-large councilmember from Takoma Park, “the most dangerous politician in Montgomery County,” and “basically anti-capitalist.” Elrich said he’d strongly consider running for county executive if County Executive Isiah Leggett decides not to run for another term. [Bethesda Magazine]
A group of homeowners near Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane think an additional lane of traffic designed to lighten the rush hour load won’t live up to its purpose, and they don’t want the disruptions they fear will come with it.
The residents, many who live north of Cedar Lane and on the east side of Rockville Pike on a service road, questioned many aspects of a State Highway Administration presentation on the project at a Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee meeting on Tuesday.
The Locust Hill Citizens Association hired their own traffic consultant to refute SHA’s findings and residents said the SHA’s noise study didn’t come close to the 80 decibels of sound they’ve measured from afternoon northbound traffic.
One homeowner even claimed the existing road can sound as loud as the Verizon Center during a Washington Capitals hockey game. Another demanded to know the standard deviation SHA used for its traffic studies.
SHA wants to build the project, known as Phase 4 of the Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane intersection improvement, in order to help mitigate the increased afternoon rush hour traffic from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and NIH to the Beltway and I-270.
The project, for which federal funds have not yet been released, would add an additional lane on Rockville Pike north of Cedar Lane to a point just north of Locust Hill Road. It would also include an extra lane from North Wood Road to Cedar Lane that would allow for traffic leaving the Military Medical Center base to have a free right-hand turn lane.
With SHA’s original traffic counts from 2007, the no-build scenario would mean an average delay of about three minutes per vehicle in the afternoon peak hour, a Level of Service grade of F. Phases 1-3 of the project (already funded and some already underway) would reduce that delay to one minute and the addition of Phase 4 would reduce the delay to 52.4 seconds per vehicle, a Level of Service grade of D.
A 2012 SHA count determined shorter delays for all scenarios, but SHA analysts discounted that study because heavy congestion didn’t allow as many vehicles to pass through the study area.
Richard Levine, president of the Locust Hill Citizens Association, said the project is not worth tearing up the existing sidewalk and other construction challenges. Residents opposed to Phase 4 say the major chokehold is south of Cedar Lane, not north of it.
One resident said vehicles, free of the bumper-to-bumper traffic south of Cedar Lane, will ramp up in speed and volume once they get through the intersection and closer to the Beltway and I-270 ramps.
An SHA representative said studies showed widening Rockville Pike south of North Wood Road would not provide corridor travel time savings.
“It would be a long run safety and environmental hazard. It would also be extremely complex and disruptive to build. An $11 million budget for ripping out a wooded hillside, replacing it with a retaining wall that will take years to build,” Levine said. “It would be a complex, expensive, disruptive, unsafe project for which no real reason exists. It’s not worth it. And in this day of budget constraints, to build something that’s doesn’t have a purpose is something that’s simply wrong and uncalled for.”
The project is scheduled to begin in mid to late 2014, pending the release of federal funds.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services has evacuated a building of the National Military Medical Center’s Carderock Clinic at 9500 MacArthur Boulevard after a chemical spill, according to Fire spokeswoman Beth Anne Nesselt.
Building 60, which holds a Navy Medical cardiac unit, was evacuated around 11:30 a.m. after an unknown chemical was spilled in the loading dock area, Nesselt said.
MCFRS is currently isolating the area and shutting down HVAC units inside the building.
Nesselt said Hazmat units will arrive at the scene to determine what type of chemical spilled, how much of it spilled and what steps to take next.
A group of volunteers from Bethesda’s Uniformed Services University is putting on a 5K/10K race to benefit wounded warriors and an event on Saturday at Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle (4844 Cordell Ave.) to promote and raise money for the race.
From 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., the Student Spouses Club (SSC) from the University, which trains military doctors and nurses on the Walter Reed-Navy Medical Center campus, will hold a fundraiser at the Woodmont Triangle bar.
The race is April 20 in Derwood. Activities on Saturday include a silent auction from 2 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., kids corner from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., all day food and drink specials, live music from Pretty Gritty (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and the Morrison Brothers (9:30 p.m. to close), on-site race registration and raffles.
The Metro Board Finance and Administration Committee today endorsed a new entrance at the Medical Center station that it says will support increased ridership from employees at the expanded Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Metro is one of the entities involved in a $68 million, federally-funded pedestrian tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue that will help Metro riders who now must cross busy Rockville Pike to get to the Medical Center gate on the east side of the road.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation will build the tunnel, with construction expected to start in 2014 and last two years. Prior to Walter Reed’s move to the Navy National Medical Center in 2011, there were 3,000 pedestrian crossings at the crosswalk per day. That number is expected to increase to 7,000 per day, according to Montgomery County BRAC coordinator Phil Alperson.
Four new escalators and two new elevators will provide access to the tunnel from the street level on the west side of Rockville Pike. The tunnel will be just beneath the street. On the east side of the street, three high-speed elevators will connect the pedestrian tunnel to the station platform 120 feet below ground.
