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Community Liaison Council Meeting Minutes — Thursday, June 16, 2016
Thursday, June 16, 2016; 4:00–5:05 p.m. EDT
Natcher (Building 45), Lower Level Conference Room E1/E2
Opening Remarks—Ginny Miller
Ms. Miller opened the meeting at 4:18 p.m.
She welcomed the Community Liaison Council (CLC) members and announced the speakers.
187 Bethesda Trolley Trail—Brian Post, Gannet Fleming, Inc. (Maryland State Highway Administration [SHA] consultant)/Beth Ann Larson, Office of Highway Development, SHA/Abraham Kidane, Office of Construction, SHA
Mr. Post thanked the Council and explained that his purpose was to provide an update on the project’s status. He showed a series of slides to pinpoint the project’s location. The current project has two pieces. The first starts just north of McKinley Street and runs along Old Georgetown Road (MD 187) north to Center Drive. The second runs between Alta Vista Road and Charles Street, along MD 187. These two segments will be the missing links in the existing northern Bethesda Trolley Trail. The project will complete the SP3 portion of the master plan and will be under Montgomery County jurisdiction for this part of the trail.
Feasibility studies began in the summer of 2012. This new project is aligned outside the secure perimeter but on National Institutes of Health (NIH) land and adjacent to the road. Selected alignment and preliminary engineering were completed in October 2015. The project would then have gone into advertising for contractors, but because it is on NIH land and Montgomery County will maintain it, agreements were needed. These were completed in February 2016. The plans and bids were opened in March 2016, and the project was awarded to Total Civil Construction & Engineering, LLC.
Mr. Post showed a larger-scale map. Starting at the McKinley Street end, this segment takes up where the trail bends and goes south, completing the portion by NIH, a missing link of the Trolley Trail. At Lincoln Drive, the trail slides behind the bus stop and crosses and then picks up again and goes along the NIH perimeter, dodging trees as necessary. When it comes up to South Drive, it again has to shoot straight across the pedestrian crossing and cuts the island back to make a straight walkway. The sidewalk will be removed and traffic will be shifted to the trail upon its completion. The trail is being put in for users, so this will remove the redundancy. The next bend is where the NIH fence comes to a point. There will be a small retaining wall there to keep users from touching the perimeter fence. From there, the trail will come back and tie into Center Drive and, on the left side, the Cedar Lane project, connecting them.
- Ms. Witt wondered about the very narrow sidewalk coming from McKinley Street, where there is a private house with shrubs, making the sidewalk right next to the road.
- Mr. Post answered that the sidewalk there will be widened to 5 feet. It will not be the full trail width, but it will be wider and at the right slope to be compliant.
- Ms. Miller asked if pedestrians and bikers will share the trail.
- Mr. Post answered affirmatively. He explained that the trail will be 10 feet wide and will have pedestrian lighting because it will be set back from the road. He explained that from where the curb is now, the sidewalk splits and the trail picks up. The pedestrian lighting will be according to standard and was asked for by NIH to provide greater safety.
- Ms. Miller said there were no 10-foot sidewalks south of there.
- Mr. Post agreed, explaining that from there south, the sidewalk is not part of the Trolley Trail and will be only 5 feet wide. That is where the trail takes off and goes north.
Mr. Post itemized the proposed improvements that will come with the trail. The first is the construction of the shared-use path, which includes permeable drainage features in some locations. The project will also be installing new pedestrian ramps and updating the traffic signals with pedestrian buttons. The project includes installation of standard pedestrian lighting and will resurface and/or reshape the pavement between Alta Vista Road and Charles Street. In that section, the trail will be only 8 feet wide because of the fence, forcing the project to squeeze the road. Where the trail crosses Charles Street, it will dive back, still paralleling MD 187, to complete the last block.
- Ms. Miller asked where the trail goes after Charles Street.
- Mr. Post answered that the trail does not parallel MD 187 there. It dives back 10 to 15 feet and cuts north to go over 495 and 270 to MD 355 and on to White Flint. This project will fill in those last gaps.
- Ms. Michaels commented that the trail can also be taken through Rock Creek Park.
- Ms. Witt noted that this project is doing everything except the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) project.
- Mr. Post agreed. He said that this project will fill in the gaps where it comes up along the NIH campus and where it takes off from Charles Street.
- Ms. Michaels commented that when BRAC was being funded, money was available for everything except the Trolley Trail. SHA and its partners worked together to make this happen, but because U.S. Department of Defense dollars could not be used for the trail, the various parts had to be done in different sections.
- Mr. Post agreed, noting that the orange parts on the map are the BRAC project. He said that between all the players, all the missing pieces will be filled in.
