Metro details a new Medical Center entrance
Plan to add tunnel, elevators could cost up to $60 million
Building a new entrance to the Medical Center Metro station that would include a tunnel under Rockville Pike and two sets of elevators is "the best solution" for upgrading the station, according to a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority official.
The option, the newest from WMATA, includes elevators on both sides of Rockville Pike down to the Metro fare gates, as well as a shallow pedestrian walkway under the road that would allow easier access for people walking between the current Metro station and the National Naval Medical Center, across the street from the National Institutes of Health. The option would cost $46 million to $60 million according to WMATA estimates.
In a presentation to the Base Realignment and Closure Implementation Committee Meeting on Feb. 24, WMATA officials said the combination of the tunnels and elevators would probably be most attractive to Navy Med employees, visitors and residents seeking to cross Rockville Pike, although the report did not contain an official recommendation.
"That actually is the best solution for everyone for pedestrian access," said Bill Gallagher, a WMATA architect. Committee members called this the "Cadillac" option and worried about whether it could get the necessary funding.
Members of the BRAC committee, which includes representatives from Bethesda neighborhoods and businesses as well as NIH, have vigorously supported a new Metro entrance, saying it is crucial for providing access for the higher number of daily commuters and visitors who will be traveling to the Navy Med campus when the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is scheduled to open there in September 2011.
In its Feb. 24 presentation, WMATA projected that in 2020, 6,120 employees and visitors will walk to Navy Med from the Medical Center Metro every day. NIH will receive 6,900 daily employees and visitors from the Metro, while 3,135 local residents are projected to use the station every day.
"That's why we make so much noise. That's a lot of people," said Ilaya Hopkins of the East Bethesda Citizens Association.
Other past proposals from WMATA include a pedestrian bridge over the road ($12 million) and a shallow tunnel under the road connecting to elevators near the current Metro entrance ($16 million to $30 million).
No engineering or construction schedule has been created for the project and no funding source has been identified. The Defense Access Roads program funded by the Department of Defense, as well as $1.5 billion in newly-available federal money for transportation projects that must be spent by the end of the 2011 fiscal year, are possible funding options.
"This evaluation is not the beginning of an actual project," said Phil Alperson, Montgomery County BRAC coordinator.
Alperson also announced that U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) secured $3 million for the four BRAC-affected intersections near Navy Med in a 2009 fiscal year spending bill, although the bill still requires Senate action. These four intersections include Rockville Pike and Jones Bridge Road, Rockville Pike and West Cedar Lane, Old Georgetown Road and West Cedar Lane, and Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road.
Ed Krauze of the Bethesda Parkview Citizens Association, meanwhile, expressed concern that a Montgomery County project to repair the Cedar Lane bridge over Rock Creek between the Capital Beltway and Beach Drive would conflict with BRAC-related work at Rockville Pike and West Cedar Lane performed by the State Highway Administration.
The bridge repair project, estimated to cost between $2.1 million and $2.7 million, is expected to take place between fall 2010 and fall 2011. It could include closure of the bridge, which is located about half a mile from the intersection.
"There doesn't seem to be any coordination," Krauze said, noting that he had spoken with the county's engineer for the project.
SHA official Andy Scott said state and county engineers are in constant contact and would work to avoid creating conflicts between the two projects.