“The new entrance and pedestrian tunnel will make it easier and safer for pedestrians traveling between the station and the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center,” Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles said in a statement. “The project has the added benefit of providing redundancy to the existing station entrance escalators, which will be replaced in the coming years. I want to express our gratitude to Senators Mikulski and Cardin, Representative Van Hollen, Montgomery County Executive Legget, and Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner for their support of this improvement.”
Image via Montgomery County Department of Transportation
CORRECTION: The added right lane on northbound 355 after Cedar Lane will extend to a point just north of Locust Hill Road, not all the way to the Beltway junction.
Also a clarification: $40 million of the referenced $90 million in federal funding will go toward the pedestrian tunnel crossing at the South Drive intersection. The federal government is providing another approximately $28 million from a separate fund for the project, bringing the rough cost to $68 million. The approximate federal haul for the four intersection projects is $50 million, plus $9.4 million in earmarks from FY 2008-2010.
ORIGINAL POST: Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) says it takes between 10 and 15 minutes to drive from downtown Bethesda to the Beltway/I-270 junction during rush hour on northbound 355.
The 1.5-mile stretch has become one of the region’s most notorious chokeholds, with added traffic traveling to and from the now-merged Walter Reed National Military Medical Center using intersections that local transportation officials said were already failing.
With both Walter Reed and across-the-street neighbor NIH planning to add employees over the next two decades, the federal government has provided millions in funding to help the Maryland State Highway Administration and Montgomery County try to lighten the traffic load.
We took a trip up Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue starting at 4:30 p.m., on the early end of the after-work rush hour. Starting with the left turn onto Wisconsin Avenue from Woodmont Avenue on the edge of downtown Bethesda, it took ten minutes and four seconds to get to the ramp for I-270 north, a distance of 1.6 miles.
The video, with facts, figures and details of some of the intersection and improvement projects to come, is above. If you don’t feel like reliving that commute, all of the information in the video is supplied after the jump.
It was unclear what affect that might have outside the base walls, where parking capacity issues have sometimes meant base employees parking on the streets of surrounding neighborhoods.
Jeff Miller, transportation program manager for NSAB, said designs for the interim buildings (known as medical swing space) were not finalized. But he told people at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee that it appears the Navy will put a one-story, 10,000-square-foot building and two-story, 90,000-square-foot building on what is now the G Parking Lot on the north end of campus bordering the Stone Ridge School.
Miller said that would leave parking “constrained,” but that the buildings would be ready for teardown in 2018.
“There’s significant motivation to reclaim that parking lot,” said Bill Sadlon, a project manager for Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
The expansion of the campus to include the Walter Reed Army Medical Center is expected to increase the number of annual visitors to the base to 1 million, up from 500,000. NSAB plans a new 500-space underground garage to compliment the new medical facilities as part of its master plan.
On the other side of Rockville Pike, budget constraints may force NIH to shut down its entrance near Greentree Road in the morning, according to an NIH official at the meeting.
Until Congress takes action on the budget, the gate will remain open.
Flickr photo by AmyMarieMoore
An exclusive right turn lane on southbound Connecticut Avenue from the Beltway to Jones Bridge Road should be done later this year and an extra right lane on northbound Rockville Pike from Cedar Lane to the Beltway is the last BRAC-related road project awaiting federal funding.
State Highway Administration officials updated a meeting of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee on Tuesday night at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center with status updates on federally funded projects at the four major intersections around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Institues of Health.
The area has become a traffic chokehold as workers file in and out of both secure facilities. SHA has received millions in grant funding from the Defense Department to widen intersections, add lanes and make sidewalk improvements.
Barb Solberg gave updates on each intersection. Construction timelines in SHA terms indicate actual roadway construction, Solberg said. In many cases, disruptions occur earlier because of work on underground utilities:
Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road — Phase 1, the new southbound lane on Connecticut Avenue from the Beltway to Jones Bridge Road, is under construction now and should be complete this summer or fall. Phase 2, the addition of a northbound Connecticut Avenue lane in the existing median to the Beltway, is under construction and should also be complete this summer or fall.
SHA has a separate contract out for the widening of Jones Bridge Road to the south, which would allow for another left turn lane to northbound Connecticut Avenue for the evening rush. Construction on that is expected to begin in fall of 2014.
Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane — Phases 1 and 2 include adding a lane on West Cedar Lane and increasing the length of the left turn lane just south of the intersection that allows access to the Military Medical Center’s North Gate. Phase 3 is the widening of Cedar Lane on both sides of Rockville Pike and should start in fall 2013 and finish in fall of 2015. It will include periodic closures of Cedar Lane.
Phase 4, the last project awaiting federal funding, will extend the lane SHA is adding to northbound Rockville Pike all the way to the Beltway. Solberg said the funding application should go out in the next couple months and construction should start in summer 2014 and finish in winter of 2015 or 2016.
