Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett today called on the Department of Defense and the United States Congress to act quickly to construct a pedestrian access project at the Medical Center Metro station at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.
“This week WMATA released its Final Report evaluating BRAC-related traffic impacts along Rockville Pike at the Bethesda Naval Hospital Campus,” said Leggett. “The report tells us what we already knew – that gridlock along Rockville Pike in Bethesda will get much worse if we don’t act quickly and appropriately to control it. BRAC expansion – Base Realignment and Closure, the consolidation of Walter Reed Army Medical Center with Bethesda Naval Hospital – will add 2,500 personnel to the 8,000 who work at the Bethesda campus now, and the number of visitors to the hospital will double to nearly one million each year.
“This is about serving the brave soldiers who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many with horrific injuries. The BRAC mission establishing the greatest military medical center in the world will be compromised if a wounded warrior, or a doctor, or an emergency vehicle cannot gain timely access to the hospital because they were caught in gridlock.
“Gridlock along Rockville Pike is legendary,” said Leggett. “Two huge federal employers – Navy Med and NIH – face each other, with the heavily used Medical Center Metro station in between. 3,000 pedestrians have to cross Rockville Pike to get to the Navy Med campus every day, putting their lives at risk trying to compete with vehicles traveling north and south, and trying to enter and exit both campuses from either direction.
“And this situation will get worse. Today’s report tells us that these pedestrian crossings will more than double if we don’t do something about it. But there is a solution, and we can get it done before the BRAC expansion takes effect in September 2011. We can improve pedestrian access between the Metro station and Navy Med by constructing a new east-side entrance to the Metro station. The WMATA Report outlines several design options for this pedestrian access and the Navy has already requested the Defense Department to use a federal statute – the Defense Access Road (DAR) program – to pay for this project.
“What we need now is for the Defense Department to use the WMATA report to make its determination to apply the DAR program to this essential project, and we need leadership from the Congress to appropriate the funds necessary to get it done quickly.”
The WMATA report is available on the Montgomery County BRAC web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/BRAC.
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Media Contact: Patrick Lacefield, 240-777-6507
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