Photo of NIH by rwcox123 on Flickr

As the National Institutes of Health expands, Montgomery County legislators want the agency to provide fewer parking spaces. The NIH has ignored similar recommendations in the past, and congestion in Bethesda isn’t exactly lesser for it.

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) recommends one space for every three employees at a building. The NIH provides one space for every two employees. So much free parking encourages employees to drive to work instead of using transit.

Federal, state, and county lawmakers have taken note, and they’ve called on the NIH to do its part in helping bring down the number of cars on the road.

In a recent letter, Representative Chris Van Hollen, County Councilman Roger Berliner, State Senator Susan Lee, and Delegates Bill Frick, Ariana Kelly, and Marc Korman asked the NIH to make the employee to parking space ratio across its entire campus 3:1. Doing so would actually mean removing 2,300 existing spaces, but the letter points to the Naval Support Academy- Bethesda as an example of how such a cut can work.

They write:

By far the single biggest negative impact that the NIH has on our community is traffic generation. You do not need to be regaled with stories of traffic on MD 355. You live it every day as well. Traffic congestion is more than a simple matter of driver inconvenience, it is actually a serious quality of life issue, and an economic competitiveness issue.

They go on to say:

While we were pleased with the NIH’s proposal to add spaces at a 3:1 rate, we remain concerned with your plans to retain the 2:1 rate for existing facilities. We believe that is not responsive enough to the concerns of Bethesda’s residents, nor in keeping with the efforts of the neighboring federal institution. As part of the public comment process, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the Montgomery County Planning Board, the County Executive’s Military Installations/BRAC coordinator, and the adjacent Bethesda Crest and Locust Hill communities all requested NIH to adopt an across the board 3:1 employee to parking ratio to minimize traffic impacts.

Read the whole letter here.

Abigail Zenner, is a former lobbyist turned communications specialist. She specializes in taking technical urban planning jargon and turning it into readable blog posts. When she’s not nerding out about urban planning, transportation, and American History, you may find her teaching a fitness class. Her blog posts represent her personal views only.