Old Georgetown Road and West Cedar Lane — The first project to receive federal funding will add a right turn lane for drivers turning north onto Old Georgetown Road. Construction is scheduled to begin in summer 2014 and finish a year later.
Rockville Pike and Jones Bridge Road — SHA is going to convert one of the thru lanes on southbound Rockville Pike to a left turn lane onto Jones Bridge Road. Solberg said construction started in January 2012 and should be complete by this summer. The rest of that intersection’s improvements involve sidewalk work that will be a part of the upcoming Rockville Pike pedestrian tunnel project.
Montgomery County BRAC coordinator Phil Alperson noted none of the federal funding for these projects is threatened by sequestration fears or budget talks on Capitol Hill.
Photo via TrafficLand.com.
The CEO of the Children’s Inn at NIH, a Bethesda billionaire with some major philanthropic deeds to his name and a former Army psychologist with one of the most successful wounded warrior programs going at Walter Reed were named “Washingtonians of the Year 2012” this month by Washingtonian Magazine.
As CEO, Kathy Russell has helped build the Children’s Inn, which provides permanent living situations for parents and families of sick children from around the country undergoing treatment at NIH.
Bethesda’s David Rubenstein, co-founder of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, was honored for his “philanthropy that unites Washington.”
Rubenstein recently donated $2 million for a new organ in the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall and $1.5 million to the Library of Congress.
Ken Strafer, an Army vet who was injured in an IED blast in 2004, started Project Enduring Pride, which helps wounded veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center get off the base and provides other support activities.
Photo via Washingtonian Magazine
Phil Alperson said residents, employees and visitors in the area can expect delays and intermittent road closures from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today.
Across Rockville Pike, NIH has advised its employees to enter and exit on the Old Georgetown Road side of campus “to help alleviate traffic backups” on Rockville Pike.
Base spokesman Joe Macri declined to elaborate on the anticipated delays, saying, “In the interest of force protection, we are unable to discuss specific security measures taken.”
President Barack Obama visited wounded troops on the base on Dec. 20, a pre-holiday closed-to-the-media session that didn’t cause any significant added traffic.
Defense Department Releases Final Grant Money For Walter Reed Intersections — Yesterday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Senators Ben Cardin (D) and Barbara Mikulski (D) announced the Defense Department released the final $12.6 million to the Maryland State Highway Administration for work on intersection improvement projects near Walter Reed. Included is work at the Wisconsin Avenue and West Cedar Lane intersection. [Chris Van Hollen]
Ratner Museum Opens New Exhibit Sunday — The Ratner Museum (10001 Old Georgetown Rd.) will debut its “Multiple Visions” photography exhibit on Sunday. A meet the artists reception is set for Sunday, Jan. 13. [The Gazette]
Frosh Wants to Stop Speed Camera Bounties — State Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) says new laws will be introduced in the upcoming State Assembly to prevent counties and municipalities from issuing more speed camera tickets so speed camera vendors make more money. In Montgomery County, 40 percent of each $40 speeding camera ticket goes to the vendor. [WTOP]
Flickr photo by OnlyOneJK
The Defense Department will provide Maryland with $18.3 million for work on a Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road intersection improvement project, members of the state’s congressional delegation announced today.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Senators Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D) said the grant is the second of four they expect to be awarded to the state for traffic-mitigation issues around the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The Maryland Department of Transportation got a $7.3 million grant in September for a BRAC-related intersection upgrade at Old Georgetown Road and West Cedar Lane.
The State Highway Administration will manage the $23.1 million project.
Statements from Van Hollen, Mikulski and Cardin follow:
“Our community is proud to be the home of the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. In order to make sure it is a world-class center of excellence for our veterans, we must ensure patients, families, and base personnel are able to access the facility. We must also reduce BRAC-related congestion in the surrounding community,” said Congressman Van Hollen. “This funding will help do just that. It’s a win-win for everyone and key to making a successful transition at the new Walter Reed.”
“I fought in the Senate to BRAC-proof Maryland’s bases, now I am working to BRAC-ready our transportation systems. Our troops fight overseas to protect our freedom, they shouldn’t have to fight traffic to get the care they’ve earned when they get back,” said Senator Mikulski, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee which funds the Department of Defense. “The Walter Reed National Military Center at Bethesda will be the frontline in delivering care to our wounded warriors. I am proud to partner with my Team Maryland colleagues to make BRAC a success and secure the federal funding needed to meet the increased demands on our community.”
“This additional funding will make a difference for the thousands of wounded warriors and their families who will use the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, as well as Montgomery County’s beleaguered commuters,” said Senator Cardin. “As a delegation, we have been united in our efforts to ensure federal support for the expanded medical facility and the tens of thousands of new military and civilian jobs being brought to our state through the BRAC process. I am pleased that we will be able to provide much-needed road upgrades to improve safety and reduce BRAC-related congestion.”
Photo via TrafficLand.com