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Parking Relief on Horizon for NIH'ers

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The raft of new construction, renovation and security projects that will eventually claim some 1,700 parking spaces on the Bethesda campus (see July 8 NIH Record) in coming months is planned to be offset, by fall 2004, by two new multi-level parking garages. This anticipated amelioration of an impending parking crunch was announced July 21 at the first meeting of a new trans-NIH parking committee headed by NIH deputy director for intramural research Dr. Michael Gottesman at the behest of NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni.


The 23-member ad hoc parking advisory committee (APAC) met again on July 30 to review other initiatives, including creation of small temporary parking lots in various corners of campus, leasing of additional satellite lots, employee incentives, an increase in the number of employees who "telecommute," or work from home via computer, and erection of more bike racks around campus buildings, to encourage more bicycle commuting. The committee also toured campus by bus on July 24 to scout potential grounds for temporary parking and identify specific parking problems.

The new parking garages will both be located on the north side of campus and will accommodate a total of some 2,170 vehicles. One garage — MLP-9, or the Northwest Parking Garage — will be built on the parking lot near the Clinical Center blood bank. It will have 940 spaces and is due for completion in December 2004. According to Stella Serras-Fiotes, director of facilities planning in the Office of Research Facilities, MLP-9 replaces almost 1,000 spaces lost to the new Clinical Research Center and Bldg. 50 since 1995, allows future removal of a temporary lot at the campus' south side, near Bldg. 41 (this is something NIH promised the community) and will accommodate an electrical vault for Bldg. 10 in its basement level. The award for this construction project is expected in September.

The second garage — MLP-10 — is associated with construction of the new Bldg. 33 and will be sited on the northeast corner of the campus, near Bldg. 31 and the new integrated biodefense and infectious disease lab building. This garage will include 1,230 spaces. A construction award is planned for early September as part of the Bldg. 33 site/foundation package. Serras-Fiotes said the garage is integral to the campus-wide master plan and environmental impact statement, as well as NIH's stormwater management plan and parking and transportation plan.

Until these new garages are built, however, the campus will sustain a loss of approximately 20 percent of its parking places, said Gottesman in an all-hands email sent on July 22. "We expect the shortfall will sharply reduce the availability of parking across campus beginning in September. To minimize the inconvenience, we will need the creative ideas and cooperation of every office and lab on campus."

The parking committee endorsed several major principles, including: the critical importance of parking and other transportation alternatives for NIH personnel to be able to perform their work; the need to treat all NIH groups fairly; and the need to identify as much temporary parking on campus as possible.

Gottesman said specific plans to deal with the immediate crisis will be developed quickly. "Some of the best ideas about how to address the parking shortfall will come from the people who have to face the problems of commuting and parking every day," read his note.

More than a dozen suggestions had been received in time for APAC's first meeting, including expanded teleworking and telecommuting opportunities, widened use of alternative work schedules, crackdown on illegitimate carpoolers, and compensation for employees who elect not to drive to work, regardless of whether they use public transportation. Hundreds of additional suggestions poured in after Gottesman's all-hands email. Suggestions are encouraged and should be sent to

Serras-Fiotes reported that single drivers account for 52 percent of NIH's commuting population, which is 10 percent lower than the Montgomery County average, 16 percent below the Maryland average and 17 percent below the U.S. average. Transhare is NIH's largest alternative transportation success, drawing some 23 percent of commuters who receive up to $100 commuting subsidy for use of public tranportation. Only a combined 5 percent either car- or van-pool, and 4 percent bike or walk. At the moment, there are 0.45 parking spaces for each employee; that number will plunge to 0.36 once construction projects get under way, but will rise again to about 0.48 once the garages are built in late 2004, Serras-Fiotes predicted.

Members of APAC, in addition to Gottesman and Serras-Fiotes, include: John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications; Carlton Coleman, OEO; Dr. Orna Cohen-Fixe, NIDDK; Stephen Ficca, NIH associate director for research services; Dr. Howard Gadlin, director, Office of the Ombudsman; Dr. Thomas Gallagher, director, Office of Community Liaison; Maureen Gormley, executive officer, CC; Dr. Eric Greene, scientific director, NHGRI; Susan Harrelson, chief administrative officer, NIDDK; Valerie Harrington, ORS facility manager; Dan Hoeppner, chair of the fellows committee, NINDS; Camille Hoover, executive officer, NCCAM; Robert Hosenfeld, director, Office of Human Resources; Steve Rivero, representing the American Federation of Government Employees; Barbara McGarey, Office of General Counsel; Charles Palmer, OD; Dan Sullivan, extramural program director, NCI; Dawn Walker, head of the NIH lab manager group, NCI; Dr. Robert Wenthold, scientific director, NIDCD; Peggy Whittington, assistant to NINDS scientific director; and Dr. Robert Wurtz, chief of the Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research, NEI.

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