skip navigation nih record
Vol. LXIV, No. 7
March 30, 2012

next story

Brace for More BRAC-Related Commuting Challenges

On the front page...

One of the busiest intersections in the nation—Rockville Pike at Cedar Lane— will get busier.
One of the busiest intersections in the nation—Rockville Pike at Cedar Lane— will get busier.

You may have noticed some roadway changes to support the integration of Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the National Naval Medical Center. Already we experience long waits to exit onto Rockville Pike in the evenings and additional congestion in the mornings, adding time and frustration to our daily commute. For the estimated 18,000 NIH staff who work on the Bethesda campus along with our patients and visitors, it will only get worse before it gets better.

Roadway construction to support Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) for the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center started earlier this month. Expect additional delays related to construction of new turn lanes and partial widening of Wisconsin Ave., Jones Bridge Rd., and Cedar Ln. Portions of Rockville Pike and Connecticut Ave. in Bethesda and North Chevy Chase will see construction work for 3 years.


The projects add turn lanes and other improvements to move traffic through intersections more quickly.
Among participants at the event are (from l) Hayward, NIH director

Find yourself waiting in a long queue to escape campus every day? You’re obviously not alone. The situation is not likely to get better as we all make adjustments for BRAC. Consider changing your commuting ways.

Photos: Ernie Branson


The creation of the new military medical center brought 2,500 additional employees; patient visits are projected to jump from 500,000 to 1 million annually. Approximately 70,000 vehicles use Connecticut Ave. and Rockville Pike daily. Initial roadwork, including relocation of utilities, will take about a year. To the extent possible, work will be scheduled outside of the weekday rush hours. This will be followed by another 2 years of construction to add lanes at the Rockville Pike intersections with Cedar Ln. and Jones Bridge Rd. Later, workers will carve out a longer queue area for southbound Rockville Pike traffic waiting to turn left onto Jones Bridge and repurpose a thru lane to become a second left-turn-only lane in the afternoon peak travel period.

At a recent Telework Festival, this poster by Julie Marquardt of NIAID won 1st place.
At a recent Telework Festival, this poster by Julie Marquardt of NIAID won 1st place.

A major 2-year tunneling project beneath Rockville Pike is slated to start in fall 2013. Work includes excavating a 120-foot-deep shaft for a new set of high-speed elevators and a 20-foot-deep pedestrian tunnel to service the east side of Rockville Pike near South Wood Rd. Both projects are designed to allow people to walk safely between the hospital campus, the Medical Center Metro station and nearby bus stops, without having to cross busy Rockville Pike. The number of pedestrian crossings there was projected to jump from 3,000 to 7,000 daily after Walter Reed’s expansion. Minimal impact is expected for users of the Metro Kiss and Ride area and other Metro services. All lanes will remain open in the peak direction during the morning and afternoon hours, with most lane closures occurring during the evening hours.

The Office of Human Resources, Office of Research Services/Division of Amenities and Transportation Services and Office of Research Facilities have combined forces to keep the NIH mission moving despite the effects of BRAC by offering a variety of solutions (see sidebar):

  • Teleworking or expanding your number of telework days
  • Changing your work schedule
  • Using alternative transportation programs
  • Implementing available technology tools.

BRAC effects will continue through 2014. Using one or more of these solutions will help lessen the impact.

Consider Commuting Possibilities

Of course, one commuter solution does not fit all. We all play a part in making sure the mission of NIH continues to move forward. Being flexible and considering all available options helps supervisors and employees brace for more BRAC issues.


Based on NIH’s most recent telework data, NIH has 13,313 employees who are eligible to telework and 7,754 who are currently on telework agreements. If you are eligible, work with your supervisor to set up an effective telework plan or expand your existing plan. Visit for more information.

Change Your Work Hours

If you have to drive, consider changing your hours or your Alternative Work Schedule day to miss the heavy traffic days, typically Tuesday through Thursday. NIH has 3,983 employees using AWS. Approximately 41 percent take Friday as their AWS day and 30 percent take Monday. This minimizes traffic on those days but those are also the most common telework days. With your supervisor’s approval, consider making Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday your AWS day and come to work on Monday or Friday, when traffic is lighter.

Studies by ORS/DATS have shown the ideal time to arrive at NIH is before 7 a.m.; the best time to leave is after 6 p.m. Consider a gliding schedule that will let you arrive earlier or leave later than peak traffic times. Embrace Maxiflex. The Maxiflex Pilot Program is a 6-month pilot initiative offering a new flexible work schedule to employees at NIH. Maxiflex gives managers the flexibility to meet operational needs while supporting employee work/life needs. Some features of Maxiflex are expanded flexible hours—work day can start as early as 5 a.m. and end as late as midnight; split workday— an employee can work part of the day in the office, part of the day teleworking; and, the option to work on Saturdays. These new flexibilities will reduce vehicle traffic on the main campus as well as ultimately reduce the need for physical office space. Visit for detailed information about the program.

Use Available Technologies

Use teleconferencing and Office Communicator for instant messaging or video chats as well as NIH Web Collaboration Connect for meetings instead of driving to a location on campus. Using these technologies saves drive time and parking frustrations. Visit the NIH Telework Resources page to view options: telework/resources.htm

Use Alternative Transportation

Use Alternative Transportation

Several alternative transportation options are available. ORS/DATS has assisted employees with decreasing approximately 45,794,105 miles annually through the promotion and use of alternative commuting. DATS oversees 157 registered carpools, 14 registered vanpools, more than 400 carpool spaces, 600 bicyclists, 13 shuttle buses, 6,000 employees in the NIH Transhare Program and a large contingent of pedestrians.

Carpool and take advantage of reserved parking spaces until 9:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. Vanpools can request a reserved space in the lot of their choice and riders may qualify for Transhare. For details about specific routes, visit

Transhare provides qualified NIH federal employees with a transit subsidy to offset travel expenses incurred between work and home. Transhare can be used for mass transit, including vanpools, buses, subway and trains. For more information, visit Pages/transhare.aspx.

Bicycle to work. Bike racks and lockers located throughout the campus have the capacity to secure approximately 700 bicycles. Several buildings both on- and off-campus have shower and locker facilities that cyclists may use when commuting. In response to bicycling enthusiasm at NIH, DATS implemented the NIH Bicycle Subsidy Program. Some 100 bicycle commuters have given up parking and Transhare privileges to participate. For details, visit NIHBicycleProgram/Pages/default.aspx.

Take the NIH shuttles to limit use of personal vehicles for work-related commuting on campus, as well as to and from NIH facilities off campus. One shuttle route, located at the Mid-Pike Plaza commuter parking lot on Rockville Pike adjacent to Montrose Rd., is dedicated to servicing a satellite parking area that is used for commuters and individuals who reside nearby. Several of the vehicles also have bicycle racks on them.

For BRAC information and other updates and solutions, visit Montgomery County BRAC is now on Twitter: @BracMoCoMD. Get further details at

back to top of page