Community Liaison Council Meeting Minutes — Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017; 4:00–5:30 p.m. EDT
Natcher (Building 45), Lower Level, Conference Room D

Opening Remarks

John Burklow, Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL), Office of the Director (OD), NIH

Mr. Burklow opened the meeting at 4:03 p.m. He introduced Ms. Blackburn, who worked at NIH in the past and is now back as the branch chief for the visitor information center and special events.

YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase

Carla Larrick, YMCA of Metropolitan Washington

Ms. Larrick spoke about the YMCA’s history in Montgomery County and its plans for renovation. The Bethesda facility dates to 1954. While the pools are accessible to people with mobility challenges, the weight rooms are not. Ms. Larrick shared photos of steep stairs, narrow hallways, and other obstacles that make it difficult for people with mobility challenges to use the facilities. A large part of the YMCA’s work is serving elderly people who depend on exercise to keep them mobile. In addition, the YMCA would like to do better at serving people with disabilities.

The facility has not been required to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, because it is grandfathered; this work will bring it up to 21st-century standards and make it accessible to all. The plans are still being developed but will include adding elevators. The renovations will not extend the current footprint of the buildings. Ms. Larrick shared historic photographs of the YMCA and a letter of support for the renovations from a member, a 94-year-old former White House chef who works out in the weight room every day.

The Bethesda YMCA is a resource for the NIH community, Mr. Schools said. Ms. Larrick added that children and families from the Children’s Inn use YMCA pools and that the YMCA provides many services for free or at reduced rates to people who cannot afford memberships. Ms. Larrick encouraged attendees to contact the YMCA with any ideas for other people the YMCA could be helping.

Maryland Route 355 (MD 355) Crossing Project Update

Phil Alperson, Office of the County Executive, Montgomery County
Frank Kingsley, Planning and Design Section, Division of Transportation Engineering, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT)

Mr. Alperson spoke about how the county, state, and military are working together to resolve the traffic problems related to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). As part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in northwest D.C. was closed and combined with the National Naval Medical Center across MD 355/Rockville Pike from the NIH main campus. This greatly increased the number of commuters and visitors to the site and created traffic problems. BRAC did not include funds for communities to adapt to the changes, but in this case, federal funding was made available.

Montgomery County has added sidewalks and bike paths, making it easier for employees of both NIH and WRNMMC to bike to work.

MD 355 and Cedar Lane

Upgrades to this intersection are now complete, other than some landscaping. This work was complicated because of the water that runs under the intersection. A section of Cedar Lane had to be closed during the work. The State Highway Administration (SHA) has confirmed that traffic has increased through that intersection and that the intersection is working better. Traffic will never be eliminated.

Mr. Burklow asked about the water retention element of the work. Mr. Alperson explained that a stormwater management area was included in the work and required a land swap with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Old Georgetown Road and West Cedar Lane

The work on this intersection is in progress and should be completed by the end of the year. It is impossible to widen the roads in these neighborhoods, but it is possible to get turning cars out of the main line of traffic by adding turn lanes.

Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road

The turn lanes from Connecticut Avenue have been completed for cars coming from the Beltway and turning toward NIH or WRNMMC. This was achieved by narrowing the median. An extra lane was added to go north on Connecticut Avenue toward the Beltway. Currently, there is construction on Jones Bridge Road at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to move a retaining wall to accommodate widening and allow more turns from Jones Bridge Road onto Connecticut Avenue. The county is also adding a traffic light at Platt Ridge Drive and Jones Bridge Road to allow access to the Chevy Chase Valley neighborhood, which had been disrupted by other changes in traffic patterns.

MD 355 and Jones Bridge Road

The SHA did a short-term project with dynamic signaling to allow a double left turn from southbound Rockville Pike onto Jones Bridge Road. The change was effective, but some attendees felt that the signage is unclear. This will change soon with the crossing project.

MD 355 Crossing Project

This will be a major project. The groundbreaking is planned for April. There may be some temporary lane closures on MD 355. This is a design–build project, which means that it can change as construction proceeds. The goal is to provide a better way for people to get from the Metro station on the west side of MD 355 to WRNMMC on the east side. Since BRAC, the number of street crossings per day has increased from about 3,000 to about 7,000. There are two main components:

  • A new elevator from the east side of MD 355 to the Metro station
  • A pedestrian tunnel, about 35 feet under the street

In addition, WMATA is renovating the elevator and escalator at the current station. The project will include occasional blasting in the middle of the night for the elevator shafts. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)–required sound alerts will precede blasts. The alerts are louder than the blasts. The blasts will be conducted one at a time, separated by multiple days, rather than as a series of blasts. Some attendees expressed frustration about pedestrians who will continue to cross the street. Mr. Alperson said that pedestrian access will be provided but will not be inviting.

