The groundbreaking of a major parking garage project that will prompt the 30-month closure of two surface parking lots at Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues has been delayed until after Feb. 1. The pending closure of the two popular lots has nearby merchants worried about parking headaches for patrons and their employees.
The groundbreaking date has been pushed back several times – from summer 2011 to fall 2011 to January 2012.
Lots 31 and 31A will be closed during the construction of the garage, which will bring 940 new public parking spots to the busy Bethesda Row intersection. About 279 spots are currently available in Lots 31 and 31A, which are popular among shoppers, diners, and users of the nearby Capital Crescent Trail.
The new parking garage will also house 290 private spots associated with the residential and retail projects planned on both sides of Woodmont, being developed by StonebridgeCarras and PN Hoffman. 250 units are planned along with ground-floor retail.
The construction project will also mean the 20-month closure of a portion of Woodmont Avenue south of Bethesda Avenue. The Woodmont closure is expected one to two months following the groundbreaking, according to a county press release.
The Capital Crescent Trail will remain open throughout the project.
To help open up parking spots for shoppers, the county plans on shifting long-term parking out of the public garage between Bethesda and Elm Streets and adding 103 short-term parking spaces there, according to the Bethesda Urban Partnership.
Long-term spaces will be available at the Woodmont Avenue-Old Georgetown Road Garage and the Auburn-Del Ray Avenue Garage. Long term parkers will be encouraged to take the free Bethesda Circulator to head downtown from outlying lots. Circulator service will also be expanded, according to a county press release.
But parking further away may not be practical for some employees who work on Bethesda Row, said Lee Fleishman, a manager at Bethesda Bagels on Bethesda Avenue. “They want us to take the bus and things like that, but that’s hard for people who come in first thing in the morning,” Fleishman said.
Fleishman also worried about the impact on businesses if customers can’t find a convenient parking space.
“People will give it a try to park, but if they can’t find a spot, sometimes they’ll just call it a day and go some place with a private lot, like Giant.”
For more information on where to park during Lot 31 construction, visit Bethesda Urban Partnership's Lot 31 website.