Crews Take First Steps on Tunnel Project To Link NIH, Walter Reed

‘Test pitting’ checks for the existence of utilities


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The future site of an underground tunnel will cross beneath Rockville Pike at the Medical Center Metro station.

Montgomery County

Crews are expected to complete by Thursday one of the first steps of a $110 million project to build a tunnel under Rockville Pike, connecting the Medical Center Metro Station with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

The work involves “test pitting,” in which workers see what underground utilities could be in the proposed construction area, said Phil Alperson, the Montgomery County government’s coordinator for the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. The work was done on the National Institutes of Health side of the pike, he said.

Actual utility relocation for the project could begin next month, Alperson said.

The project, to be paid for by the federal government, officially gets underway later this year. Once completed, the tunnel will allow for easier access to Walter Reed. It will be between South and Center drives. Foot traffic increased dramatically after Walter Reed combined with the National Naval Medical Center in 2011.

The county selected Clark Construction Group, based in Bethesda, as the prime contractor.

In addition to the pedestrian tunnel, the project also includes three high-speed elevators on the Walter Reed side of Rockville Pike.

The project is expected to be complete in 2020, Alperson said.

The pedestrian tunnel, about 80 feet long, will be 135 feet underground and crews will dig down to complete one section of the tunnel, then cover it before starting the next section, he said.

The construction could result in periodic lane closures along the pike, although the road shouldn’t be closed completely, he said.

“I’m not going to sugar coat it. There will be problems for commuters,” Alperson said.

There also could be controlled blasting as work starts on the elevator shafts. Alperson said that would occur in the middle of the night, and the road could be closed just before the blasting.

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