Plan for new Rockville Pike lane angers locals -- Gazette.Net







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This story was updated at 11:55 a.m. March 22.

Dirty, noisy and just plain ugly is how one resident described the transformation of her neighborhood near Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane since all the construction near the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center project began in early 2012.

She, and about 20 of her neighbors, came out to the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee meeting Tuesday night to protest the state’s plan to add another lane to Rockville Pike for a short stretch, an addition that the State Highway Administration (SHA) claims will alleviate some of the traffic congestion.

The goal of the project, known as Phase 4 of the Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane intersection improvement, is to help mitigate some of the afternoon rush hour traffic pouring out of the Military Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health, trying to get to the Beltway.

The area is “clearly a bottleneck if you drive through it today,” said Matt Snare, an analyst with the SHA. But the projects — a lane to be built just north of Cedar Lane to just north of Locust Hill Road and another lane from North Wood Road to Cedar Lane — would help with that congestion, according to Snare.

Locals disagreed vehemently.

“This project has no merit whatsoever,” Dawn Chaiken said. “Should $11 million be spent to widen one block? We don’t think so.”

Residents at the meeting said they were especially concerned about noise and disputed the state’s studies that showed acceptable decibel levels. The Locust Hill Citizens Association hired their own traffic consultant, Joseph Cutro, who they said found noise levels at greater than 80 decibels. One resident described the traffic as being as loud as a Washington Capitals hockey game. Richard Levine, president of the association and an engineer by training, called the plan "unrealistic."

Deborah Michaels, who lives near the intersection of Jones Bridge Road and Wisconsin Avenue, said she didn't buy the state's noise studies.

"I don't really see how they can have accurate sound analysis testing after only one hour. It doesn't make any sense," Michaels said. Standard studies test noise levels over a 24-hour period, she said. "They're not doing those homeowners any favors. They're not playing fair."

Others expressed frustration that the lane would do nothing to help with traffic congestion, only destroy surrounding parkland and demolish trees.

The SHA analysts told the meeting attendees that even with the completion of Phase 4, traffic delays would still be 52.4 seconds for each vehicle, which garners a grade of “D” from the state.

The estimated $11 million project, for which federal funds have not yet been released, is slated to begin in 2014. The Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee generally meets every quarter on the third Tuesday of the month.