Rockville Pike crossings estimated at $25M to $70M
Projects would improve access between Navy Med and National Institutes of Health
Some ambitious Rockville Pike upgrades at one of its most hectic intersections are now on ice. But planners are still considering three crossing projects for the state road between the National Naval Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health with price tags of $25 million to $70 million.
One of the finalists revealed July 20 at a presentation hosted by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation involves a shallow tunnel under the Pike that would link Navy Med to the Medical Center Metro stop, along with other street-level improvements such as an extended left-hand turn lane into Navy Med south on the Pike.
The second would create the tunnel but add a deep elevator that would take people on the east side of the Pike next to Navy Med to the Metro platform.
The first option would cost $25 million to $31 million, while the second would cost $48 million to $58 million, the department estimated.
The third would lower Rockville Pike beneath an overpass for walkers, cyclists and vehicles that would connect NIH to Navy Med, as well as a new NIH access road off the Pike slightly north of the existing intersection at South Drive. The overpass and road would cost $58 million to $70 million.
The overpass would provide a direct connection between NIH and Navy Med.
The projects are being considered to help deal with the traffic impact caused by Walter Reed Army Medical Center's relocation to Bethesda in September 2011 through the federal BRAC process, bringing 2,500 jobs to the area and a host of road and transit concerns.
None of the three options eliminates a traffic light on the Pike (Maryland Route 355). In the third option, those now traveling north on the Pike and turning right into Navy Med or left to access NIH or the bus stops and Kiss and Ride lot would all be funneled into a single left turn lane.
A no-build option for the area around the Pike and South Drive is still technically on the table.
All the options are intended to separate walkers and cyclists crossing the Pike from vehicle traffic, improving safety and Metro access. Three previously-considered crossing designs, such as a diamond interchange between NIH and Navy Med with on- and off-ramps and a Navy Med access road near the helicopter landing pad used by presidents, have been tabled. But they could be revisited if they garner enough support.
"That was very impactful to the adjacent properties," said Bruce Johnston, a division chief at the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, referring to the diamond interchange.
The three options picked as the favorites by the county, NIH and Navy Med, as well as the State Highway Administration and the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority. These stakeholders are scheduled to pick the preferred project shortly after the public comment deadline Aug. 3. It is unclear who will ultimately have construction authority. The project must also be cleared by the Federal Highway Administration.
Ilaya Hopkins said she preferred the overpass option with the new access road, since it meshed well with her long-term goal of making the Medical Center Metro station more of a transit hub for walkers, bus riders, cyclists and others.
"I think it holds a lot of promise," said Hopkins, a Bethesda resident and county BRAC Implementation Committee member who is running as a Democrat to represent District 1 at the County Council.
Her opponent, County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac, said he was working on a proposal to allow access to Navy Med at South Drive only for "VIPs," although he said he would leave the definition of a VIP up to the Navy. However, he did say the goal would be to get Navy Med employees to use the other four access roads to Navy Med and away from the high-traffic area at the Pike and South Drive.
Whenever he drives on Rockville Pike, Chevy Chase resident Barry Wind said he can separate people crossing between Navy Med and NIH who are "old hands" and those who seem tentative. After looking at the three finalists July 20, he said he preferred the overpass and new access road because it could create more continuity while reducing the Pike's impact on traffic in the area.
"It seems like it ties the two facilities and the Metro a little better," Wind said.
Those interested in submitting comments on the proposed designs for a Rockville Pike crossing project can submit them to Ken Kendall with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation at kenneth.kendall
@montgomerycountymd.gov , or mail them to Kendall at 100 Edison Park Drive, Fourth Floor, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. The deadline for public comments is Aug. 3.