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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.

Monday, September 15, 2014

9-11-14 Washington Post: Why driving through Bethesda will get worse before it gets better

September 11

Some of the area’s road construction related to the major expansion at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2011 has been finished. Witness two new lanes on Connecticut Avenue to speed traffic between the Beltway and Jones Bridge Road in Chevy Chase.

Next comes Wisconsin Avenue’s turn. Cedar Lane is already torn up at Wisconsin, just south of the Beltway. In about a year, construction will begin on a pedestrian tunnel beneath Wisconsin that will carry people between the Walter Reed campus and the bus stops at the Medical Center Metro station across the street. At the same time, farther south on Wisconsin, work will begin to reconfigure a major intersection where Wisconsin converges with Jones Bridge, Center Drive and Woodmont Avenue.

The Defense Department’s base realignment at the Bethesda campus of the former National Naval Medical Center added about 3,000 new jobs to the military hospital — about a 44 percent percent jump from 8,000 jobs to more than 11,000 — and doubled the number of annual patient visits from 500,000 to 1 million.

The area was a traffic choke point before the expansion because the roads surrounding the 243-acre base — Wisconsin, Connecticut, Jones Bridge Road and Cedar Lane — also serve the headquarters for the National Institutes of Health, which is Montgomery County’s largest employer. (The county’s 2nd largest employer is Walter Reed.) They also carry traffic between the Beltway, the District and downtown Bethesda, as well as between Bethesda, Rockville, Silver Spring, Kensington and Chevy Chase. More than 70,000 vehicles use the surrounding roads daily, according to state figures.

Phil Alperson, Montgomery’s coordinator for work related to the base realignment, said construction on both Wisconsin Avenue projects could begin in fall 2015. Meantime, workers will be moving underground utility lines, which could give it the feel of a construction zone.

Drivers will want to find alternate routes or build in more travel time, Alperson said.

When all the road work is finished — officials are aiming for 2017 for most of it — the area will still be traffic-clogged, Alperson said. Intersections now rated “F” for failing will still be about a “D.” Even so, he said, the goal isn’t to get rid of traffic — “You’re never going to get rid of traffic there,” Alperson said — but to help the area better absorb the additional vehicles that have come with the base expansion. Suburban Hospital, on Old Georgetown Road just west of Walter Reed and NIH, also has expansion plans.

“It’s not great, but just remember, there will be a lot more traffic there than there was,” Alperson said. “We’ll get less worse.”

The road work lagged behind Walter Reed’s expansion because state and local officials were waiting on approval of federal funding used to pay for most of the work.

Here’s a rundown of road work that’s underway, still to come or complete.

CONSTRUCTION UNDERWAY OR STILL TO COME:

– Adding a dedicated right-turn lane on northbound Wisconsin between Walter Reed’s north gate and Cedar to carry traffic turning east onto Cedar toward Kensington. Estimated completion: 2016-2017

– Adding a new lane to Route 355 between Cedar Lane and Locust Hill Road, just south of the Beltway. Still pending release of federal funds.

– Changing configuration of intersection where Wisconsin meets with Jones Bridge, Center Drive and Woodmont Avenue. Start date not scheduled but likely in summer or fall 2015. Estimated completion: Uncertain but around 2016-2017.

– Tunneling beneath Wisconsin to build a pedestrian underpass to replace the existing crosswalk between the Medical Center Metro station on the west side of Wisconsin and Walter Reed on the east side. Also construction of a bank of high-speed elevators on the east side of Wisconsin to carry people directly between the military hospital and the underground Metro station. Start date not scheduled but likely in summer or fall 2015. Estimated completion: Uncertain but around 2016-2017.

– Adding third left-turn lane from eastbound Jones Bridge to northbound Connecticut, carrying afternoon and evening traffic from NIH and Walter Reed toward the Beltway. Also widening Jones Bridge east of Connecticut. No start date scheduled yet. Estimated completion: Fall 2016.

– Improving turn lanes between Old Georgetown Road and West Cedar Lane. Also improving bike path connections near intersection. Contractor can begin work by late September. Estimated completion: Summer 2015.

COMPLETE:

– Rockville Pike & Jones Bridge Road: Installed “dynamic signalling” that will add a second left-turn lane from southbound Wisconsin to eastbound Jones Bridge during the afternoon and evening rush for traffic trying to reach the Beltway via Connecticut. The hardware is in place, but when it will be up and running is

uncertain, Alperson said. Officials are considering delaying the new signalling until other construction work that will affect the intersection is complete.

– Connecticut Avenue: New right-turn lane added on southbound Connecticut to carry traffic between the Beltway and westbound Jones Bridge, heading toward Walter Reed and NIH. Also new northbound lane on Connecticut dedicated to traffic heading onto the Beltway.

– Walter Reed: Added entrance and exit lanes at campus gates to reduce back-ups.

– Pedestrian and bicyclist improvements: Sidewalks widened on Route 355, Jones Bridge, West Cedar and Cedar. Bike path signs added to Battery Lane, and Battery Lane resurfaced.

POSTED: 11:31:00 AM |

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

8-4-14 Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) Opens Eastern Leg of Cedar Lane in Bethesda

(August 4, 2014) – Last night, the State Highway Administration (SHA) opened the eastern leg of Cedar Lane from Elmhirst Parkway to MD 355 (Rockville Pike) in Bethesda, Montgomery County. The closure began in early June as part of the $13.8 million BRAC intersection improvement project.
 
During the closure, crews performed culvert construction, repaved all traffic lanes and applied new pavement markings within the work zone.  While the road is now open to vehicular traffic, the 1000-foot section of Cedar Lane near MD 355 is still an active work zone. Continuing construction activity may require sidewalk closures on this section of Cedar Lane through late 2014. Sidewalk users may be directed to safe crossings within the work zone via orange construction signs, cones, barrels, and fencing.
 
While SHA and its transportation partners work hard to maintain safe traffic mobility in work zones, each driver needs to actively modify his or her driving to help prevent crashes. Stay alert and look for reduced speed limits, narrow driving lanes and highway workers.  Slow down and don’t follow too closely.  Drivers, passengers as well as workers are at risk. Safer driving. Safer work zones. For everyone.
POSTED: 1:16:00 PM |

Friday, August 01, 2014

8-1-14 Washington Post (Associated Press): Forest Glen Annex / Ireland Trail -- Army extends comment period in Md. trail dispute

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Army Corps of Engineers is giving people more time to comment on a disputed plan to fence off part of a popular Silver Spring running trail near an old Army landfill.

Officials said Friday they will accept comments through Sept. 11 regarding the Ireland Trail near the Forest Glen Annex. The previous deadline was Aug. 11.

Engineers want to install nearly 2,500 feet of chain-link fence around an area officials believe is contaminated with toxins and medical waste from the landfill. More than 30 chemicals have been found in the soil, groundwater and a stream.

The plan would close off about 30 percent of the trail. Some area residents say warning signs are enough.

The annex is operated by Fort Detrick in Frederick. It includes a medical research facility.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

POSTED: 10:49:00 AM |

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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