Mr. Kingsley gave more information about the plans for the MD 355 crossing project. During construction, routing pedestrian traffic will be a challenge, but the goal is for the temporary routes to be obvious.


  • Ms. Kleinman asked how long the project will last. Mr. Kingsley said it should be completed in 2021. The blasting should last a little less than a year. Traffic impacts will be intermittent and should occur only on nights and weekends. The underpass will be started first and will require the most lane closings, when workers are driving the piles to support the road. The changes to Jones Bridge Road will be implemented toward the end of the project.

Office of Research Facilities (ORF) Updates

Tony Clifford, ORF, NIH

Mr. Clifford introduced Mr. Hartz, NIH’s new landscape architect. At NIH, landscape architect is a senior position that interacts with construction projects and the community.

Mr. Hartz spoke about his experience. He worked for 12 years in the private sector, including extensive work as a consultant for the federal government. He was the lead designer on the National Mall turf restoration project and worked on the new southeast D.C. Coast Guard headquarters, which has the nation’s third largest green roof, as well as on several American embassies overseas. Mr. Hartz has a particular interest in sustainability and is happy to be at NIH. In the last eight months, he has been getting to know the campus, and he looks forward to working with the Community Liaison Council (CLC) in the future.

Mr. Hartz shared information about lighting around the periphery of the campus. As part of the MD 355/West Cedar Lane improvements, a new multiuse trail was added, with new pedestrian lights in an old colonial style. These are lower and provide better pedestrian lighting than the tall streetlights. The lighting currently extends to Wilson Drive; the plan is to extend this lighting to the Metro intersection by the end of spring. Later, the lighting should continue to the southern border of NIH. In the future, a multiuse path along Old Georgetown Road will be redone, including reevaluation of the lighting levels there.


  • Ms. Bok asked about the NIH property line on the south side. Mr. Clifford clarified that the chain-link fence marks the end of NIH property. NIH maintains the bike path at the edge of the South Lawn.

Industrial Water Storage (IWS) and Thermal Energy Storage System (TESS) Water Tanks

Mr. Clifford spoke about the project to construct two new water tanks. NIH was concerned that a loss of water supply could cause major problems for the campus, particularly for refrigeration. A loss of refrigeration could endanger patients, research animals, and electronics.

Mr. Clifford showed slides depicting the location and likely future appearance of the IWS and TESS tanks. Both are on the southern part of the campus. The insulated thermal tank of TESS holds 7 million gallons. At night, when electricity is less expensive, NIH will be able to cool the water, chilling it to 43 degrees Fahrenheit. The tank includes a concrete shield around the system. Architectural features will improve the look of the tank.

Mr. Hartz said that the projects will include 90 new trees, 1,000 new shrubs, and ground cover. Each project will have its own stormwater management. The tanks will also have vines growing on the outside.


  • Ms. Bok asked about noise at night. Mr. Clifford said that the systems will be silent.


Mr. Burklow mentioned that the White House recently proposed a nearly 20 percent cut to NIH for FY 2018. In the federal budgeting process, the president proposes a budget and Congress holds hearings and allocates the money. In addition, Mr. Burklow noted that Francis Collins is a presidential appointee and, for now, is continuing to serve under the new administration.

Participants had no other questions or items for discussion.


Mr. Burklow adjourned the meeting at 5:18 p.m.

Next Meeting: June 15, 2017


CLC Members

Marian Bradford, Camelot Mews Citizens Association
Margaret Dittemore, Huntington Terrace Citizens Association
Deborah Michaels, Glenbrook Village Homeowners Association
Randy Schools, NIH Recreation and Welfare Association
Jeannette Wade, Whitehall Condominium Association


John Burklow, OCPL/OD
Amy Blackburn, OCPL/OD
Anthony Clifford, Office of Research Facilities/OD
Brandon Hartz, Office of Research Facilities/OD
Susan Roberts, Office of Research Facilities/OD
Sharon Robinson, OCPL/OD


Phil Alperson, Office of the County Executive, Montgomery County
Frank Kingsley, Montgomery County Department of Transportation
Joan Kleinman, Office of Sen. Chris Van Hollen
Carla Larrick, YMCA of Metropolitan Washington
Annette Moore, YMCA of Metropolitan Washington
Tracy Miller, YMCA of Metropolitan Washington
Ken Reichard, Office of Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin

This page last reviewed on December 28, 2017