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Community Liaison Council Meeting Minutes — July 19, 2012
July 19, 2012; 4:00 to 5:30 PM
Natcher Building, Conference Room D
National Institutes of Health
Draft Master Plan for the NIH Bethesda Campus, Bethesda, Maryland
Ms. Miller opened the meeting at 4:07. The purpose of today’s meeting was to discuss additional questions about the NIH Bethesda Campus Master Plan, which was presented at the May 24 meeting.
Mr. Neuberg said the current traffic crowding is caused by 2 things: the Walter Reed staff’s recent move to the Naval Medical Center, and Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC)-related work at Cedar Lane and South Drive. However, the traffic light at North Gate was installed on a temporary basis and will be evaluated by the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA). Citizens have an opportunity to let their elected officials know the results of having a traffic light there. SHA is in the process of installing 8-second pedestrian-assist advances, however, SHA implementation seems to be slow and disconnected. Everyone agreed that leaving NIH via South Drive is very difficult. However, NIH negotiated, in addition to the tunnel between NIH and the Navy, that the Navy put in a kiss-and-ride turnoff on their side, which should alleviate some crowding in the future. Mr. Schofer recommended contacting SHA Supervisor Lee Starkloff, who is very knowledgeable and responsive. He thought the entrance was poorly designed with many pedestrians and many vehicles going to various places at a single location.
Ms. Miller asked which buildings on the Master Plan map were funded and which are planned but not funded. Mr. Herring said only 2 buildings are currently funded (Porter is under construction). In addition, they are asking for funding for the building 29 complex (an animal facility) and some work in building 10. There’s not much new growth—they are reviewing conditions in existing buildings and functional capacity of older labs. Staff will be moved around, but not substantially increased. The new intramural program for health disparities, and another new program may add 120 employees each, and the National Library of Medicine wants to add 400 people.
Because few building sites remain, they will build on surface parking. Buildings in poor condition will be torn down, e.g., building 31, and a new structure built on the site. But first, they have to move everyone in the existing building to another site. The Master Plan maps out building phases over the next 15 years, e.g., Phase I includes a new waste management facility, a police station, and additions to buildings 40 and 45. They also plan a large, $2,000,000 gallon water tank to supplement the chilled water supply, and 3 new parking garages. The historic core around the Office of the Director (buildings 4, 5, and 8, in addition to the 2 buildings already in use) will be turned into an administrative center.
Ms. Michaels noted that Cedar Lane has changed significantly since BRAC. She was concerned about the new entrance/exit used to build the parking garage onto West Cedar Lane, which is fairly close to Wisconsin Avenue at the northeast corner by the wetlands. She asked which way the traffic lanes will go and how that will combine with BRAC activity. As it is, it is impossible to exit the housing development there and turn south without breaking the law. Mr. Herring said they plan for traffic to go both ways, and he anticipates improvements from the BRAC changes. NIH has more than 10,000 parking spaces on the campus; they have to review the north side of the campus and the exit at Cedar Lane.
Mr. Neuberg thought the north-bound people would be removed from the mix. He noted that the bulk of NIH staff lives northwest of campus, so they will likely go to route 270 via Old Georgetown Road. There will be 3 eastbound lanes—a dedicated left, a dedicated right, and one straight through. They will install a traffic light there, and NIH will have to work with SHA and the county to adjust the timing. In preparation, they should study anticipated behavior of the exiting traffic.
Mr. Herring saw the current traffic crisis as the result of a combination of simultaneous BRAC activities, construction, and the growth of downtown Bethesda and Friendship Heights. At the same time, we need to get traffic in and out of NIH. NIH used to have 11 exits, but now has only 7. The 10,000 parking places imply that 20,000 people are on campus; this includes contractors, students, and staff, but not hospital visitors. Ms. Miller wanted to review the parking ratio (1 space for 2 people). Mr. Herring said the current plan is to continue using that ratio (because it works) while they continue other programs, such as monetary incentives to take the Metro, at the same time recognizing that some people will never be able to take Metro. The only way to reduce parking supply is to charge for parking. It was suggested that people write to their Congress members to get the Transhare reduction (to $125) reversed.
Ms. Lueders asked how many people telecommute, but Mr. Herring had no way to capture that number because it’s done on the Institute level. However, many people at NIH cannot telecommute because they work in the lab. Mr. Moss added that telecommuting is being encouraged by placing the onus on the supervisor to tell workers why they cannot telecommute, rather than on the employee to justify why he or she should be able to telecommute.
In response to Ms. Miller’s question about the little park, Mr. Neuberg and Mr. Herring had heard nothing, and Mr. Michaels could say only that no benches are planned and that someone donated the concrete.
Mr. Neuberger said the gate at South Greentree was reopened and funded through the end of the fiscal year (September 30). It would remain open as an exit, but they need more money to keep it open as an entrance (staffed).
Mr. Herring: The Environmental Impact Study is being conducted in conjunction with the Master Plan, and should be completed by August 17 for distribution and review.
- Ms. Rifkin: Based on that delivery date, the Planning Board will be able to hold a public hearing in mid-September. She added that the Navy is also updating its Master Plan and accompanying a draft Environmental Impact Study. Mr. Weil thought the Walter Reed plan would be presented to his division in September. Note: Mr. Weil has a comment change (although this is what I had said at the meeting since it was true at the time – the Walter Reed MP Update is now scheduled to be heard by our Commission at the November 1st meeting instead).
- Ms. Rifkin observed that the Montgomery Country Planning Board public board review is where the community will have an opportunity to express their views, of the Environmental Impact Studies from the NIH and the Navy, as well as the review of the respective Master Plans.
Mr. Herring presented a draft of a master plan that will guide the development of the NIH campus during the next 20 years. The master plan also will
- Louvers with sound baffling will be added to Building 33. This was a response to owners of a house whose elevation is higher than the rest of the neighborhood, and who therefore heard more NIH noise than they thought acceptable. It will benefit the entire neighborhood.
- Mr. Schofer noted the need to rehabilitate some pavement markers.
- SHA wants to close the north gate during an advanced utility project.
- At a future meeting, Mr. Schofer would like an update on the South Lawn, and one on the holding pond.
- Ms. Mazuzan reported that on Tuesday from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, the SHA will convene a meeting on the Cedar Lane/355 intersection. She also recommended Arena Stage’s production of “The Normal Heart” as of particular interest because of the role NIH plays in the story.
The meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m. The next meeting will be held September 20, 2012.
Marian Bradford, Camelot Mews
Maggie Dittemore, Huntington Terrace
Harvey Eisen, Edgewood/Glenwood
Marilyn Mazuzan, Oakmont
Debbie Michaels, Glenbrook
Ginny Miller, Wyngate
Ralph Schofer, Maplewood
Lucy Ozarin, MD, Whitehall
Beth Volz, Locust Hill
John Burklow, OCPL
Brad Moss, ORS, ORF
Phillip Neuberg, ORF
Tara Mowery, OCL
Sharon Robinson, OCL
NIH Alumni Association
Kira Lueders, NIH Alumni Association
Margaret Rifkin, Montgomery County Planning Board
Michael Weil, National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC)
Winfield Swanson, Audio Associates
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