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Bethesda Naval Hospital Expansion - A Missed Opportunity

In 2005, the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommended relocating Walter Reed Hospital to the Bethesda Naval Hospital campus. This combined facility is now known as the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The design for the expanded Bethesda Navy Hospital was a monumental missed opportunity for transportation planning. If the Navy's Environmental Impact Statement is taken at face value, transit usage at the facility will be sharply reduced while auto commuting will increase.

Ignoring the legal requirement to study alternatives with reduced environmental impacts, the Navy studied two alternatives that both add 1800 heavily subsidized parking spaces, far more than the 2200 new employees (many working weekends and shifts) and new hospital visitors will need. The Navy refused to analyze a no-added-parking alternative proposed by ACT and endorsed by the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce. This ignored the basic purpose of an EIS, which is to look at alternatives with less environmental impact.

According to the EIS (Appendix C, page 50), if new employees generate commuting and visitor trips at the same rate as existing Bethesda Naval employees, the proposed 2200 new employees would put 418 cars on the road during the most congested 60 minutes of the evening rush hour. The ACT proposal would have further reduced this number by clustering buildings near Metro and making transit more accessible. But the EIS projected 921 auto trips during that hour - more than double the number generated by an equal number of current employees.

To make room for with the all the traffic the Navy planned to create, Rep. Van Hollen and Sens. Cardin and Mikulski won substantial federal funding for road widenings. Funding to improve transit and pedestrian access was included in this package, but the Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation tried to divert that money into a road-building project. After a long struggle by ACT, the most important improvement in transit access, an elevator down to Metro's Red Line in front of the Navy Hospital gate, will be built after all. But the facility layout will create unnecessary traffic and the excessive parking is a great waste of taxpayer money.

ACT's vision of a transit-oriented Naval Hospital

Apr 15, 2007, ACT's comments on the EIS

Dec 10, 2007, Critique of the transportation analysis

Jan 28, 2008, Comments to the BRAC program manager

Jul 14, 2009, Letter to County Council on the Medical Center Metro Entrance

Sep 21, 2009, Letter re ARRA TIGER grant for Medical Center Tunnel

Jan 19, 2010, ACT Testifies on Transit Access at Medical Center Metro

Feb 3, 2010, ACT Testimony on Rockville Pike Access Project

May 25, 2010, NEPA Scoping Comments on MD 355 Crossing Study

July 27, 2010, Letter to Planning Board on Rockville Pike Crossing Study

Aug 3, 2010, ACT testimony on Rockville Pike Crossing Study alternatives

Aug 19, 2011, ACT comments on DOD's proposed criteria for funding BRAC-related transportation improvements