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Community Liaison Council Meeting Minutes — Thursday, March 19, 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015; 4:00 to 5:30 PM
Natcher Building, Conference Room D
National Institutes of Health
Opening Remarks—John Burklow/Tara Mowery
Mr. Burklow opened the meeting at 4:14 PM.
Last week an Ebola patient was admitted to the Clinical Center. The patient’s condition has progressed from serious to critical. Several other people who have been exposed to Ebola are being treated elsewhere, primarily CDC.
- Ebola patients are quarantined and monitored for 21 days. In the unlikely event that an exposed person is diagnosed with Ebola, he or she could go to Nebraska, CDC, Bellevue, or another facility.
Ken Burns has produced a 6-hour documentary with Siddhartha Mukherjee called “The Emperor of All Maladies,” about the history of cancer. Dr. Varmus (NCI director) and Dr. Collins will be featured. It is supposed to be aired on PBS next month.
Suburban Hospital Expansion Update—Leslie Webber & Margaret Fitzwilliam
Ms Webber explained the Suburban Hospital expansion plan. The new hospital will have the same number of beds, but will have more private rooms for patients (about half are now private). They will add state-of-the-art operating rooms in a consolidated suite near the Emergency Department and Trauma Unit. The new parking garage will almost double the number of parking spaces while decreasing the amount of surface parking. Meanwhile, campus circulation and access will be improved by separating streams of traffic. For the first time, medical office space will be available for 30 to 40 specialist physicians.
Their project team includes: Whiting–Turner Contracting Company, construction management; Wilmot Sanz of Cagley Engineering, architect for design of the building; Rodgers Consulting, landscaping; Schnabel Engineering, geotechnical consulting; Linowes and Blocher, legal; Leach Wallace, MEP; GreenShape, sustainability consulting; Wells & Associates, traffic management.
New traffic management structures will include: a main entrance for patient drop-off; an ambulance-only driveway; an access/delivery entrance; an employee entrance into the parking garage; and pedestrian and bike paths accessible to the public. Suburban is also adding sidewalks around the hospital along Grant and McKinley Streets, and widening the one along Old Georgetown Road. They will widen
McKinley Street by giving up about 10 feet along the campus.
The permitting process is ongoing. Suburban began construction phase I in January 2015. In spring 2017, the new garage is scheduled to open, and in summer 2017 they will commence construction phase II. The building addition is scheduled to open in fall 2019.
The first phase involves demolition of 10 houses and building an interim parking area. Suburban Hospital owns all but six of the houses on those two blocks; 13 are being maintained as houses and have been granted special exceptions. Suburban has rented the houses it does not own for many years. Then, probably in May 2015, they will demolish the Lambert Building (the existing garage). To accommodate these activities, one block of Lincoln Street will be closed. They will also identify work areas and begin planned sequencing, starting tree and fence removal and grading, etc. More employees will be moved off-site in the next 2 weeks.
The new building will occupy 300,029 square feet on five levels:
- level B—physical plant, central sterile and satellite pharmacy
- level 1—new surgery, post-anesthesia care unit,and observation services
- level 2—lobby, registration, physicians’ offices, meeting rooms, outpatient pharmacy, gift shop
- level 3—infrastructure for 54 private beds, but will be left unfinished
- level 4—54 private beds (adult medical and surgical patients)
Ms Fitzwilliam showed a diagram of what the parking garage will look like on all sides. With it, on-campus parking increases from 730 spaces to 1280. They are building a new building because, in an effort to reduce the risk of terrorist attack, parking cannot be put under health care units. In fact, Suburban has regular communication with the police and fire departments. Furthermore, Suburban may want to share resources with surrounding institutions, and separating traffic enhances that possibility.
Lessons gleaned from other projects include having a single point of contact for safety concerns, and requiring construction workers will park off-site and not in the neighborhood—they must be shuttled in. Also, construction traffic will enter from the Old Georgetown Road side; desirable materials will be professionally salvaged; garage remnants will be taken off-site for disposal; and traffic flow changes for the campus will be announced in advance through multiple media.
For communication Suburban will have: neighborhood meetings; quarterly community liaison council meetings; a Suburban Hospital newsletter, New Directions; a new Web site (www.suburbanfuture.org); social media feeds for Twitter and Facebook; monthly subscription email updates; a hotline (301-986-3552); and designated contact people—Leslie Weber and Ronna Borenstein-Levy.
- It was noted that the neighborhood behind the hospital is zoned for parking, and many people park on Huntington Highway when going to Suburban Hospital. The hospital encourages people not to do that and will have more parking spaces when the new facility is finished.
- Ms Fitzwilliam was sure they had allowed for enough visitors’ parking because they had input from many parking studies done for the new garage. Ms Webber added that Suburban Hospital is not adding beds so there won’t be any more patients. Nevertheless, parking will be a problem during construction, and the hospital will encourage people to use valet parking. Ms Fitzwilliam said they won’t mix parking for visitors and employees, and new technology will allow better control over who can park where.
- Ginny Miller noted that NIH people and those who want to take the Metro downtown have abused Suburban Hospital parking. Ms Webber said this problem was exacerbated by Suburban’s former inability to charge for parking.
- The helicopter pad will remain where it now is; pilots like the location. There has been a significant decrease in helicopter traffic since the police helicopter had an accident a few years ago. However, Walter Reed has increased its helicopter traffic.
- Medicine has changed so much in the last 50 years; now doctors park and come and stay all day; surgeons may not. The new plan reflects this.
