Bethesda Navy Campus Commander: 'Ultimately, It's on Our People'
The U.S. Department of the Navy last week released a lengthy Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that examines how a planned new medical facility and research facility would affect traffic around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. On Tuesday, the man who runs the campus as commander of Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB), said the bottom line on traffic woes is much easier to understand than the hundreds of pages contained in the report. "Ultimately, it's on our people and our processes," Capt. Fritz Kass told a meeting of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee. "And we're always looking at those." Kass was referring to security personnel who do checks at the campus gates, where queued cars back up onto Bethesda's major roads and create most of the traffic woes that have become routine with a morning rush hour trip on Wisconsin Avenue or Jones Bridge Road. Kass also emphasized the congestion problems with WRNMMC area intersections before campus expansion and the estimated growth of visitors from 500,000 per year to 1,000,000 per year. But the EIS also concluded "total run times," or the amount of time it would take to commute from downtown Bethesda through the major intersections past the campus, could increase by as much as 15 seconds. Kass played down that figure as a minor inconvenience in a trip that has already become 10-15 minutes long. The EIS also addresses parking capacity issues on the campus. The plan is for a 500-spot underground garage to go along with the new medical facility. There are currently about 7,500 spaces on the campus, Kass said, enough to "meet demand, but kind of just barely." The campus Master Plan allows for 8,900 total spaces. The Navy's goal is one parking space for every three staff members. Kass said the EIS shows that ratio would be 1 to 3.25 in 2018. He's hoping the new Gate 3, on Jones Bridge Road near the Navy Exchange, will be open by the end of the year.