- Mr. Schools asked what would happen to the sidewalk after the trail is completed.
- Mr. Kidane answered that the sidewalk will be closed once the trail is completed.
Mr. Post continued outlining the improvements provided by the Trolley Trail project. These will also include improved curbs, gutters, and ramps. The project will be installing drainage systems and storm water management facilities as needed, and the county will be maintaining them. A small retaining wall will be installed to minimize impacts, and the project will add landscaping and plant trees.
- Ms. Miller asked who will take care of the trees.
- Mr. Post answered that NIH has them all tagged.
- Ms. Miller commented that the state does not do a good job of maintaining trees.
- Mr. Post commented that they are on NIH property and noted that a new landscape architect took over that office as of last week. Mr. Post had walked the property several times with the previous one.
Mr. Post reported on the funding status, noting that the design is done and cost around $200,000. The right-of-way acquisition is completed, and all of the rights of way are now owned either by the SHA, Montgomery County, or NIH. All necessary agreements have been completed. The construction phase will cost $2.3 million.
- Ms. Miller asked what Montgomery County is responsible for.
- Mr. Post answered that there is an agreement for cost sharing with the state and then maintenance is turned over to Montgomery County.
Mr. Post continued, explaining that the project was advertised in February 2016 and bids were opened in March 2016. The project is supposed to start this summer.
Mr. Kidane noted that the project has now been awarded, but there was a low bidder who had to be removed from the competition, so the contract is not yet officially let. It will probably be done in 15 days or so.
Mr. Post commented that the construction is about a 6-month project.
Mr. Kidane agreed, noting that the original completion date was projected to be in December, but the delays might prevent that.
Mr. Post pointed out that winter’s colder temperatures can affect concrete pouring and other aspects of the construction, so if the project goes too far into winter, it could be further delayed into next spring.
Ms. Johnson-Butler summarized a recent conference call for the BRAC Transportation Working Group. She explained that she is from the NIH Division of Facilities Planning, which holds a teleconference with BRAC every few months. The report concerns a meeting that took place last Tuesday (June 14). Ms. Johnson-Butler provided copies of the summary of the call to all meeting attendees and asked them to read it and let her know by e-mail if there were any concerns about the status of the project. The main thing of importance for this group is the sidewalk closing at MD 355 and Alta Vista Road (item 1.a.ii.). Ms. Johnson-Butler’s office is working with SHA to ensure pedestrian safety. They are stressing safety for the pedestrian crossing, and there will be clear re-routing to get to NIH.
- Ms. Miller asked if that was what the big white signs were about.
- Mr. Burklow agreed, noting that the construction is on the other side.
Ms. Johnson-Butler said she wanted to highlight that area to let the community know the problem is being addressed and her office is aware of it. Access to NIH is available along that walkway, right in front of commercial vehicle inspection facility.
- A Council member noted that there is no sidewalk at all on the opposite corner in the northwest quadrant of the Cedar Lane intersection.
- Ms. Johnson-Butler agreed, explaining that she has communicated about this with the project engineer and a detour has been suggested. There are no signs and it is necessary to cross Rockville Pike, walk down, and then cross back over. It has literally been dug up nearly to the shrub line in front of the inspection station. To proceed any further would require going through security first. It is necessary now to cross Rockville Pike until the turn-in to Wilson Drive. Ms. Johnson-Butler noted that her office has expressed concern about this inconvenience. She was told at the time that they would move as fast as possible, but it will still be at least a week.
- Ms. Michaels commented that when she drove by there earlier, there was a huge sign that said “pedestrians” and pointed to a dirt pile—sort of “off-road” walking.
- Ms. Johnson-Butler said she would look into the matter and thanked Ms. Michaels for the input.
- Ms. Michaels asked if there was any feedback from SHA on when it will communicate about the left turn. The turn signal should be up and running soon, but the Web site says to check the SHA for the activation of dynamic signaling.
- Ms. Johnson-Butler answered that this has not been discussed at any of the project meetings, but she will follow up on it. She explained that each of these subprojects is a separate small contract, so different people are responsible for each. There is, however, a project engineer over all of them with whom she can speak. She noted that Phil Newberg had been the Council’s point of contact, but going forward, she will be the facilities point of contact for the Council. She asked that members please forward their concerns to her.
Round Robin/Q&A/Comments and Concerns
- Mr. Burklow opened the floor for questions and discussion.
- Ms. Miller asked if there was any information about the apartment construction site next to the cut-through near Battery Lane.
- Mr. Burklow said he would let Mr. Moss answer that. Mr. Moss said he thought the construction was ongoing.
