Proposed new construction on the campus of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center would tack on a maximum of 15 seconds of commute time for drivers on major thoroughfares around the base.
Those findings were part of a traffic study conducted as a part of a recently-released draft environmental impact statement, a federally-required study which examines the impacts of the proposed construction at the campus, known as Naval Support Activity Bethesda.
The campus also houses the Uniformed Services University, where proposed developments include adding a new 341,000 square foot research and education facility and a 400-space parking structure. In addition, proposals for improvements to Walter Reed hospital facilities call for constructing a new five-story, 573,000 square foot medical facility and a 500-space underground parking garage.
On Friday, the Navy released a draft of the impact statement. Capt. Fritz Kass, NSA Bethesda Commanding Officer, detailed some highlights of the two-volume document at a meeting of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee Tuesday evening.
Data for the traffic study was collected in October of 2011, after the federally-mandated Base Realignment and Closure transition that drew 2,500 new employees to the base, Kass said.
Kass said he recognized the importance of traffic impacts to the surrounding community. “We sat down with all the pros and all the major stakeholders to make sure we got our methodology right,” Kass said of the traffic study, which included trips to and from downtown Bethesda.
According to the draft EIS, rush travel times on the Rockville Pike, Jones Bridge Road and West Cedar Lane would increase by a maximum of 15 seconds by 2018 if construction were to move forward on the campus.
Travel time impact varied depending on the 10 different construction alternatives the study took into account, and the impacts were compared to a “no-build” scenario.
Northbound Rockville Pike would see the largest afternoon rush delays because of an increase in traffic from the proposed new USU parking structure headed north to the Capital Beltway and I-270.
Eastbound Jones Bridge Road at Grier Road could also be impacted by the construction during the afternoon rush, with several construction alternatives prompting an increase in cars leaving the base and heading east to Connecticut Avenue.
During the morning rush, several construction alternatives would increase traffic to the Jones Bridge Road and Rockville Pike and Jones Bridge Road and Gunnell Road intersections, according to the draft EIS.
The traffic study also studied the impact of the construction on 17 intersections around the base.
While no construction alternatives would cause surrounding intersections to “fail,” several would be negatively impacted in the afternoon rush hour – including Rockville Pike and Pooks Hill Road, Rockville Pike at South Wood Road, and Jones Bridge Road at Manor Road, the study found.
Now that a draft of the EIS is complete, the public is asked to weigh in during a public review period before a final impact statement is prepared.
The EIS is available for review online. More information on the traffic study can be found in Appendix D of the draft EIS.
Hard copies of the two-volume document are available for review at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center and county libraries. To review the document at the B-CC RSC, call 240-777-8210.
The Navy will host two public hearings to solicit feedback on the EIS, from 1-5 p.m. Oct. 4 and from 5-9 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Marriott at 5151 Pooks Hill Road in Bethesda.
Comments via mail or e-mail are being accepted through Oct. 29. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail written comments to Joseph Macri, NSA Bethesda Public Affairs Office, 890-1 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20889.