Nearly $90 million have been set aside by the Office of Economic Adjustment, an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, for BRAC-related transportation projects in and around Bethesda, County Executive Ike Leggett announced on Tuesday.
The transportation projects will help ameliorate traffic congestion problems that have accompanied the move of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to the Bethesda campus of the National Naval Medical Center.
“I am thrilled that many years of persistence and coordination between my office, the county and state departments of transportation and our Congressional delegation have brought us to this day,” said Leggett in a press release.
“These funds will enable us to construct and complete six separate projects that will reduce gridlock, improve vehicular mobility and promote pedestrian safety in Bethesda around the newly-designated Walter Reed National Medical Center and NIH."
“Last April, thanks largely to the tireless efforts of Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, Congress established a fund for certain BRAC-related transportation programs. [Tuesday's] announcement is the culmination of their hard work.”
The newly-funded projects include constructing a new entrance and improving pedestrian access at the Medical Center Metro Station and improving traffic operations at major intersections along Rockville Pike, Connecticut Avenue, Cedar Lane, Jones Bridge Road and Old Georgetown Road.
These projects are in addition to new and renovated bike paths and sidewalks the county’s transportation department has already constructed around the Medical Center, the press release stated.
“When Congress approved the BRAC law—Base Realignment and Closure—in 2005 that merged the Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, the intent was to provide ‘world class’ health care to our nation’s wounded, active and retired military,” Leggett said.
The move of Walter Reed to the Bethesda campus resulted in an increase of personnel by 33 percent and visits to the campus by 100 percent, the press release stated.
"Bethesda’s transportation infrastructure is already at capacity and cannot accommodate this dramatic growth. Unfortunately, the BRAC law did not account for improving the transportation infrastructure around the Bethesda Hospital complex, which could create untenable gridlock around the campus that could deny patients, families or medical providers timely access to the hospital,” Leggett said.
Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner was also pleased with the announcement. He said it will help solve congestion problems in his district.
"Ever since it was learned that our community was going to be affected by the expansion of the hospital and medical facility, we have been concerned about how our residents would be able to cope with the traffic,” said Berliner, who chairs the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee. “We are honored to have these brave men and women in our community and are pleased that the Department of Defense listened to our community’s concerns."
The funding announced on Tuesday includes:
- $40 million for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation to construct the Maryland Route 355 Crossing Project. This supplements $28 million already provided by the Department of Defense and will construct deep elevators on the east side of Rockville Pike to the Medical Center Metro Station platform and a pedestrian tunnel, which will accommodate bus and carpool commuters and pedestrians using the Metro Station but not Metrorail. This project will enhance transit use, provide safe and convenient access for pedestrians, and alleviate gridlock around the Navy’s main gate.
- $48.9 million for the State Highway Administration to construct improvements at four major intersections: Rockville Pike at Cedar Lane, Connecticut Avenue at Jones Bridge Road, West Cedar Lane at Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike at Jones Bridge Road. Funds will supplement approximately $30 million already budgeted by the Maryland Department of Transportation and $9.4 million already appropriated by the United States Congress for these projects. These projects will improve vehicular and pedestrian operations at these busy intersections and help ease gridlock in the area around the Medical Center.