Transportation Officials Discuss Metro Crossing Project
County transportation officials on Tuesday detailed design features and challenges of the pedestrian underpass planned for the Medical Center Metro station on Wisconsin Avenue. At a meeting of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee, Montgomery County Department of Transportation Engineering officials Mark Aebig and Bruce Johnston said there are a number of hurdles ahead for the project, fully funded by Defense Department grants and scheduled for completion in 2016. Foremost among them is finding consensus with a number of agencies: Montgomery County, the Maryland State Highway Administration, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, National Institutes of Health and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The shallow tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue just south of its intersection with the Medical Center Metro entrance is designed to provide pedestrians an uninterrupted crossing from the Metro station to the WRNMMC Wood Road South Gate, which would allow for traffic to move faster. The project also includes a bank of three high speed elevators on the WRNMMC side of the road that will descend 120 feet below ground and connect directly with the Medical Center Metro station platform. That, Aebig said, has caused some concerns from WMATA. Officials there are worried about the effect digging might have on the existing train tunnel, so county engineers must create reinforcement barriers during construction. The full $68 million for the project is being provided through a series of Federal Government grants, though Aebig warned the lowest bidder contractor process could still lead to cost overruns. Some questioned whether people would completely abandon the existing pedestrian crossing in favor of the underground option, but a few officials, including a representative from Rep. Chris Van Hollen's office, made it clear the intention of the project is to drive all foot traffic underground. Aebig said county staff would take those concerns into account as the design phase progresses. Construction is slated to start on the project in September of 2014 and last about two years. The project also includes expansion of the left-hand turn lane on southbound Wisconsin Avenue into the WRNMMC gate. The number of visitors per year to the WRNMMC is expected to double from 500,000 to 1,000,000 after Walter Reed was incorporated into the campus, according to an official county estimate.