While Pepco has regrettably dislodged congestion as the number one threat to our quality of life, congestion remains unacceptable and a real threat to our county's future. We have been putting our shoulder to the wheel on this issue as well with a multi-pronged approach.
Earlier this summer, I initiated the first ever meeting between Fairfax County and Montgomery County - on anything. Our two transportation committees met to discuss what we have in common - enormous traffic challenges at and around the American Legion Bridge that are only going to get worse when the new HOT lanes that are being built on the Virginia side are completed around the end of the year. That meeting went well. While we can compete for businesses locating in our region, we can also collaborate on making the lives of our residents better.
One specific outgrowth of that meeting was a joint letter our two counties sent last week to our respective state transportation leaders asking them to consider using the shoulder of I-495 north and south of the American Legion Bridge for a HOV lane until a more permanent solution can be found. We have the room, and it has been done before on I-95 and I-66. We need to move more people through existing capacity and this seems to us a logical, if not perfect, solution. Our hope is that our state transportation leaders will follow the lead of our two counties so that some solutions are put in place quickly to avoid a worse bottleneck before and after the bridge.
In that same vein, our Council and the Executive will be asking Maryland state transportation leaders to do more on I-270 to ease that daily nightmare. We have HOV lanes today from I-370 to the beltway, but we don't have HOV lanes from I-370 to Clarksburg. The only way we can ease congestion short of adding lanes, which the state has not acted on, is to use existing capacity to move more people through. And HOV lanes do that. And we need to make our express buses even more attractive, and HOV lanes will achieve that objective as well. Again, not a perfect solution, but the best way to make progress that is available to us at this time.
One piece of good news is that our County has received $40 million from the federal government to fund a critical piece of infrastructure related to the Base Realignment and Closure happening at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Team Maryland - Senators Cardin and Mikulski and Congressman Chris Van Hollen - secured funding to build a tunnel connecting WRNMMC and the National Institutes of Health that will ease congestion along Wisconsin Avenue by providing a direct link between the two facilities.
Finally, our County is increasingly concerned about the lack of progress on funding transit projects at the state level. We need a long term solution and we need it soon if the Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, and rapid transit are going to move forward. And we need these transit projects to move forward to move our county forward. So just know that we are pushing hard and will be pushing even harder for a funding solution - either a statewide approach or a regional or local approach. Just saying no is not acceptable.
BRAC Update September 28, 2011
September 15th marked the final transfer of staff and patients from Water Reed to the new Water Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda. I recently toured the facility to see first hand the remarkable services that they provide our wounded warriors.
This facility now represents the premier Department of Defense medical center offering medical services for the most seriously injured for all branches of the military and serves as the major medical referral center for the Department of Defense. Approximately 350 wounded men and women and their families will be living on campus, a significant change in the mission of the hospital. The campus also houses the "West Point of Medicine" which is the only full accredited federal School of Medicine and School of Graduate Nursing.
While construction continues on the base, we have only begun to see the changes that will be occurring along Wisconsin Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, Jones Bridge Road and Cedar Lane. This is a transitional period and the State and County transportation planners continue to review and update their efforts. This is true of the sequencing of the lights around NIH and the hospital, and I think we will continue to see improvement in the traffic flow. In addition, there are many resources available to help with planning your commute by car or using alternative means other than the one person one car mode.
Naval Support Activity Bethesda, as the entire campus is called, has embarked on a new environmental impact statement for the demolition of five buildings on the campus and the construction of a new 5 story single facility. The Uniformed Services University also has planned a new research / education facility. Click here for more information about this process or to provide a comment on the EIS.
An additional BRAC project in Bethesda is happening at the facility on Sangamore Road at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Plans for this facility can be seen here. There is a community meeting where the Corps of Engineers will be at the Waldorf School auditorium (4800 Sangamore Rd), Wednesday evening, October 5th, at 7:00 p.m. to update the community on the changes planned.
BRAC Update July 29, 2011
Cedar Lane Bridge
Well, it is almost here: the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) resulting in the opening of the new National Naval Medical Center facility in Bethesda is on track for a September 2011 opening. Over time this will mean the addition of 2500 employees and there is the potential for up to a million visitors a year. Some improvements related to the expansion are already completed or currently underway. The Battery Lane bicycle path improvements are completed. The Cedar Lane Bridge will remain closed until August 24, 2011 in order for improvements to the integrity of the bridge to be finalized. I have also been working with the Coquelin Run community and DOT on implementing some traffic-calming measures on Jones Bridge Road as well.
