$68 million project to ease traffic on Rockville Pike, increase pedestrian safety -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County recently issued a request for contractors to bid on a $68 million dollar project that includes high-speed elevators to the Medical Center Metro station and a pedestrian tunnel under Rockville Pike, county transportation officials said at a public presentation on June 17.

The project, called the “Maryland Route 355 Multimodal Crossing Project,” is slated to start in the fall of 2014 and completed by the fall of 2017.

The makeover is part of the larger Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, campaign that has seen thousands more employees come to work at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. The goal of the work is to help alleviate congestion on Rockville Pike, also called Md. 355, and to increase pedestrian safety, said Holger Serrano, an engineer with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

Request for proposals for contractors have been issued, and are due back in the fall, Serrano said.

The project would not exceed $68 million, he said, which equals the amount granted by the U.S. Department of Defense for the project.

That money will pay for three high-speed elevators on the east side of Md. 355 that will whisk passengers from the Walter Reed Military Medical campus down to the Medical Center Metro station 120 feet below as well as for the 80-foot-long pedestrian tunnel that will run beneath Md. 355 at Wood Road. There will also be shallow escalators and elevators, as well as stairs, going to the Metro on the west side.

Serrano said the current street-level crosswalk will remain, but that he hopes people will use the tunnel instead, both for safety reasons and because it will help the traffic on Md. 355 move more quickly if cars do not have to stop for pedestrians. The county is considering adding lights and cameras to the tunnel to make it safer and more appealing, he said.

But some at the meeting expressed concern with trying to speed up traffic on Md. 355, a thoroughfare that runs through the heart of Bethesda and sees a lot of foot traffic.

Others objected to curving corners at intersections, which would allow cars to turn without having to slow down as much.

But Serrano said the time to discuss design had passed.

The project will be jointly maintained by the county and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The county will own and operate the shallow elevators and escalators on the west side and the pedestrian underpass. WMATA will own and operate the high-speed elevators.

For more information on the project, visit the website: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dot-dte/projects/355Underpass/index.html.