BETHESDA, Md. – The Base Realignment and Closure program has caused a change in travel behavior at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
The Navy says that between 2007 and 2011, transit used by personnel jumped from 11 percent to 44 percent at the center. Officials caution that the numbers could simply reflect more people heading to the facility.
BRAC brought about 2,500 new employees to the site, causing the total workforce there to swell to around 10,500. In addition, the number of annual visits to the facility is expected to double to about 1 million.
But even though more people are taking trains and buses — and single occupant vehicles headed to the facility are declining — Montgomery County’s BRAC coordinator says planned road and transit fixes still need to move forward.
“It’s great that the Navy has encouraged its personnel to use more transit, but those numbers don’t tell the whole story,” Montgomery County BRAC coordinator Phil Alperson says. “Those numbers are only about the personnel who work at the base. They do not reflect visits to the campus every day.”
Alperson is concerned some may look at the increased transit usage and think transportation fixes around the facility are no longer needed.
“There are some people who have said that before BRAC, traffic was failing,” he says. “And [after BRAC] transportation is still failing, so why bother spending money to do anything?”
He cautions that there are varying degrees of failing when talking about congestion:
“If your kids gets a 60 on a test, that’s an F and you have to deal with it. But if your kids gets a 40 on that test, it is still a F, but it is a bigger problem.
“That’s the thing with our traffic. It is considered F, but it shouldn’t stop at F. It should go to G or H or I.”
One road project on southbound Connecticut Avenue, which adds a dedicated lane and right turn lane onto Jones Bridge Road, is already underway. Another project near Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane is coming up this month.
There are also plans to add a bank of high-speed elevators on the facility side of Rockville Pike, connecting to the Medical Center Metro station. A pedestrian tunnel will also be built under Rockville Pike from the Metro station to the center. Those projects are in the design phase.