Pedestrians and Medical Center Metro
The long struggle over access to the Medical Center Metro station puts into sharp relief the Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation's hostility to pedestrians.
In 2005, it was announced that Walter Reed Hospital would be relocated to the Bethesda Naval Hospital campus. A committee of public officials and neighborhood representatives worked for several years to solve the anticipated transportation problems. Part of the solution, all agreed, was better transit, and in consultation with the committee WMATA studied five ways to improve access to the Metro from the Naval Hospital. The best of these options — ACT has believed from the beginning — is a new entrance to the Metro station on the Naval Hospital side of Rockville Pike, served by a bank of high speed elevators.
While these alternatives were before the public, Montgomery County transportation officials were secretly promoting an entirely different plan developed by a major highway contractor, Clark Construction. Without any warning to the public or the advisory committee, the county in September 2009 applied for matching funds to build a four-lane automobile underpass beneath Rockville Pike with the money designated for Metro access. When pressed, MCDOT explained that the tunnel was part of Clark's plan.
After this secret plan was exposed by ACT, the county dropped it and came up with a different highway underpass plan that was presented at a public meeting May 11. For ACT's analysis of this new plan go here.
The alternatives that the study will evaluate were announced at a “public workshop” on July 20. The elevator was not dropped entirely, but was included only in combination with a pedestrian underpass. The study was still biased against the elevator option, as described here and here.
On Nov. 23, 2010, the involved federal, state, and local agencies agreed to recommend the elevator/underpass option. Funding then available was insufficient to build both elevator and underpass, leaving open the question of which gets built first. The Planning Board recommended that the elevator go first, but MCDOT continued to describe the entire project as an underpass.
The 2012 federal budget provided more funding for transportation at relocated military bases. Responding to ACT comments, the Defense Dept. revised its criteria criteria for allocation of the money in September 2011 to emphasize reduction of parking demand, better pedestrian access, and security. These are three issues that the elevator entrance would help address. Funding has now been awarded for construction of the elevator and underpass.