A new entrance and pedestrian tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue at the Medical Center Metro station in Bethesda is a step closer to reality.
The Metro Board Finance and Administration Committee on Feb. 14 advanced a project to design and build a pedestrian walkway under Wisconsin Avenue, according to a news release from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The project also includes four new escalators and two elevators to provide access to the pedestrian tunnel from street level, and three high-speed elevators to connect the pedestrian tunnel with the station mezzanine level.
The federally funded $68 million project was planned to deal with extra traffic at the Navy National Medical Center due to Base Realignment and Closure activities.
Phil Alperson, Montgomery County BRAC coordinator, said the full Metro board is expected to approve the project in a few weeks.
“Now all of the agencies that are involved in the project — and there are a lot of them — are now on board,” he said.
Prior to BRAC, about 3,000 pedestrians crossed Wisconsin Avenue at the station every day, Alperson said. Over time, due to growth from BRAC and other activities at the medical center, WMATA expects about 7,000 pedestrian crossings per day, he said.
The underpass will help keep pedestrians out of harm’s way by avoiding conflicts with traffic, Alperson said.
The Department of Defense and the Federal Highway Administration will fund the project, the release said, and Montgomery County will be responsible for designing and constructing the new entrance. Once completed, Metro will own, operate and maintain the entrance.
Design for the project is expected to start this spring, with construction beginning about a year from now and construction complete sometime in 2016, Alperson said.
Plans do not include closing Rockville Pike during construction, Alperson said, although lanes might be closed during off-peak hours. To build the pedestrian tunnel, workers likely will dig down and cover the tunnel while construction is not underway, so cars can continue to drive over it, he said.
Construction along a major roadway always causes disruptions, Alperson said, but most work will be done while traffic is not at its peak.