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Military campus expansion in Bethesda raises concerns

ROCKVILLE — Relief is in sight for those worried about increased traffic congestion when the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center opens in Bethesda on Sept. 15, Rep. Chris Van Hollen said Monday.

Van Hollen, D-Md., said he expects the Defense Department to publish rules this week telling municipalities how to apply for millions of dollars to reduce traffic congestion caused by military hospital expansions stemming from the Pentagon’s 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions. The biggest such project is Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s relocation from the District of Columbia to the National Naval Medical Center campus in Bethesda.

Montgomery County officials say they hope to get between $100 million and $150 million to mitigate congestion at four intersections in an area already jammed with traffic. The projects include upgrading roads and the Medical Center Metro subway station to serve an estimated 4,000 more visitors daily.

Van Hollen assured the Montgomery County Council that the Walter Reed complex will qualify for funding.

“I’m confident that we will meet all the criteria because we were Exhibit A in pointing to the need for this,” he said.

He noted that a stretch of Route 355 between the military medical campus and the National Institutes of Health is already among the most congested roads in Montgomery County, just outside Washington.

Van Hollen said he’s proud that his district will serve more wounded service members.

“We just need to make sure that both for their comfort and their families and the local community, it doesn’t become a parking lot,” Van Hollen said.