NIH’s Transportation Management Plan—Ricardo Herring, OD/ORF
The goal has been for suburban areas within 2000 feet of a Metrorail station, to allow one parking space for every three employees (1:3). The NIH plan was executed in 1991 as part of a trilateral memorandum of understanding executed in 1992 among the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the Montgomery County Planning Board, and the NIH. NIH’s goals are: to improve availability of parking spaces on campus for personnel and visitors; to mitigate traffic congestion; and to maintain a good neighbor relationship with community.
Nearly every zip code in the Baltimore–Washington metro area has at least 1 to 10 NIH employees who are not served by mass transit. In addition, 90 to 100 of these people come from Pennsylvania. Therefore, these people drive to NIH. In addition, NIH has many shift workers whose schedule Metro does not accommodate. Opening the Purple Line could change this scenario. In sum, 41% of NIH employees are most likely to use Metro, 52% must drive, and 7% may use mass transit, but are likely to drive. NIH issues parking permits to all NIH employees and on-site contractors at owned and leased facilities.
In addition there is no commercial parking near NIH. Bethesda doesn’t have enough parking for itself. It is not the parking ratio, but the impact of AM and PM peak traffic, i.e., the impact on the roads that serve the campus. Since 1992, NIH traffic has diminished significantly at peak hours—a 55% reduction in AM peak traffic and a 65% reduction in PM peak traffic—thanks to variation in people’s shifts, telework (which affects 10,000 employees), flextime, and alternate work schedules.
NIH has invested in automated, badge-activated gates that speed access. It also built a Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility, so trucks do not back up on Rockville Pike. About 1800 employees from leased space in Montgomery County will be moved onto campus, and others come from other sites in Maryland. This increase will take effect over a 10- to 15-year period. In addition, many retirees remain on campus in other capacities and are still treated as employees.
Bethesda has 35,721 jobs (expected to increase to 40,884 by 2030); NIH has 20,594 jobs (expected to increase to 23,594); Naval Support Activity in Bethesda has 11,685 (expected to increase to 12,611 by 2022). Therefore, traffic congestion is not coming from NIH, but from the surrounding area; however, 20 years ago NIH did create most of the congestion.
To maintain a good neighbor relationship with the community, NIH provided easements to help reduce traffic congestion, e.g., to construct the Med Center Metro Station and Transportation Center; to enlarge the sidewalk and bike path along West Cedar Drive; to widen portions of Rockville Pike to ameliorate traffic congestion expected to occur as a result of BRAC; to support the storm-water detention pond in the northwest corner of NIH; and to construct Woodmont Avenue.
The 1:3 parking space ratio is a federal regulation, not a federal law. It is an NCPC goal, but NCPC does not have jurisdiction over NIH; they are advisory. Nevertheless, NIH continues to comply with the 1991 Trilateral Memorandum on Parking and the 1992 Memorandum of Understanding. In 2004 NCPC unilaterally vacated all previous federal agency agreements and adopted the Transportation Element of Comprehensive Plan. However, NIH did not know this and since 2003 has invested $168 million to maintain strategies to reduce traffic.
- The Navy “complies” with the 1:3 parking ratio, but some employees have to park in the neighborhood or pay daily rates elsewhere.
- NIH employees are different from those at other facilities, e.g., they may be animal workers, nurses, or researchers who leave after Metro has closed and who cannot carpool.
- Randy Schools noted that about 6 months ago NIH got Zip Cars, which helps.
- Deborah Michaels: Montgomery County is too expensive for its employees to live in. We need a consolidated approach to improving public transportation. Mr. Herring: Montgomery County has been aggressive in attracting businesses and now has much growth, but they have not dealt with the infrastructure (roads, etc).
- The current NIH ratio is between 1:2 and 1:3. The plan to go to 1:3 in the future. They anticipate that the Purple Line will be built and when that happens the rate will go down.
- Mike Weil: Some agencies have committed to a 1:4 goal within 20 years. An important factor is that, as baby boomers retire, Millennials will replace them and they have different characteristics, e.g., they like to live closer to work. There is agency support and political support for the 1:3 and 1:4 ratio.
- Nancy Abelos: The Purple Line and other building projects, such as the White Flint rebuilding, were made to create what Millennials want. That’s where these people will live.
- Mr. Weil assumes that NIH will have a massive turnover in the next few years. Baby boomers are about 68 now. But, Mr. Herring, noting that NIH tends to bring in older workers, noted that the average employee stays 25 years and that fewer than 1% retire every year. They are scientists recruited from all over the country and they bring their staffs with them. Most come from the mid-West and want a house and a lawn. This is not an office complex and the employee population is not comparable.
The meeting adjourned at 5:49 PM
Next Meeting: May 21, 2015
Nancy Abeles, Bethesda Crest Home Owners’ Association
Margaret Dittemore, Huntington Terrace Citizens’ Association
Ellen Larsen, Sonoma Citizens’ Association
Marilyn Mazuzan, Town of Oakmont
Deborah Michaels, Glenbrook Village Home Owners’ Association
Ginny Miller, Wyngate Citizens’ Association
Ralph Schofer, Maplewood
Andrea Witt, Huntington Parkway Citizens’ Association
John Burklow, OCL
Ricardo Herring, ORF
Brad Moss, ORS/ORF
Tara Mowery, OCL
Phillip Neuberg, ORF
Sharon Robinson, OCL
NIH Alumnae Association
Randy Schools, Recreation & Welfare Association, retired
Margaret Fitzwilliam, Suburban Hospital
Marlene Jefferson, OD
Winfield Swanson, Audio Associates
Leslie Webber, Suburban Hospital
Mike Weil, NCPC
This page last reviewed on March 7, 2017