Medical Center Metro project moves forward
Light cause for concern near Stone Ridge
A Metro access project intended to make crossing the street between the National Naval Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health safer is moving forward.
The $60 million Base Realignment and Closure crossing project qualifies for federal funding, after receiving approval from the Federal Highway Administration. The approval comes at a crucial time for Maryland and Montgomery County, as officials wait for federal guidelines to apply for $300 million in federal funding approved with the fiscal 2012 budget.
"This now becomes a project," said Phil Alperson, BRAC coordinator for Montgomery County. "Before it was a concept, a discussion."
The project calls for high speed elevators on the Navy Med side of Rockville Pike in Bethesda and a pedestrian tunnel that would connect that side of the street to the Medical Center Metro station at NIH. The Department of Defense has previously committed $20 million to the project; county officials hope to acquire the remaining $40 million needed from the $300 million Congress has set aside for communities with BRAC-impacted military hospitals.
The Office of Economic Adjustment, which is charged with managing the money, has not established a procedure for municipalities to apply for funding.
Montgomery County paid $880,000 for an environmental impact study, which has given the project a head start, said Edgar Gonzalez, a deputy director for the county's department of transportation. The county also has plans to meet with Navy Med and NIH leaders to coordinate the project both agencies will need to adopt the county's environmental study in order to move forward, he said.
"Even though we don't have the money, we are certain we are going to get the money," Gonzalez said.
But new access to the Metro station is years away, with a 2014 projected completion date. Construction is expected to take about two and a half years, he said.
Gonzalez said he hopes to have a designer-contractor by the end of this year. But before the county can solicit contractors, the project will have to be approved for federal funding and the county council and executive must approve that award, Gonzalez said.
He hopes to bring the project to the council in July, before the council goes on break in August, and hold a required public hearing in September.
Gonzalez said commuters can expect disruption on the Pike during construction, as the county will have to reroute up to three lanes of Pike traffic at times, he said.
Down the road, a new traffic signal planned for the intersection of Wood Road and Rockville Pike, at the Navy Med entrance closest to Cedar Lane, is causing disruption.
The State Highway Administration has agreed to use a new light during morning and evening rush hour, at the request of the Navy. The light was intended to stop traffic during morning rush hour, when hospital staff coming from the Beltway need to turn onto campus, but after evaluating traffic needs, the Navy now thinks the same control will be necessary to prevent traffic back up of cars exiting campus.
Residents are concerned the light will work against planned improvement for the Pike that aim to keep traffic flowing. The Navy will pay for the light project, $264,000 and do the installation work, said Navy Med spokeswoman Sandy Dean.
Alperson said he suspects residents' concerns will prove accurate, but said he understand's the Navy's concern for campus access.
"I don't see the harm in trying something," Alperson said. He noted that the state would evaluate the situation and return to the original plan if the Navy's suggestion caused more harm than good.