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|Parking Relief Arrives Ahead of Schedule|
New Garage Set to Open Aug. 31
By Carla Garnett
On the Front Page...
The new 1,250-space multi-level parking garage located at the northeast sector of campus will open on Tuesday, Aug. 31, several weeks ahead of schedule. A general email/flyer/poster campaign notifying employees began this week, 2 weeks before the grand opening.
"I know that the parking crunch of the past year has been a major inconvenience for many on the NIH campus and I really appreciate the way NIH'ers helped us get through this by parking off campus, sharing rides, biking, walking and taking public transit," said Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research and head of a 23-member ad hoc parking advisory committee formed last summer. "Of course it would be great if those solutions worked so well that they become healthy permanent changes for our staff. That would be as much a cause for celebration as this new parking garage."
In the last year or so, the usual parking squeeze has been particularly tight as construction of Bldg. 33, the Safra Family Lodge, Bldg. 6 renovations, northeast stormwater management facility and Bldg. 10 utility vault/northwest garage have each consumed hundreds of spaces within a short period throughout campus.
"Good construction project management" allowed the garage to be ready before its fall target date, according to Stella Serras-Fiotes, who heads the Division of Facilities Planning in the Office of Research Facilities.
About the Garage
Dubbed MLP-10, the 8-level facility will be employee-only parking with 50 spaces for workers with handicapped permits, 75 slots for red hang tags, 50 reserved spaces, 30 carpool slots and nearly 1,050 spaces designated for general employee parking. Motorcycle parking also will be offered in several of the garage's corners. The categories and designations reflect pre-construction totals from the employee parking lots formerly located around Bldg. 31. Three elevators will shuttle employees between floors.
The garage represents the first new parking area to open on the north half of campus since that part of the NIH property underwent major construction activities, which led to the loss of about 1,200 spaces from February to September last year. [Another garage, MLP-9, is under construction on former parking lots 10C and 10D, near the Clinical Center's Blood Bank.]
"MLP-10 is designed to meet security requirements such as a sufficient lighting system with energy-saving features during off hours, surveillance cameras at each emergency phone location, strategically located emergency phones throughout the garage based on recommendations by NIH security and police, and emergency exit signs, etc.," noted Kyung Kim, an engineer in ORF's Division of Capital Projects Management who is project officer for the Bldg. 33 complex. The garage, along with the Bldg. 33 lab facility, a recently completed underground stormwater management system and a plaza/courtyard comprise the complex.
MLP-10 also has been fitted with community-friendly "green screens" designed to shield the Cedar Ln. neighborhood and Bldg. 31 from effects of the 24-hour lighting system in the garage.
What Will Change
Opening the new garage located amid the active construction site of Bldg. 33 will change operating procedures in several ways, according to Tom Hayden, director of the Division of Travel and Transportation Services, Office of Research Services, which is leading design of the new on-campus traffic routes. The biggest change will be short-term: A temporary road leading to and from the new facility will be constructed through the existing parking lot 31B. This road is necessary because Bldg. 33 construction will require its own dedicated roadway. A temporary pedestrian walkway will be built alongside the temporary road, and for safety reasons will be the only access for employees walking to and from Bldg. 31 to the new garage. Employees will enter Bldg. 31 at the B wing.
The temporary road will lead to a temporary garage entrance/exit located at the rear of the facility facing Cedar Ln. These short-term access ways already in early stages of construction will be completed during weekends, in order to lessen disruption to weekday on-campus traffic.
Planners also recognize that the temporary walkway will seem to some employees as a long, indirect journey to their work sites, particularly to those who work in Bldg. 31C.
"Please emphasize that this is a temporary circulation pattern because we have to deal with Bldg. 33 construction," Serras-Fiotes said, anticipating employees' first impressions. "For safety's sake we need to fence in the construction road."
Another change is access to the new garage from Rockville Pike. Currently there is no access to the 31B and 31C parking areas from the Pike. When MLP-10 opens, employees driving south on Rockville Pike will have access to the new garage, entering the campus at a newly established security checkpoint closer to the intersection at Cedar Ln. Northbound Rockville Pike drivers may turn left at Center Dr., South Dr. or Wilson Dr., and will access the new garage via Center Dr.
The last two remaining parking lots along Rockville Pike, lots 31F and 31H, will be closed. The two lots will form the site of the new commercial vehicle inspection (CVI) checkpoint, where all delivery vehicles will be processed before entering campus. The closing of these lots represents the end of parking at NIH outside the security fence.
The new traffic pattern reopens one of the two bridges that employees previously used to access parking areas near Bldg. 31. Eventually, following completion of Bldg. 33 construction, East Dr. between Wilson and North Drives will also reopen, offering another accessway to the garage.
There will be no stacked parking in the new garage; however, the facility is designed for stacking if the need arises in the future. Parking attendants from surface lot 31B will be removed as well; a portion of this lot will remain open for handicapped parking, NIH Police vehicles, and other NIH permit holders.
"We will be in a better position than we were before construction began," noted Serras-Fiotes, describing the net gain of approximately 500 parking spaces. "For our population we should be okay without having to stack, which is a fairly expensive contract cost that we'd like to avoid."
What Stays the Same
Currently, employees arriving via Rockville Pike can make either a left or right turn from the Pike into the security checkpoint at Wilson Dr. Such access will continue, allowing employees traveling north on Rockville Pike to make a left turn onto Wilson Dr., display NIH ID card and parking hanger and proceed to the main portion of campus via Wilson Dr. to Center Dr. Access to the new garage from Wilson Dr. will be available through the campus past Bldg. 31A via Center Dr., as always.
No vehicle access to the garage is planned for Cedar Ln. Employees may still enter campus on foot or bicycle from Cedar Ln. via the pedestrian gateway at the former Garden Ln., where an arc-shaped drop-off lane has been carved into the perimeter of campus.
Temporary gravel lots located in various areas around campus will also be around for a while longer the campus parking crunch won't end with the opening of the new garage, but should ease. Attendant-assisted stacking at such lots will continue under contract, as will authorized double-parking at Bldg. 41 lots and visitor pay-for-parking areas.
Finally, employees will have round-the-clock access to the parking garage, just as they had to the surface parking areas that it replaces.
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