Community Liaison Council Meeting Minutes — May 16, 2013

May 16, 2013; 4:00 to 5:20 PM
Natcher Building, Visitor's Center Little Theater
National Institutes of Health

Opening Remarks

Ms. Robinson welcomed attendees and introduced the speakers for both major agenda topics.

BRAC (Base Realignment and Closing) Intersections and Tunnel Project — Rebecca Lichtenstein, P.E., and Project Manager

Ms. Lichtenstein explained that the project area on which she is reporting includes Route 187 (Old Georgetown Rd.) at West Cedar Lane, the Bethesda Fire Station, parts of Johnson and Oakmont Avenues, and part of Center Drive. She provided a handout of the eight slides accompanying her presentation. There will be road widening to accommodate an additional right turn onto Cedar Lane from Rte 187 and an exclusive left-turn lane from W. Cedar Lane onto Rte 187 southbound. The Bloch building parking lot entrances will need to be changed; the one along Oakmont will have only right turns for outgoing traffic; the other along Route 187 will be widened to accommodate both in and out traffic.

Mr. Schofer inquired about testing the design, which appears to include requiring a U-turn by north-bound Rte 187 traffic for a south-bound right turn into the Bloch Building parking lot. When Ms. Miller commented that the main morning problems involving Rte 187 are elsewhere, Ms. Lichtenstein explained that her focus today is on the project that is her responsibility, and that there are other projects improving intersections nearby (e.g., at Rte 355 and W. Cedar Lane, involving utility wiring). Mr. Schofer then asked how this particular SHA project accommodates bicycles and pedestrians. Ms. Lichtenstein explained that the project includes the construction of a shared use path along Route 187 and signal timing to accommodate pedestrians using the crosswalks. Ms. Barbara Solberg, Division Director, SHA, said that the addition of an exclusive left turn lane from Oakmont to Route 187 was considered in previous iterations of the design.

Ms. Lichtenstein added that the improvements are expected to reduce vehicle delay times by half in the afternoon rush hours. The additional lane along Route 187 will require shifting the median. Ms. Michaels hoped that the adjacent improved intersections would help each other with traffic flow. Mr. Kenneth Hartman of Montgomery County Department of Transportation observed that rush hours are nevertheless a reality.

The current timeline includes acquisition of the right-of-way by fall 2013, followed by utility relocation; engineering design by December 2013; bidding in May 2014; start of roadway construction in August 2014; and completion in August 2015. Construction work will be scheduled for off-peak hours. The estimated project cost is $7.73 million, combining some state funding for the engineering design with Department of Defense BRAC funding for the rest.

Additional discussion. When Ms. Mazuzan asked about trees west of Rte 187, the reply was that some trees would have to come down, and that new trees would be planted. Ms. Miller remarked that when the utility company PEPCO removes trees, it does not usually replace them unless specifically asked to do so: such a request may be necessary near the fire station.

MD 355 Crossing Project (Preliminary Design) — Uzair A. Asadullah, P.E., DBIA, Department of Transportation Division of Transportation Engineering, Montgomery County

Mr. Asadullah, who also provided a handout of 15 slides, indicated that he would give a brief update on the status of the Rte 355 crossing (Project #501209) as well as the nearby intersection of Rte 355 with Jones Bridge Road. First he mentioned the various stakeholders, including Montgomery County, Maryland SHA, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), the military (several parts), NIH, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The Rte 355 crossing is a BRAC project, which Maryland decided to combine with the Rte 355-Jones Bridge Rd. project that the state has designed.

The purpose of the Rte 355 crossing project is to improve access to mass transit as well as to improve mobility and safety at the crossing for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Maintenance responsibilities will be split between Metro and the county, with the SHA responsible only for Rte 355. For example, after the county builds three high-speed deep elevators, Metro will do the maintenance. When Ms. Miller asked why the county is planning a project on a state road, Mr. Asadullah explained that the county was unable to persuade the state to do it. The county hopes to plan the work for times that create the least traffic disturbances. One contract will be awarded for both design and construction, with the expectation that companies with those different expertises will combine together to bid. Currently the county is conducting some technical testing at times that will not disturb Metro trains.

