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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, December 08, 2014

12-5-14 Gazette.Net: Pedestrian tunnel under Rockville Pike in Bethesda expected to begin construction next year

12-5-14 Gazette.Net:  Pedestrian tunnel under Rockville Pike in Bethesda expected to begin construction next year -- Project would link Medical Center Metro station and Walter Reed in Bethesda

 

A tunnel under Rockville Pike near the Medical Center Metro station could be under construction next summer.
 
The county Department of Transportation plans to pick one of two contractor groups to design and build the tunnel, plus three 120-foot, high-speed elevators from the ground to the underground Metro station. The federally funded project is expected to be finished in 2018, said Tim Cupples, project manager. Cupples gave an update on the project’s progress at a meeting Tuesday of the Base Realignment and Closure Integration Committee.
 
The tunnel is intended to make it easier for people to get between the Metro station on the west side of Rockville Pike, near the National Institutes of Health, to the east side, near Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, The Gazette previously reported. The elevators are supposed to quickly move people between the ground level and the Metro station.
 
The area has seen an influx of commuters since the federal government moved Walter Reed from Washington, D.C., to Bethesda. The tunnel and elevators are one of several projects the federal government is funding to help deal with the added traffic.
 
Cupples said the Department of Transportation expects to issue a request for proposals as soon as it gets the go-ahead from state and federal agencies. Then, two contractors will submit their proposals to design and build the project.
 
“Based on the way we see things shaking out, we’re looking at issuing a spring 2015 notice to proceed,” Cupples said.
 
Two firms have been selected to compete for the job: Clark Construction Group of Bethesda and a joint venture of Corman Construction of Annapolis Junction and Bradshaw Construction of Eldersburg.
 
After the tunnel is built, people will still be able to cross above-ground at the crosswalk, Cupples said.

 

POSTED: 1:17:00 PM |

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

12-1-14 Gazette.Net: NIH open to comments on major expansion in Bethesda -- Agency wants to move 3,000 workers to Bethesda campus

The National Institutes of Health plans to expand its Bethesda campus, and the public can now chime in on how those plans might affect them.

The federal agency is planning for the future of what it calls its BethesdaEnvid campus. A new report studies the impacts of varying degrees of development on the 310-acre campus.

The preferred plan, outlined in NIH’s master plan, would bring 3,000 more employees to the campus, many of them from leased facilities elsewhere in the region. By consolidating more of its employees in Bethesda, NIH could save money on rent, according to the report, or final environmental impact statement.

Including contractors, about 20,600 people now work on the Bethesda campus.

The preferred plan would mean constructing 17 new structures, with a net gain totaling 4.5 million square feet, according to the report. That includes three new parking garages.

The environmental impact statement shows how NIH plans to deal with any adverse effects of such growth. It includes measures such as routing construction traffic away from neighborhoods, requiring recycling of construction waste and building more parking.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission had asked NIH to limit parking to one space per three employees, but NIH says that goal is unrealistic because so many employees live beyond the areas served by mass transit, according to the report. NIH’s plan keeps one parking spot per two employees.

Moving 3,000 more employees to the Bethesda campus would mean NIH generates 12.1 percent more morning and evening traffic, the report says. The added congestion at intersections would be mitigated by improvements planned or already under construction because of the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure program. More information about the BRAC project is at montgomerycountymd.gov/brac.

The NIH environmental impact statement and master plan are available for download at nems.nih.gov/Pages/nepa.aspx. A 30-day waiting period ends Jan. 5. Comments may be sent to nihnepa@mail.nih.gov or Valerie Nottingham, NIH, B13/2S11, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892.

 

POSTED: 2:53:00 PM |

Monday, October 06, 2014

10-4-14 WRC/NBC4 TV: Metro to Shut Down Stretch of Red Line Each Weekend for 7 Weeks

Metro will shut down a stretch of the Red Line for seven consecutive weekends in order to fix "unmanageable" water leaks, News4 has learned.

The Bethesda, Medical Center and Grosvenor stations will be closed so that huge pieces of concrete can be carefully lifted in place to fit and cover the cavernous and leaky tunnel outside the Medical Center station.

"There is no place else (on the system) that has an issue that is this unmanageable," said Metro Deputy General Manager and Rail Chief Rob Troup in an interview Friday. "It is creating such a large problem for us."

The problem is that the geology of the area near Medical Center allows water to trickle through the old rock on a sunny day. When it rains, it really gushes.

Metro says is spends about $3 million a year just to replace track, switches and components that are constantly corroded by mud and debris at Medical Center because of all the water.

Half of all Metro's "arcing" issues, where water comes into contact with the electrified third rail often causing smoke, also happen at the Medical Center station.

In addition, a critical track "crossover" that allows trains to switch from side to side to get around issues is located in this area.

"We are spending a significant amount of money, time and effort here which we would much rather put somewhere else toward making permanent fixes," Troup said.

The seven-weekend-long shutdown isn't expected until the fall of 2016, but Metro says there is work that has already started to get ready for the lengthy shutdown stretch, and that work will require additional shutdowns.

It could have been much worse. As News4 first reported, one option that was being considered to fix the leaks was shutting down this stretch of the Red Line for up to six weeks in a row. Just the mere mention of that possibility rattled riders and local leaders who pleaded with Metro to find another way.

"What we are trying to do is minimize that impact that we have to the Red Line rider," Troup said. "What we don't want to do is go in and do Medical Center, have seven weekend shutdowns, 10 weekend shutdowns, 14 weekend shutdowns, and then a year later go in and do the same thing."

During the shutdown, riders will have to take shuttle buses that will be set up to get around the station closures.

Metro called in engineers and transportation experts from around the world to find a solution to the water infiltration. The planned fix is basically putting in a "false roof" on the tunnel outside Medical Center.

"We will be coming in with these pre-cast panels which will interlock into place and will provide a shell that will be waterproof. It will provide a better drainage so that the water will go on the outside and won't drop on the track," Troup said.

During this shutdown, Metro says it will also use the time to upgrade the Bethesda station, make adjustments for the planned Purple Line connection and make repairs to concrete piers which carry the Red Line over Rockville Pike near the Grosvenor station.

The cost to fix the water infiltration issues at Medical Center is estimated to be $13 million. Metro says it will put out the contract to be competitively bid.

A formal presentation will be made to Metro's Board of Directors next week.

POSTED: 3:10:00 PM |

Monday, October 06, 2014

10-6-14 WRC/NBC4 TV: Metro May Have to Close Bethesda Station

Metro will begin replacing the entrance escalators at one of its busiest stations Monday.

The Bethesda Metro station on the Red Line has the second-longest escalators in the system, but the station's three escalators are also more than 30 years old.

Crews will keep two escalators running -- one in each direction -- while the third is replaced. The project is expected to take two and half years to complete. To keep riders safe, the work will be done overnight when the station is closed.

Metro says it may have to close the station temporarily at times to help prevent overcrowding. These closures may happen with little advance notice.

During those closures, shuttle bus service will run between the Bethesda station and the Medical Center Metro station.

Metro has more escalators than any transit system in North America, more than 600 of them.

POSTED: 3:05:00 PM |

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 |

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