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Vol. LXI, No. 15
July 24, 2009

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Want to know about some aspect of working at NIH? Ask anonymously at (click on the Feedback icon) and we’ll try to provide answers.

Feedback: We all know that bicycles are a great way to get around and, for those who live close, a green way to commute. With the ever-increasing bike traffic at NIH, are the campus police ever going to enforce traffic laws for cyclers? Every day I see them run stop signs or ride up next to turning cars and not even slow down. Are bicyclists at NIH exempt from traffic law? Are the campus police going to wait until one gets hit before enforcing traffic laws?

Answer from the Office of Research Services: Bicyclists traveling on the roadways of the Bethesda campus are responsible for obeying the same laws applicable to motorists. Bicyclists have the same right to use the roadways as do motorists. Along with this right comes the same responsibility as that of a motor vehicle operator.  

Bicyclists’ violations that negatively impact safety on the roadway will be enforced by the NIH Police when officers witness violations. Attention will also be paid to those motorists who disregard bicyclists’ rights as legitimate users of the roadway.

If you observe a motorist or bicyclist committing a flagrant violation, call the NIH Police non-emergency number at (301) 496-5685. However, unless the violation is witnessed by a police officer, the offender cannot be issued a citation. Notifying the police helps them know in what areas and during what times frequent violations are occurring. Patrol officers will give added attention to those areas.

Patrol officers are currently reviewing traffic laws applicable to all roadway users and are receiving additional training on how to safely and effectively provide education and enforce violations committed by motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. It is our aim to make our campus roadways safer for all users.

Feedback: In the May 29, 2009, issue, the Record reported that the CRC is below capacity and that the Intramural Research Program is declining in both projects and staff, yet as reported in the June 12, 2009, Record, NIH is spending nearly half of its ARRA money on building Porter II—another project for the IRP. We apparently wasted millions of taxpayer funds on a hospital that has no patients and now NIH is going to waste another $265 million dollars for a building for a declining Intramural Research Program. Meanwhile, Bldg. 31 is in horrible shape—over capacity, infested with mice, frequently without water, experiences floods, has offices where the room temperature is never below 78 degrees and others where the temperature is never above 60 degrees—and is apparently getting nothing from ARRA. Instead of pouring more money into a declining IRP, why doesn’t NIH forget about Porter II and spend the money on an already existing and much-needed building like 31?

Answer from ORS: Your question has two aspects. The first is the technical perspective. Bldg. 31 is, indeed, in poor condition. One significantly deficient area relates to the electrical system. In recognition of this, NIH is allocating approximately $13.1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to upgrade major elements of the electrical distribution systems in Bldgs. 31A, B and C. Of course, as you point out, there are many other areas of significant concern in Bldg. 31. To address this, the Office of Research Facilities (ORF) commissioned a complete evaluation of Bldg. 31. This study resulted in several long-term concepts, all of which involve considerable resources that are not presently available.

The second aspect is one of prioritization. The facilities investments are governed principally by the facilities working group (FWG), which is composed of rotating IC directors, executive officers, scientific directors and ORF staff. The goal is to ensure that scientists, clinicians and administrators all contribute to the formulation of facilities investments. Each year, the FWG updates its 5-year plan. For the FY 2011-FY 2016 timeframe, the FWG identified the following strategies:

  • Ensure safe and reliable facilities
  • Patient safety, animal safety, biosafety, fire protection of occupants paramount
  • Stabilize and manage Bldg. 10 to remedy building infrastructure problems
  • Renovate Bldg. 10 Core to support bench-to-bedside research
  • Sustain/improve existing facilities by modernizing assets and improving their energy efficiency so that we achieve a Condition Index (CI) > 90 for all NIH-owned facilities (CI is an industry measure of the physical condition of a facility that compares the projected cost of needed repairs to the total replacement cost of the facility; a CI of 100 equates to no repairs needed, while a CI of 0 indicates the cost of repairs equals or exceeds the cost of total replacement.)
  • Reduce lease space costs by utilizing government-owned facilities
  • Optimize use of all NIH sites to support science enterprise.

In terms of ARRA, the FWG factored into its priorities the “shovel readiness” of projects, given the requirement to obligate all funds by Sept. 30, 2010, and spend all funds by Sept. 30, 2015. The Porter Neuroscience Research Center (PNRC) Phase II project met several of the above-described goals, including the reduction of expensive lease costs via the relocation back to campus of a number of neuroscience programs now located in leased facilities. Phase II also corrects crowded conditions within PNRC I. Completion of the PNRC Phase II also meets the important goal of providing a single complex where neuroscience researchers could meet and work together within a collegial setting that promotes synergies in the exchange of ideas.

In summary, we recognize that the conditions in Bldg. 31 are problematic. We have addressed the situation as best we can given available funding and overall priorities. Critical issues, such as the stairwell on the north face of the Bldg. 31 complex, have been addressed to ensure that life safety standards are met. A significant portion of the ARRA funding was allocated to address critical Bldg. 31 electrical systems. A decision to replace or renovate the Bldg. 31 complex is still under analysis.

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