Montgomery County Receives Maryland Quality Initiative ‘Award of Excellence’ for MD 355 Crossing Project in Bethesda

by Patrick Herron

MdQI is a consortium of public and private sector agencies and industry associations representing Maryland’s transportation industry. The organization advocates for the highest quality in planning, design, construction and maintenance of Maryland’s transportation system.

Each year, a panel of experts evaluates award nominations. Winners are announced at a MdQI annual conference and awards event. This year’s event was held May 26 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The long-planned 355 Crossing Project managed by MCDOT enhances capacity and access to the Medical Center Metrorail Station and improves pedestrian and bicycle safety between the west and east sides of MD 355/Rockville Pike at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSA Bethesda), home of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).

“This was one of the most important improvements to pedestrian safety in Montgomery County in recent years,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “MD355/Rockville Pike at the Medical Center Metro station had been a dangerous intersection for generations, and the employees and visitors of these critical institutions deserved better. I am grateful for the recognition from MdQI.”

Construction of the complex project, which involved deep excavation that was done by drilling and blasting through rock, took about five years. The completed project includes:

  • A shallow pedestrian underpass below MD 355 that provides pedestrians and cyclists a safe means of crossing the busy roadway.
  • A pair of new 120-foot-deep high-speed elevators and emergency stairs creating direct access between the station and the east side of MD 355.
  • A new elevator and staircase between the existing Metrorail platform and mezzanine level.
  • Roadway surface improvements, such as a traffic signal, pavement resurfacing, sidewalk/bike path and median work.
  • Stormwater management facilities.

The National Naval Medical Center and the Walter Reed National Army Medical Center merged to form the WRNMMC at Naval Support Activity Bethesda in 2011 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan authorized by Congress in 2005. The facility became the second-largest employer in Montgomery County. The largest employer is NIH, which is located on the opposite side of the street.

Thousands of people cross MD 355 daily to get back and forth between the campuses and to the Medical Center Metro located on the NIH side of MD 355.

“We are so thankful to receive this recognition for our work on this project,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “We know the 355 Crossing project supports thousands of people and helps ensure their safety. Pre-COVID-19 projections tell us that the Medical Center Metro Station accommodates around 11,000 Metro riders daily—with an estimated 7,000 pedestrians crossing MD 355 to get to the Metro stop, Ride On and shared-use path on the west side of MD-355.”

Over multiple years, the Maryland Congressional Delegation secured $28 million in federal appropriations for the project from the Defense Access Road program within the Department of Defense budget and added another $40 million from the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) for transportation projects at BRAC-impacted military medical facilities. OLDCC also provided a $34 million supplementary award in 2016, bringing total funding for the project to more than $102 million. Additionally, the Crossing Project has been combined with the State Highway Administration’s Intersection Improvement Project at MD 355/Jones Bridge Road, which was funded with a $4.8 million grant from OLDCC.

MCDOT funded an environmental assessment and led the design and construction of the project. Additional coordinating agencies included the U.S. Department of the Navy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health, the Federal Highway Administration, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.

View a video on the construction project here. Additional details on the project can be found at

The underpass was dedicated to the late Phil Alperson at a press conference on Feb. 25, in Bethesda. Mr. Alperson was a former Montgomery County Government employee and key Capitol Hill aide who worked on project planning and attaining support for the project.

For information on MCDOT programs and services visit, follow @MCDOTNow on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and subscribe to MCDOT’s “Go Montgomery!” newsletter.

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