- Ms. Johnson-Butler did not know the answer.
- Ms. Miller thought the apartments were already open and people were moving in. She noted that Ms. Robinson had recently sent out an update on this. Where it connects to NIH, the construction is complete and looks nice. Grass is growing. However, a large tree has fallen down there in the last week.
- Mr. Schools said this now a very exclusive neighborhood.
- Ms. Michaels agreed, noting the beautiful grass and a lovely water feature. She said a new Harris Teeter will soon open on the first floor of the building.
- Mr. Moss said that with all the SHA construction outside NIH and all the projects inside the campus, it was difficult to know which one people were asking about. He noted that the construction of the water facility, which was the subject of the last CLC meeting, was now under way near lot 41. Also, many utility projects are ongoing on campus, creating new tunnels or tying them together near the child care building and building 31. The old building 8 is no more; it has been reduced to rubble, and building 7 will soon be demolished as well. Over the long term, that area will be the new animal facility, and the building 14 complex will also be taken down if the master plan goes as expected.
- Ms. Wade asked if the house on Woodmont Avenue, across from MD 300, is part of NIH.
- Mr. Schools answered that it was purchased by the Children’s Inn and is now known as the Woodmont House. At one time, it had single ownership, but NIH negotiated for it to be used to house long-term patients and their families. Some children are under treatment for 8 months or even a year. This facility allows their families to stay with them. If the family does not have work, NIH works with the Chamber of Commerce to help them find temporary positions.
- Ms. Wade asked for clarification of whether the facility is for families or just children.
- Mr. Schools answered that it is for families with children who are being treated at the NIH Clinical Center under protocols there.
- Ms. Miller noted that the Clinical Center had been cited for not giving good, safe care, which was not good publicity for the NIH, and wondered if there was any further information.
- Mr. Burklow answered that people will remember that the Pharmaceutical Development Section was cited for compliance problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration came in and shut the Division down, and a team was pulled together to bring it up to standard. As a result, Dr. Collins decided to look at the entire Clinical Center. He pulled together a team of leaders from major hospitals around the country to produce a Red Team report, a kind of critical analysis of the Clinical Center’s operations. The final report was issued in April and contained an extensive analysis. The team found that many things could be improved. Mr. Burklow said that to put this into context, the problems centered on management of the Clinical Center not being the way modern hospitals are managed. The team found, for example, that the Clinical Center is reviewed by the Joint Commission, but was not answering to local or state licensing requirements in areas such as sterile procedures. This got shared with the media. One thing that was found was that the head of the Clinical Center had no real authority. Nobody answered to him, and as a result, management was very fragmented. The decision has been made to put a chief executive officer in charge, as is the case in any other major hospital, and have that person actually be in charge of the Clinical Center. This is a great clinical research facility that has produced many firsts in medical advances. The intent is to clear up the problems and make it even better. Right now, there is a medical executive committee and a patient advisory board. It is not structured like other modern hospitals. The Clinical Center has paid more attention to research than to hospital procedures. The process is now under way to recalibrate that a bit.
- Mr. Schools said that the whole Bethesda Community Baseball Club has been invited to Cuba to play three games. He observed that many people in Bethesda will be going on this trip, and he is one of them.
- Mr. Burklow noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci has been named by President Obama to lead the fight against the Zika virus. He will be working with Dr. Tom Frieden from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The meeting adjourned at 5:15 p.m.
Next Meeting: October 20, 2016
Nancy Abeles, Bethesda Crest Citizens Association
Marian Bradford, Camelot Mews Citizens Association
Margaret Dittemore, Huntington Terrace Citizens’ Association
Ellen Larsen, Sonoma Citizens Association
Darrell Lemke, Bethesda Parkview Citizens Association
Deborah Michaels, Glenbrook Village Homeowners Association
Ginny Miller, Wyngate Citizens Association
Ken Reichard, Office of Senator Ben Cardin
Randy Schools, NIH Recreation & Welfare Association
Jeannette Wade, Whitehall Condominium Association
Andrea Witt, Huntington Parkway Citizens’ Association
John Burklow, Office of Communications & Public Liaison (OCPL)/Office of the Director (OD)
Tracy Johnson-Butler, Division of Facilities Planning
Brad Moss, Office of Research Services/Office of Management/OD
Tara Mowery, OCPL/OD
Sharon Robinson, Office of Community Liaison/OD
Abraham Kidane, Office of Construction, SHA
Beth Ann Larson, SHA
Brian D. Post, Gannett Fleming, Inc.
This page last reviewed on December 28, 2017