Residents want bike, walking paths near Navy Med campus
Neighbors say BRAC officials should look at traffic solutions that don't focus on cars
State transportation officials are getting more pressure to focus on bike and pedestrian improvements as part of a solution to new traffic caused by Walter Reed Army Medical Center's future move to Bethesda.
Community members continue to criticize the lack of long-term plans for the area around the future Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at the current National Naval Medical Center campus. They argue that proposed improvements at four intersections near the campus do not facilitate the ultimate goal of taking cars off local roads, and that bike and pedestrian upgrades should be a focus of the $36.2 million in state and federal money available for Base Realignment and Closure project improvements.
Without more community outreach, "there will be resistance to these changes for…the foreseeable future," said Ilaya Hopkins of the East Bethesda Citizens Association at the BRAC Implementation Committee meeting held April 21.
The total cost of the improvements, scheduled to consist primarily of new turn and through lanes, is estimated to be $215 million by the State Highway Administration. The improvements are proposed for Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue, Jones Bridge Road and Rockville Pike, Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane, and West Cedar Lane and Old Georgetown Road.
Community members sharply criticized SHA officials for not thinking beyond the four intersections and failing to communicate adequately with local residents. A new member of the BRAC committee, Marilyn Mazuzan of the Town of Oakmont, said the town "didn't have any idea" that property could be acquired by the state as part of the improvements at West Cedar Lane and Old Georgetown Road until a week and a half before the meeting.
Residents are interested in pedestrian and bike paths similar to the wide path and associated grass buffer in front of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Hopkins said. They are also interested in promoting better connectivity between the existing paths.
County BRAC Coordinator Phil Alperson also said at the committee meeting that he expects to hear "fairly soon" about a $750,000 grant requested from the Department of Defense that would pay for a county study of the bike and pedestrian facilities around Navy Med.
The facilities that would be studied for potential upgrades are located along Cedar Lane and West Cedar lane, Battery Lane, Glenbrook Parkway, Rockville Pike and Jones Bridge Road.
SHA engineer Barb Solberg, who is working on the intersections, said she didn't know if the bike and pedestrian improvements would help reduce the traffic on BRAC-affected roads.
Alperson said the BRAC committee hopes to have a letter on the SHA's proposed intersection improvements drafted and approved by committee members at its May 19 meeting.
Two out of 82 public comments received as of April 21 were supportive of the projects, according to Solberg.
Committee chairman John Carman said community members could choose to turn down the money for the improvements and instead request a new long-term master plan for the area beyond September 2011, when the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is required to open.
"Are you willing to accept nothing?" Carman asked.
Public comment about the intersection improvements near the Navy Med campus must be mailed by Saturday to the Maryland State Highway Administration, 707 N. Calvert Street, P.O. Box 717, Mail Stop C-102, Baltimore, Maryland 21203-0717, Attention: Barb Solberg.