Pedestrian tunnel morphs into road tunnel Oct 2009
Area of proposed underpass
- Plans are being floated to widen a proposed pedestrian tunnel to include vehicles near Bethesda Naval Hospital, in Washington DC.
- Montgomery County officials are seeking $47.3 million in federal funding for the multimodal underpass to relieve traffic congestion in and around the military hospital.
- Maryland State and Montgomery County officials announced the plans at a presentation on Tuesday (October 6, 2009 ) saying the tunnel would travel beneath Rockville Pike Expressway between the Medical Center Metro station and the Bethesda Naval Hospital. The proposed plan evolved from a July study looking at various pedestrian tunnel options to provide bikes and walkers easier access to and from the station and the hospital.
- According to reports, the details of the multimodal tunnel have not been released to the public because officials claim the plans are the property of Clark Construction.
- Local and State officials submitted the proposal in their application for the federal competitive TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants. The grants are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that appropriates $1.5 billion, available through September 2011, to be awarded on a competitive basis for capital investments in surface transportation projects.
- The plan has strong opposition from biking and pedestrian activists, who argue sidewalks in road tunnels are unsafe and unpleasant for pedestrians and bikers and do nothing to encourage the use of alternative transportation.
- Meanwhile, plans to build a 400ft pedestrian tunnel to Island Airport in Toronto, Canada have been shelved due to a funding deadline. Saying it can not be built in time to qualify for Canadian stimulus dollars, authorities in Toronto killed the plans. The Toronto Port Authority (TPA) made the announcement Tuesday, October 6, in a news release.
- "Although the tunnel concept was warmly received by a majority of Torontonians, it must be concluded that there is now insufficient time for the TPA to be assured that it will be able to meet the federal government's deadline for 'substantial completion' by March 2011," said Alan Paul, Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto Port Authority.
- But supporters say the tunnel could be revived if other funding is identified. In a published report, Federal Transport and Infrastructure Minister John Baird said he still favors the project, adding that it could be eligible for a different federal program.
- The proposed $38 million tunnel would run 120m (400ft) under Lake Ontario to the small airport located on 80.9 hectares (200 acres) at the western end of Toronto Islands. The airport is mostly used by commuter airlines and as a training base for civilian pilots.