- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

Come Monday, commuters on the Beltway and Interstate 270 near Bethesda will get a break from the longer waits caused by security checks at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

The reopening of two parking lots that can accommodate 1,000 vehicles should make an immediate difference in morning rush hour, which has seen backups for miles from the Institutes entrance to the Capital Beltway lasting later than 9:30 a.m., county and NIH officials said.

The Institutes and local government also announced yesterday they will begin sharing information electronically and using it with the county's advanced traffic management system to control traffic flows.

However, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said, "It's unlikely anything we do is ever going to make the situation as it was before September 11 and it was very congested before."

Delays along Wisconsin Avenue are probably the worst remaining security checkpoint-generated traffic jams in the region, American Automobile Association Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson said.

He added that delays are exacerbated by the fact that two federal facilities, NIH and the National Naval Medical Center, are located on that road across from each other.

"Basically, wherever you've got federal facilities now, you've got backups," Mr. Anderson said, noting there also are significant delays along Georgia Avenue and 16th Street to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and around Fort Meade, Md., and Bowling Air Force Base in the District.

At the Pentagon, where hijackers crashed a plane into the building on September 11, traffic is flowing much better now.

For several days after the attacks, backups along Interstate 95 stretched 24 miles to Dale City, Va., Mr. Anderson said.

NIH Facilities Director Stella Serras-Fiotes estimated that 100 employees spend an extra 30 minutes daily looking for parking spaces made scarce by the addition of checkpoints and holding spots.

Guards at NIH stop each vehicle and require driver and passengers to show identification and to open the doors, trunk and hood for examination.

NIH has hired about 150 new guards to move cars more quickly and is looking at moving checkpoints farther inside the campus, said NIH community liaison Janyce N. Hedetniemi.

About 17,500 people work at NIH and almost half of them car pool, take mass transit or walk to work, she said.

More NIH workers are using flexible hours to avoid sitting in traffic, she said, and more may begin telecommuting some days.

Mr. Anderson said he doubts the changes will make as much difference as officials hope.

But he said more employers need to follow their lead and look for "creative" solutions.

"It's clear something needs to be done and it's clear the need for security isn't going away," Mr. Anderson said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide