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Check here for the latest media reports about BRAC, press advisories related to BRAC activities and other announcements about BRAC-related issues. Please report any bad links by clicking the below each item.

Friday, January 16, 2015

1-16-15 Bethesda Now: Temporary Road Changes Coming To Rockville Pike In Bethesda

Correction, 3:45 p.m. – A previous version of this story incorrectly reported a new entrance to the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart would be opening on Cedar Lane and an existing Cedar Lane entrance to the school would be closing. The new entrance to the school will open on Rockville Pike, not Cedar Lane. It will replace the school’s existing Rockville Pike entrance.

Next week will bring a new traffic pattern to a busy section of Rockville Pike as State Highway crews start work on a culvert replacement project.

On or about Wednesday, Jan. 21, all traffic on Rockville Pike just north of Cedar Lane will shift to the west side of the road, according to SHA spokesperson David Buck.

The SHA recently widened that side of the road and removed a concrete median to allow for the shift.

Southbound Rockville Pike traffic will shift to the right. Northbound Rockville Pike traffic will shift to the left. Three through lanes in both directions will always be open during peak hours.

[Graphic]

Once the lane shift goes into effect, the SHA will begin replacing the culvert under the northbound side of Rockville Pike.

In the late spring or early summer, the SHA expects to shift traffic again as a second phase of culvert work starts under the middle of the road. Northbound traffic will move back to the right and southbound traffic will remain where it was during the first phase.

Buck said there will be a third phase a few months after that during which crews will replace the culvert on the southbound side of Rockville Pike. Southbound traffic lanes will shift back to the east.

The Jan. 21 traffic changes will include the opening of the new Rockville Pike entrance to the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. The existing Rockville Pike entrance to the school will be closed.

Buck said the $11.9 million culvert replacement project is almost half done. In August 2014, the SHA reopened Cedar Lane east of Rockville Pike ahead of schedule after realigning a culvert under that road.

POSTED: 11:47:00 AM |

Thursday, January 15, 2015

1-14-15 Washington Post: D.C., Maryland, Virginia advancing many high-impact transportation projects in 2015 -- Maryland: BRAC improvements

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.

Each January, I present a year-ahead look at the top 10 issues most likely to affect travel in the Washington. region. But many commuters don’t experience a “region.”

Rebuilding the District’s 16th Street bridge this year will affect tens of thousands of drivers and bus riders, but that’s not a big deal to the tens of thousands experiencing the new 95 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia.

Here are some projects, programs and developments that I ranked just below the top 10 in regional significance, but that will rate No. 1 status for many local commuters.

Virginia

Route 50 widening. Route 50 is being widened from four to six lanes over 3.7 miles between Poland Road and Route 28. This is an area west of Route 28 where the development of Loudoun County has increased traffic congestion. The four-lane segment south of Dulles International Airport was inadequate.

The project, which began in 2011, added a lane each way in 2014, but all the work to put the lanes into their final configuration, and to finish the trails, signals and paving, is scheduled to be done by the end of this year.

Interstate 95 auxiliary/shoulder lanes. The 95 Express Lanes project is the big story, but not the only story along the interstate in Northern Virginia, which is fair because it’s one of the most congested corridors in the entire region.

This project along seven miles of I-95 in Prince William County began in 2013 and is scheduled to wrap up this summer. It’s adding auxiliary travel lanes and widening the shoulders to ease choke points on the interstate and improve the safety of the traffic flow.

Interstate 395 auxiliary lane. Farther north, the Virginia Department of Transportation will wrap up a project early this year adding an auxiliary lane on the interstate’s northbound side around the terminus of the express lanes. This should ease that transition zone, and also help with the traffic heading to the Mark Center at Seminary Road.

Interstate 66/Route 15 interchange. As with I-95, the traffic congestion problem on I-66 is too big for one fix. While the Virginia government studies the potential for adding high-occupancy toll lanes and opens the Active Traffic Management system this year, VDOT also will begin rebuilding the interchange at Route 15 in Haymarket.

This congestion relief project, 29 miles west of the Capital Beltway, illustrates how big the Washington region is getting. Scheduled to begin this spring, it will create what engineers call a “diverging diamond interchange.” The resulting traffic pattern eliminates left turns into oncoming traffic. (The Maryland State Highway Administration built one at the Baltimore Washington Parkway/Arundel Mills Boulevard interchange.)

The District

Southeast Boulevard. The District sneaked this one in at the very end of 2014, so many drivers won’t experience the effect until this year. Southeast Boulevard occupies the space between 11th Street SE and Barney Circle that used to be a leg of the Southeast Freeway. The sunken freeway was brought up to the level of the surrounding streets and reconnected with the neighborhood. There’s a new intersection at 11th Street. For commuters, it reestablishes the route between Pennsylvania Avenue at Barney Circle and the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.

South Capitol Street Corridor. One of the biggest projects in the District is about to advance through more planning stages that eventually will lead to reconstruction of the Frederick Douglass Bridge over the Anacostia River and the creation of traffic circles on both sides of the bridge.

New management. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) named Leif Dormsjo to be director of the District Department of Transportation. He’s familiar to Marylanders who follow transportation issues. Dormsjo was the assistant secretary for planning and project management at the Maryland Department of Transportation during the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who leaves office this month.

Maryland

BRAC improvements. Travelers along Route 355 near the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health will see more road work by the Maryland State Highway Administration to ease the extra traffic generated by the federal Base Realignment and Closure program.

The work, scheduled to start this spring, includes construction of a new through-lane on eastbound Center Drive, to the west of Route 355; improvements to a pedestrian/bike trail next to NIH; and upgrades to traffic signals and sidewalks. That’s scheduled to be done in fall 2016.

This summer, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation plans to select a contractor to build the underground link between the Medical Center Metro station and Walter Reed, across Route 355. That project is scheduled to be done in fall 2018.

Route 201 interchange. This project, scheduled to begin in the summer along a major commuter artery in Prince George’s County, will convert the Indian Head Highway intersection at Livingston Road/Kerby Hill Road into an interchange. The congestion-easing project is scheduled to be done in spring 2018.

Bethesda Metro. Work started in October, but the project to replace the three very long escalators at the entrance to the Bethesda Metro station will continue through this year and beyond. Since it’s impossible to completely shut this entrance to the busy station, the program takes out one of the three escalators at a time.

That’s an inconvenience for riders and a major safety challenge for the transit authority, which must keep extra staff on standby to keep the remaining two escalators in service.

POSTED: 11:56:00 AM |

Thursday, January 08, 2015

1-8-15 Bethesda Now: MoCo Moves To Next Stage Of Rockville Pike Pedestrian Tunnel Project

Montgomery County on Thursday asked for formal plans from the two finalists selected to build a pedestrian tunnel under Rockville Pike at the Medical Center Metro station.

The county’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) issued a Request for Proposals to Bethesda-based Clark Construction and a joint venture of Corman-Bradshaw Construction, the finalists selected in September 2013 from a field of nine applicants.

The federally-funded $68 million project was originally scheduled to start construction late last year after a contractor was selected in October of last year. MCDOT now says the project is slated to finish in fall 2018.

355 pedestrian crossing rendering, via MCDOT/Planning DepartmentThe tunnel is meant to improve safety by getting Metrorail and Metrobus commuters off of the crammed street-level crosswalk at Rockville Pike. About 3,000 people crossed the intersection daily before BRAC added Walter Reed to the base at Naval Support Activity Bethesda. Studies estimated about 7,000 people would cross daily by 2020 — if not for the underground alternative.

The street-level crosswalk won’t go away, but the pedestrian tunnel crossing and elevators to the Metro platform below could allow the State Highway Administration, which operates Rockville Pike, to improve traffic flow through the notoriously clogged area.

The tunnel will be 80 feet in length and will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A bank of high-speed elevators on the east side of the road will allow Metrorail riders who work at NSAB and Walter Reed to skip the tunnel crossing.

In addition to the tunnel crossing Project, the contracted work will include SHA-designed improvements for traffic and pedestrians at the nearby intersection of Rockville Pike, Jones Bridge Road, Center Drive and Woodmont Avenue.

