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Construction 101

Construction

With the reinforced precast concrete panels going up for a new parking garage, underground utility work happening now, and the planned Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) remodel set to start in 2018, Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) will be under construction for the foreseeable future.

That means inevitable disruption to normal operating procedures, traffic, and pedestrian flow and parking.

“For the next six years it’s going to be a little bit disruptive, there’s a lot of effort going into this,” said Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Comprehensive Master Plan program manager Andy Buzbee.

This is the first time the Department of Defense is rebuilding an active military hospital on the same site, Buzbee said.

“Typically, new hospital projects utilize an area that’s vacant and will build the replacement hospital from ground up,” Buzbee said. “The difference in this hospital is we don’t have that luxury, we don’t have the land … And on top of that this project must maintain the historical significance of the existing hospital.”

“Renovations to our infrastructure are necessary to sustain medical readiness. This will be a complex task, but the medical center will remain fully functional, providing safe and quality care during the remodel,” said Army Col. Anthony Meador, WRNMMC’s assistant chief of staff.

Before the medical center project can start, a lot of the preparatory work has to be completed, Buzbee said. That includes building temporary medical facilities, finishing utility relocation work, constructing a pedestrian tunnel between Buildings 9 and 19, building a new base communications center and installing new emergency generators.

A utility project that started in 2015 is on track for a late fall completion. The project consists of installing new and relocating existing utilities. It has run into delays, in part because a 48-inch diameter drill bit broke after hitting harder rock than expected, according to construction manager Jean Band.

A portion of Brown Drive has been closed during the work, and when it moves north, another portion of that road will close. That will create new routes into the parking garages on that street. The sidewalk next to the America Garage leading into Building 5 will also close, according to Transportation manager Ryan Emery.

“That’s one of the major arteries for folks coming to and from the parking garages, Building 17, the gym, etc., going in and out of the hospital,” said Emery. “So people are going to have to go to an alternate route, either further south on Brown Drive to go into Building 7, or further north to North Palmer Road, to then walk around the America Garage.”

During construction, he said people will have to adjust how they drive on base, where they park and the route they use to get to work.

There will be minimal changes to the shuttle system, he said. The blue line will continue its altered route while Brown Drive is closed.

Emery said he plans on using many communication channels to get the word out about traffic impacts so people can know of alternative ways to get where they need to go on base.

People can text NSAB Traffic to 888777 for traffic updates, he said. Construction information will also be shared through town halls and the daily Postmaster.

Meador, said beneficiaries and staff can expect coordinated, timely communication during the renovation to ensure all can safely navigate the medical campus and to lessen the impact to patient care.

In the spring, a new parking garage on the H-lot near the Children’s Development Center is set to open as parking in the G-lot will close to house a temporary modular building for several departments that will temporarily relocate during the medical center remodel.

The parking garage on H-lot has 650 parking spaces. Work on the project has been progressing with 268 reinforced precast concrete panels put up, according to construction manager Navy Lt. Quinn Mazant. He said the project is about halfway complete.

The project to build a two-story modular building in the G-lot to house departments being relocated out of Buildings 2,4,6 7 and 8 during the medical center remodel is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Another project set to start this spring is building a tunnel connecting the Medical Center Metro to just outside Gate 2. That will have minimal impact to NSAB, said Neil Schulman, NAVFAC civil engineer and base liaison for the project.

The purpose of the project is to improve safety when crossing the road, he said. The NSAB fence line near Gate 2 will be moved back to accommodate a place for people to come out of the new tunnel outside of NSAB.

Most of the construction will take place during the weekend and at night; Gate 2 is set to stay open during the duration and the road will close a couple lanes at a time as the work progresses, he said.

That tunnel project is expected to be completed in 2020.

Another roadwork project scheduled to start this year is improving the Maryland 355 and Jones Bridge Road intersection, Emery said.

Emery said all these changes will cause challenges during construction, but in the end, the overall product will improve street safety and provide needed upgrades to the medical center to provide quality care to service members and their families.

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