Cardin, Mikulski, Van Hollen Tout Federal Funding of Tunnel Project
Maryland Senators Ben Cardin (D) and Barbara Mikulski (D) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) came to Bethesda on Monday to cut Montgomery County a $40 million check. The state's Congressional delegation was out in full force to tout federal funding it helped secure for the Wisconsin Avenue pedestrian tunnel crossing project at the Medical Center Metro station. The project, to be designed, constructed and managed by Montgomery County, will connect the National Institutes of Health with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center via a shallow tunnel and bank of high-speed elevators down to the Metro platform. It's entirely funded by Federal grants and is scheduled to be completed by 2016. The $40 million portion of funding came from the U.S. Office of Economic Adjustment, the Department of Defense's main grant manager of BRAC-related projects. Cardin, Mikulski and Van Hollen presented a ceremonial check to County Department of Transportation Director Art Holmes at an event in the NIH Gateway Center. "We were successful in achieving something that actually a lot of other states weren't able to achieve, and that is to have the Department of Defense help us mitigate the very, very real local impacts on traffic congestion of a BRAC decision," Van Hollen said. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager Rich Sarles said use of the Medical Center Metro station has increased by eight percent in the last two years, after Walter Reed moved onto the Naval Medical Center campus. The crossing is meant to ease traffic and provide a safer pedestrian crossing for staff at WRNMMC. Holmes said about 3,000 people crossed at the intersection before BRAC added Walter Reed to the base. Studies estimated about 7,000 people would have used the crossing by 2020 if not for the underground alternative. "It couldn't be clearer at Bethesda, the problem that you have," Cardin said. "I appreciate the fact that this gathering was called late morning on a Monday. You should've called it 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Then you understand the problem that you have here. You understand the need. Cardin also touted the project as "precedent-setting," what he called the first ever example of Federal funding for a BRAC-related project beyond on-base improvements. "We believe in the mission of these two agencies and we thank our local community for your patience during this difficult time," Mikulski said. "But at the end of the day, we're gonna have more jobs, better healthcare, honor our promises to our veterans but also our promises to our country of the great innovation that goes on here."