Beginning in a few weeks, segments of Rockville Pike and Connecticut Avenue just inside the Capital Beltway in Bethesda and North Chevy Chase will see construction work begin. This work will be underway for perhaps up to three years. The projects — mostly adding turn lanes and short segments of lanes to move traffic through intersections more quickly — will help the area accommodate new traffic from the recently expanded Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, under the federal Base Realignment and Closure program (BRAC). The hospital added 2,500 employees, and patient visits are projected to jump from 500,000 to 1 million annually.
Construction is expected to begin on Rockville Pike early in March, 2012, and at Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road in late March.
The area encompasses major commuter routes into the District, downtown Bethesda, the National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed. Other roads that will be affected — Cedar Lane and Jones Bridge Road — serve Kensington and Silver Spring. With about 70,000 vehicles already using Connecticut Avenue and Rockville Pike daily, State and County officials are warning motorists to expect delays. All lanes will remain open in the peak direction during the morning and afternoon rush, officials said.
As the roadwork is underway, County officials will begin a major two-year tunneling project beneath Rockville Pike starting in fall 2013. That will include excavating a 120-foot deep shaft for a new set of high-speed elevators on the east side of Rockville Pike near the military hospital entrance and a 20-foot-deep pedestrian tunnel. Both projects are designed to allow people to walk between the hospital campus, the Medical Center Metrorail station and nearby bus stops without having to cross busy Rockville Pike. The number of pedestrian crossings there was projected to jump from 3,000 to 7,000 daily after Walter Reed’s expansion.
Rockville Pike will probably see orange barrels first, when crews begin moving underground utility lines between the Beltway and Jones Bridge Road in a few weeks. That utility work will take about a year, State officials said, and will be followed by another two years of construction to add lanes at the intersections with Cedar Lane and Jones Bridge Road. Later this year, workers will carve out a longer queue area for southbound Rockville Pike traffic waiting to turn left onto eastbound Jones Bridge. They also will add signs at that intersection to make one of Rockville Pike’s southbound through lanes a second left-turn-only lane during the afternoon rush.
At Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road, State Highway Administration workers will add a right-turn-only lane on southbound Connecticut to carry traffic that exits the Beltway to head west on Jones Bridge while heading to NIH, Walter Reed and downtown Bethesda. Part of the Connecticut Avenue median will be carved out to create an additional northbound through lane between Manor Road and the Beltway. The plan also includes construction of a third left-turn lane from eastbound Jones Bridge to northbound Connecticut, State officials said, but no schedule for that has been set.
For more information on the Base Realignment and Closure program in Montgomery County along with construction updates and commuter tips, visit the County's BRAC website.
(Source: Katherine Shaver, The Washington Post, February 8, 2012.)