From the very beginning, I argued that it was the federal government's responsibility, specifically the Department of Defense, to provide the funds that are necessary to address the impact this critically important facility will have on surrounding communities. To that end, I am very pleased that Team Maryland, Senators Mikulski and Cardin and Congressman Van Hollen, have delivered on an appropriation of $300 million for transportation infrastructure improvements at medical care facilities affected by BRAC. This was a huge win for us. Through the Office of Economic Adjustment at DoD, these funds will be allocated nationally with the improvements around National Navy Medical anticipated to receive over $100 million. Bethesda projects competing for these Federal dollars include the pedestrian tunnel under Rt. 355 and the deep elevators designed to move people from the Metro to the hospital quickly and safely.
The County has redesigned its website to provide the most comprehensive and up to date information on the transportation improvement plans, the construction schedules, road closures and much more. I hope you will take the time to visit the BRAC website to learn more and to help you navigate through these challenging construction projects.
News on BRAC April 15, 2011
Neighbors -- Team Maryland produced big time. In an environment that is, to put it mildly, hostile to federal spending, our superb Congressional delegation, led by Congressman Chris Van Hollen and our two stalwart Senators, Cardin and Milkulski, funding ($100-$150 million) to address the traffic impacts of the expansion of the new National Naval Medical Center on our community was included in the FY 11 appropriations bill going to the President. Join me in thanking them and congratulating them on their good work. This was a heavy lift and they got it done!
As you may know, our County and State transportation officials have done considerable work to plan for upgraded transportation options for the large influx of workers and visitors that is expected to begin this September when the expanded facility is completed.You can read about all the projects: the intersection plans, sidewalks, bike paths and the planned changes for the crossings of Rockville Pike between NIH and National Naval Medical Centerhere.
You may already have noticed activity as the County has been hard at work on the sidewalk and bike path projects.The Cedar Lane Bridge over Rock Creek improvements are moving forward and will cause traffic changes beginning on or about April 14th.
As each project begins, this website will be alerting all of us to traffic pattern changes and it should prove very helpful as we manage these changes and the influx of visitors and workers at National Naval Medical Center.
These two facilities along with the Howard Hughes Medical Center as well as Suburban Hospital constitute a national treasure in medical research and in services, especially to our wounded soldiers.I am so pleased that our community has welcomed this expansion and has worked diligently with our transportation officials to ensure that the changes that are needed are developed to the highest standards and appropriate for the neighborhoods they will serve. Going forward in the immediate term it will be difficult as we maneuver between increases in traffic and construction disruptions.In the end, I know we will have a vibrant community we can all be proud to be a part of.
Transit, Transit, Transit... & BRAC! March 8, 2011
As I have shared with you before, I believe it is critical for our county to move aggressively to create first-class transit options. And so I presented to our Council a transportation priorities letter to our state leaders that reflected a shift towards a Transit First philosophy -- and the obvious need to address the unique and potentially devastating consequences associated with the expansion of National Naval Medical Center. I am pleased that the Council's actions affirmed that shift.
At the same time, the County Executive, building on the great work of my colleague, Marc Elrich, recently appointed a Transit Task Force which is tasked with making a comprehensive rapid transit system a reality in our county. The 20-member group's mission, of which Councilmember Elrich and I are a part, is to advise the County Executive and to be advocates for developing and implementing a world-class, County-wide, rapid transit system that is safe, efficient and effectively moves people throughout the County. I commend the County Executive for pulling together this impressive group that will assist us in achieving first class transit options that will relieve our chronic congestion, improve our quality of life and enhance our economic competitiveness.
The Task Force is a public/private partnership with twenty members appointed by the County Executive and chaired by Mark Winston, a lawyer in private practice with the firm of Glazer Winston Honigman Ellick, PLLC. During his professional career Mr. Winston has been a member of the Maryland State Transportation Commission and State Roads Commission.Additional Task Force members include: Marilyn Balcombe, Corridor Cities Transitway Coalition; Nat Bottingheimer, WMATA; Fran�oise Carrier, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission; Lisa Fadden, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce; Delegate Brian Feldman (D-15); Senator Rob Garagiola (D-15); Jonathan Genn, Percontee; David Hauck, Sierra Club; Art Holmes, Montgomery County Department of Transportation; David McDonough, Johns Hopkins University; Darrell Mobley, Maryland Department of Transportation; Henry Montes, Latin American Advisory Group; Rich Parsons, Parsons & Associates; Craig Simoneau, City of Rockville; Tina Slater, Action Committee for Transit; U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen (or designee); Francine Waters, Lerner Enterprises; and Dan Wilhelm, Montgomery County Civic Federation. Tom Street, Montgomery County Executive's Office and Steve Silverman, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development; will serve as ex-officio members.