SHA pitches reversible lane on Connecticut Avenue
Flip flop' lane would help ease increased traffic from BRAC
A reversible lane on a portion of Connecticut Avenue is part of the latest round of possible upgrades to four intersections around National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.
The four intersection projects are being discussed as a way to deal with the increased traffic caused by the opening of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Navy Med's campus in September 2011. They would take place at Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road, Jones Bridge Road and Rockville Pike, Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane, and West Cedar Lane and Old Georgetown Road.
The reversible or "flip flop" lane would run from the Capital Beltway eastbound ramp on Connecticut Avenue south to Manor Road, and would be dedicated to southbound traffic in the morning rush hours and northbound traffic during the evening rush. The new lane would eliminate the need to widen the road near Jones Bridge Road, making the previously discussed demolition of five houses along Connecticut Avenue unnecessary, although the existing median would have to be eliminated.
A State Highway Administration spokesman, however, said it is unclear how much money the revised upgrades, unveiled at the county's July 14 Base Realignment and Closure Implementation Committee meeting, would save the state over previous upgrades and projected costs.
The SHA said it is studying the reversible lane and other changes in response to public criticism over the $215 million maximum price tag and effectiveness of the first proposed intersection improvements unveiled in March. Currently, there is $36 million in state and federal money available for the four projects.
"We are getting some positive feedback, believe it or not," said Andy Scott, special assistant for economic development to Acting State Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley, in a July 15 interview.
Several of the changes reduce the scope of the projects. They include eliminating proposed widening of Rockville Pike south of Jones Bridge Road near Glenbrook Village and adjacent to the Boy Scouts of the National Capital Area Council building and eliminating a proposed right-turn-only lane on Oakmont Avenue at the intersection of West Cedar Lane and Old Georgetown Road. Lane widths along the Pike at Cedar Lane and Jones Bridge Road would also be reduced.
A 10-foot pervious bike and pedestrian path would be added to the south side of West Cedar Lane and the east side of Old Georgetown Road. Pedestrian refuges would also be created at the Pike and Cedar Lane, as well as the Pike and Jones Bridge Road.
Neighborhood representatives on the committee, however, were not particularly receptive to the latest intersection proposals. They expressed particular concern about whether they would get a chance to provide further feedback. SHA held an open house about the first intersection proposals on April 2 at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
While he said SHA should "fast track" the Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road intersection study because of the possibility of property seizures, Ken Strickland of the Chevy Chase Valley Citizens Association also asked SHA to look at the intersections comprehensively, such as improving access onto Jones Bridge Road eastbound for residents of his neighborhood.
"We don't want to revisit this in three years," Strickland warned officials about the intersections.
"A lot of people have a lot of fear that this is the last time they're going to see it," said John Carman, chairman of the BRAC committee.
Scott said while SHA will continue to gather input from residents as the projects go forward, "We are getting somewhat anxious. If the desire is to get something by the fall of 2011, it's becoming more difficult to do that."
Tension between residents and officials also continued about short-term improvements at the intersections versus a long-term vision that emphasized mass transit, pedestrians and bikes as well. In another presentation to the committee, John Carter of Park and Planning said planning models for the White Flint area in North Bethesda that encouraged walkers and bikers could also serve the area around Navy Med.
Strickland and others noted the apparent conflict between Carter's vision for the Rockville Pike corridor and SHA's intersection projects.
At the same time, Carter told the committee about the intersection improvements, "Be careful of compromising in these designs."