One lesson from the BRACtransportation plans at NNMC, Fort Belvoir and Andrews AFB is that it helps to have advocates for biking and walking engaged in the process. Around NNMC, WABA, the NIH bike club and Jack Cochrane of Montgomery Bicycle Advocates have successfully pushed the County to add in trails from the Bikeways Plan (and one that isn't). There are few items they're pushing for. In response to the "Purpose and Need" for the Medical Center underpass, WABA's official comment included
Instead of assuming, as the draft purposes and needs document appears to do, that facilitating the crossing of MD 355 at or near the Medical Center Metro station is the goal, the project should be aimed at encouraging safe and convenient access by bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users with the objective of minimizing the use of single-occupancy motor vehicles to reach destinations in the immediate vicinity of the Medical Center.
We submit that that the best way to achieve this objective would be to invest in secure bike parking and other amenities at the Metro station together with better connectivity via trails and on road routes. The most important improvements to bicycling infrastructure are the widening of the Bethesda Trolley Trail (BTT) on the western edge of the NIH campus to AASHTO standards of at least 10 feet (and relocation of the trail to achieve a safe setback from the curb), construction of bicycling facilities on Jones Bridge Road and Cedar Lane as contemplated by the relevant local master plans, and widening and improvement of the existing multiuse path on the eastern side of the NIH campus between Cedar and the southern end of the NIH property, where the path merges with the Bethesda Trolley trail as it continues south to Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda.
The most important missing element according to WABA is the widening of the BTT from Center Drive to Lincoln Avenue. From Charles Street, where the trail becomes a narrow sidewalk, to Center Drive, the trail will be rebuilt and widened as part of the intersection improvements at Cedar and Old Georgetown Road. South of Lincoln, the trail picks up again. But the 0.3 miles between the two will still be just a narrow sidewalk, right up next to the road. It is such a short distance that it seems like an easy way to close a gap.
The most recent Purpose and Need still seems written to require an underpass.
The most recent comment period ended on Feb 5th, but there will be more opportunities for public comment during the study. I'll try to keep people posted.
Comments on the statement are due Feb. 5 and should be sent to [email protected] or Kenneth Kendall, Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Transportation Engineering, 100 Edison Park Drive, 4th Floor, Gaithersburg, MD 20878.
Of course it never hurts to write in late.