This intersection project has been funded by a separate Department of Defense grant of $4.3 million and will be built in conjunction with the Crossing Project to reduce disruption to the community. MCDOT will oversee the construction of both projects under a single contract.

POSTED: 3:42:00 PM |

Monday, July 28, 2014

7-24-14 Gazette.Net: Army floats compromise on medical waste area -- Some Silver Spring residents want warning signs, without fence

Representatives of the U.S. Army on Wednesday offered a compromise proposal for an area near a neighborhood trail in Silver Spring where syringes, scalpels and other medical waste were found two years ago.

The Army and residents have been grappling with what to do about the waste since it was unearthed in 2012. It was found along the Ireland Drive Trail, near the Army’s Forest Glen annex, just south of the Beltway and west of Georgia Avenue. The area also is near the U.S. National Museum of Health and Medicine.

The latest proposal involves installing about 2,450 feet of chain-link fencing around the part officials believe is contaminated, including the wooded western portion and the upper part of Ireland Creek. That still would give residents access to 70 percent of the trail and portions of Ireland Creek and would cost almost $400,000, officials said.

Other alternatives derived by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a detailed report ranged from posting signs, for about $11,000, to removing contaminants, for as much as $3.1 million.

“This is only a proposal,” said Nick Minecci, a spokesman for Fort Detrick, which controls the Forest Glen annex, which houses the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and some other biomedical research centers. “A final decision has not been made.”

Medical waste may have originated from a landfill on the annex, where waste was dumped during and after World War II.

The trail was used in the 18th century to transport tobacco downhill to Rock Creek and ultimately England. It was paved in the early 20th century for use by the National Park Seminary girls’ boarding school.

The Army acquired the trail and woodlands during World War II, when it used the buildings to treat wounded soldiers.

Several residents who have used the trail for years said they doubted the contamination posed a serious health threat, especially to those who only use the trail and don’t go near the creek. They noted that Lake Needwood in Rockville has signs warning visitors that there are contaminants in the water, but officials don’t close the lake to recreational activities.

While residents applauded Army officials for coming up with a compromise proposal, some supported the less-costly proposal to only post warning signs.

“There is no such thing as a temporary fence,” said Barbara Schubert, an area resident who founded a preservation group called Save Our Ireland Trail. “The chain-link fence would be topped by barbed wire. Can you imagine that next to this natural trail?”

Agencies have yet to do a detailed risk assessment to show what exactly would be dangerous to humans, she said. Civilian members on the area’s Restoration Advisory Board studied data for two years and did not support a fence, Schubert said.

Army contractors have measured the potential health risk of exposure to arsenic, radium and other chemicals buried in the woods. One dioxin in the stream was measured at a level nine times higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s benchmark level, prompting some signs to warn people to not allow pets to drink from the stream.

Donald Hall of Silver Spring, a retired Army colonel who co-chairs the Restoration Advisory Board, said he also supported the warning sign option for now. The state of Maryland will conduct its own health assessment review and could impose other measures, he said.

“It would be best to wait to see what the state finds before spending money to put up a fence,” Hall said.

More than 50 people attended the open house-format meeting at Coffield Community Recreation Center.

Some residents said they wanted protections from contaminated areas.

Nearby resident Diana Rodum said she supported a different option, costing about $500,000, that would include a fence, but allow access to all of the trail and creek. “We use the trail, but we don’t go down by the creek,” she said.

A 45-day public comment period runs through Aug. 11 and likely will be extended as many people are on vacation, Minecci said. Written comments can be emailed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, at Russell.E.Marsh@usace.army.mil by Aug. 11.

POSTED: 1:52:00 PM |

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

7-10-14 County Planning Board Completes approval process for BRAC-related project to extend Platt Ridge Drive from Jones Bridge Rd to Montrose Drive

Planning Board Action/Decision: Approved Mandatory Referral with Comments and Disposition of Parkland.

(Scroll down to Item 8):  http://www.montgomeryplanningboard.org/agenda/2014/agenda20140710e.html

POSTED: 8:48:00 AM |

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