When Ms. Witt inquired how the decision was made to build a tunnel rather than an overhead passageway, the reply was that stakeholders helped make that decision a while ago. Mr. Hartman additionally explained that this was the more practical engineering choice as well because the military were offering too limited a space for overhead construction.

The Rte 355-Jones Bridge Road (and Center Drive) project shares some common elements with the Rte 355 crossing project – such as improving pedestrian safety and traffic operations. Signals and crossings will be coordinated, and there will be a shared use path parallel to Rte 355. Ms. Michaels mentioned a concern that a bike path coming from NIH would now have to cross three lanes of traffic. Ms. Barbara Solburg, MD SHA, said that she would check into this and then contact the CLC.

Bidding on this project will be a two-step process: first the three best teams will be selected. They will then respond to a request for proposals. Advertising is scheduled for October 2013, to be followed by a 10- to 12-month period to award the contract. While Montgomery County will lead, all the partners will join in the review process. Completion is planned for September 2017. DOD has awarded about 70 million dollars for the design and construction of this project.

Additional discussion. Ms. Michaels wondered if additional police help for pedestrian traffic will be needed during construction. She also is disappointed that no surface crossing is in the plans. Mr. Schofer suggested that coordinated traffic lights could help. He also mentioned inadequate maintenance. When Ms. Witt suggested better enforcement at the intersection, Mr. Hartman replied that the county can do more spot enforcement but cannot provide it continually. When Ms. Miller commented on the challenges involved in crossing Jones Bridge Road, Ms. Michaels said that she would have preferred to keep a median that is scheduled for removal. Mr. Schofer added that a continuous right turn is not appropriate where pedestrians need to cross.

Other Topics and Concerns

When Ms. Mazuzan reported that vehicles waiting for individuals getting off buses block the entrance into the visitors parking area near the Medical Center Metro station. Ms. Miller said that when she had complained, she learned that this is a state road; consequently, NIH cannot take action (which Mr. Moss affirmed today as well). Mr. Schofer remarked that local people can enforce state and federal laws. Ms. Miller suggesting bringing this topic up with Mr. Phillip Neuberg, chief, NIH Facilities Planning & Programming Branch when he next attends a CLC meeting.

Mr. Hartman noted that the CLC and others will shortly receive project notices regarding 8300 Wisconsin Avenue, a property that has been a vacant lot for several years. An excavation project that may involve blasting rocks is scheduled for completion by January 2014. This was previously the site of a hotel at Woodmont Avenue and Battery Lane. One of the new building occupants in this mixed-use residential and commercial development is expected to be a Harris Teeter grocery store. When Mr. Schofer asked who to call about blasting, Mr. Hartman said that he had literally just received the notice about this project while at this CLC meeting, and that he expects the blasting will take place only between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Mr. Schofer also mentioned an upcoming demolition that will be followed by the building of perhaps 22 homes and his concern about the streetscape during the construction.


The meeting adjourned at 5:20 p.m. The next meeting will occur on July 18.


CLC Members
Margaret Dittemore, Huntington Terrace
Darrell Lemke, Parkview
Marilyn Mazuzan, Oakmont
Deborah Michaels, Glenbrook Village
Ginny Miller, Wyngate
Lucy Ozarin, MD, Whitehall
Ralph Schofer, Maplewood
Jennette Wade, Whitehall
Andrea Witt, Huntington Parkway

NIH Staff
John Burklow, Acting Director and Co-Chair, CLC
Brad Moss, ORS
Tara Mowery, OCL
Susan Petersen, Div. of Facilities Planning
Sharon Robinson, OCL

Philip Alperson, Montgomery County BRAC Coordinator
Uzair Asadullah, Montgomery County Department of Transportation
Brian Copley, Montgomery County Department of Transportation
Kenneth Hartman, Director, Bethesda/Chevy Chase Regional Services Center
Rebecca Lichenstein, Maryland State Highway Administration
Barbara Solberg, Maryland State Highway Administration

Linda Silversmith, Audio Associates

This page last reviewed on March 9, 2017