Rockville Pike Residents Angry Over Proposed Extra Lane


A group of homeowners near Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane think an additional lane of traffic designed to lighten the rush hour load won't live up to its purpose, and they don't want the disruptions they fear will come with it. The residents, many who live north of Cedar Lane and on the east side of Rockville Pike on a service road, questioned many aspects of a State Highway Administration presentation on the project at a Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee meeting on Tuesday. The Locust Hill Citizens Association hired their own traffic consultant to refute SHA's findings and residents said the SHA's noise study didn't come close to the 80 decibels of sound they've measured from afternoon northbound traffic. One homeowner even claimed the existing road can sound as loud as the Verizon Center during a Washington Capitals hockey game. Another demanded to know the standard deviation SHA used for its traffic studies. SHA wants to build the project, known as Phase 4 of the Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane intersection improvement, in order to help mitigate the increased afternoon rush hour traffic from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and NIH to the Beltway and I-270. The project, for which federal funds have not yet been released, would add an additional lane on Rockville Pike north of Cedar Lane to a point just north of Locust Hill Road. It would also include an extra lane from North Wood Road to Cedar Lane that would allow for traffic leaving the Military Medical Center base to have a free right-hand turn lane. With SHA's original traffic counts from 2007, the no-build scenario would mean an average delay of about three minutes per vehicle in the afternoon peak hour, a Level of Service grade of F. Phases 1-3 of the project (already funded and some already underway) would reduce that delay to one minute and the addition of Phase 4 would reduce the delay to 52.4 seconds per vehicle, a Level of Service grade of D. A 2012 SHA count determined shorter delays for all scenarios, but SHA analysts discounted that study because heavy congestion didn't allow as many vehicles to pass through the study area. Richard Levine, president of the Locust Hill Citizens Association, said the project is not worth tearing up the existing sidewalk and other construction challenges. Residents opposed to Phase 4 say the major chokehold is south of Cedar Lane, not north of it. One resident said vehicles, free of the bumper-to-bumper traffic south of Cedar Lane, will ramp up in speed and volume once they get through the intersection and closer to the Beltway and I-270 ramps. An SHA representative said studies showed widening Rockville Pike south of North Wood Road would not provide corridor travel time savings. "It would be a long run safety and environmental hazard. It would also be extremely complex and disruptive to build. An $11 million budget for ripping out a wooded hillside, replacing it with a  retaining wall that will take years to build," Levine said. "It would be a complex, expensive, disruptive, unsafe project for which no real reason exists. It's not worth it. And in this day of budget constraints, to build something that's doesn't have a purpose is something that's simply wrong and uncalled for." The project is scheduled to begin in mid to late 2014, pending the release of federal funds.

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