Stories of the Year: Bethesda prepares for medical center merger -- Gazette.Net



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State and county officials are still working to brace the community for the impact of adding about 2,500 employees to Bethesda after the Sept. 15 federally mandated merger of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the National Naval Medical Center.

The merger was done as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, which called for closing and consolidating hundreds of military facilities nationwide. The Rockville Pike facility now is called the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. In addition to more employees, the merger is expected to nearly double the number of visits to the center to 1 million annually.

The more than $165 million in intersection improvements began in February, with the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Rockville Pike and North Wood Drive. The Department of Defense plans to grant the state of Maryland and Montgomery close to $90 million to build a pedestrian underpass beneath Rockville Pike and to complete intersection projects near the military campus.

The Maryland Department of Transportation had pledged $30 million to such projects in 2009 and another $9.4 million last year. Montgomery County spent $5.1 million renovating nearby Cedar Lane Bridge in 2011.

These projects are scheduled to be finished by January 2015, when the final phase of the project at Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane is expected to conclude.