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Vol. LXI, No. 20
October 2, 2009

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Have a question about some aspect of working at NIH? You can post anonymous queries at (click on the Feedback icon) and we’ll try to provide answers.

Feedback: On late-arrival days it is sometimes necessary to park in the “punishment” lot (41 complex). Due to the large number of oversized commercial vehicles (especially shuttle buses) squatting in the spaces closest to campus, the hike to any point of interest has become longer. Would it be possible for these prime spots to be reserved for passenger cars?

Answer from the Division of Amenities and Transportation Services, ORS: The division has worked with the shuttle service provider in locating the vehicles while not in use to the area closest to campus. This was done in part to decrease the early morning noise that impacted residents in the area. Most of the shuttles in these spaces operate during normal work hours and, in effect, the spaces open up for employee parking throughout the day.

On most occasions, there is ample parking in Lot 41 for employees when other locations are full. Lot 41 is our largest surface parking area and is used by a combination of contractors with larger vehicles, a number of contractor field office trailers as well as employees. There are three NIH Shuttle stops within the lot and shuttles circulate approximately every 10 minutes between the hours of 6 a.m. through 7 p.m. From 7 p.m. until midnight, the After Hours Shuttle services this parking area. In the event that Lot 41 is full, employees may also want to consider parking in either MLP-8 or the Natcher Garage as those facilities frequently are not filled to capacity or have stacked parking available.

Feedback: I have noticed two problems for employees entering and exiting the campus. Traffic entering the campus in the morning at the north end from Rockville Pike to access North Dr. is forced to use the left entrance lane as the right lane is blocked with cones. This causes traffic to back up on the Pike as a wider swing is required to get in the left lane. Why not open both lanes? Or just the right one? Similarly, exiting the campus on South Dr. at 5 p.m. to get onto Old Georgetown Rd., the police have set up a cone blockade so that the left exit lane is partially blocked. The reason for this cone block is unclear and it causes traffic to back up onto South Dr. and delays exiting. We all want to get home ASAP. In fact, the lane usage from this exit is not appropriate as the left lane is for left turns and going straight on Greentree while the right lane is for right turns only. The right lane is rarely used to make a right on Old Georgetown as most drivers use Center Dr. for this purpose. The right lane should be for right turns and those going straight to Greentree and the left lane should be used for left turns only onto Old Georgetown.

Answer from ORS/ORF: Traffic cones are placed along the two parallel lanes on North Dr. and Rockville Pike in order to create one center lane with the goal of slowing the speed of motor vehicles entering the campus and to draw additional attention to the pedestrian crosswalk at the entrance. NIH has received numerous complaints about the unacceptably high speed at which vehicles were entering North Dr. from Rockville Pike and the frequent disregard for pedestrian safety in the crosswalk. Although the cones are not a permanent solution, this measure has resulted in meeting, to a degree, the goal of decreased speeds and greater observance of crosswalk yielding to pedestrians. As a long-term solution, NIH is studying the feasibility of reconfiguring the entire intersection as part of an overall streetscape plan along the entire 355 corridor bordering the NIH property.

At South Dr. and Old Georgetown Rd., the traffic cones are in place as enhanced safety for pedestrians leaving the campus. Many pedestrians were walking into the roadway around the open security gate to exit the campus, some walking directly into the path of exiting motor vehicles with their backs to traffic. Frequent and repeated requests by NIH police officers to use the card reader controlled pedestrian exit were ignored. Additionally, visitors wishing to exit the campus from this location are unable to do so using the pedestrian “portal” and must exit through the open vehicle entrance gate. The police created an “island” with the cones that will allow them to safely exit with far less chance of being in the direct path of those vehicles. Since the pedestrians are more vulnerable, we believe that this solution, albeit a temporary one, was needed to prevent them from voluntarily placing themselves in harm’s way. As a long-term solution, NIH plans to add an additional rotating turnstile exit that will allow employees and visitors to safely exit the campus without the need to enter the roadway.

Feedback: Help, help! I want to get off campus and spend time with my family before bedtime. I leave work at 4:30 p.m. As we are now enjoying less traffic during the summer months I can expect to get off campus with only one to two changes of stoplights on Wilson Dr./Rockville Pike. However I dread the rest of the year. Traffic can be backed up to Bldg. 1 trying to leave campus. Cars on Rockville Pike block us from entering the intersection. The traffic lights sometimes change to red in less than 10 seconds. Can anything be done to help us get home? What about when Walter Reed moves in next door? Please tell me that this is being looked into and that there is hope.

Answer from ORF/ORS: The signal timing along Rockville Pike could potentially be improved. NIH has mentioned this to the Maryland State Highway Administration and they are looking at optimizing signal timing along the corridor in addition to the physical changes they are studying at individual intersections. All of the involved agencies (NIH, National Naval Medical Center, Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland SHA, Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) are now meeting monthly to coordinate transportation management and transportation improvements for vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders to improve access to the area for residents, employees and visitors.

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