Conditions have recently improved in the Bethesda Metro station. Now that escalator renovations are done, the station has much less of a bottleneck.
But this busy station desperately needs even more capacity. It’s time to build a southern entrance to the station.
Plans have long called for a second entrance toward the southern end of the platform. It was assumed that a southern entrance would be built at some point in the future when the station began service in 1984.
The future started becoming the present when the Maryland MTA started planning for the Purple Line. A new entrance is necessary for a convenient direct transfer between the Red Line and the Purple Line.
While the new southern entrance was conceived as a bank of elevators that would connect the Red Line and future Purple Line, it would also serve as a second entrance to the Red Line, regardless of whether or not a transit rider is transferring. Therefore, its construction is not dependent on Purple Line groundbreaking.
A new entrance would immediately benefit Red Line riders the day it opens. This has made the county interested in financing the new entrance on its own, independent of the Purple Line’s engineering process.
Because escalators need to be periodically rebuilt, the single-escalator bottleneck situation in the Bethesda Metro station was largely unavoidable. Realistically, the other escalator that goes between the mezzanine and the platform will need to be rebuilt at some point in the future. And then Bethesda will be right back to being cramped and frustrating.
Like Medical Center, Bethesda only has one escalator bank that connects the mezzanine and the surface. I shudder to think what would happen if there were some sort of emergency down on the platform when one of the mezzanine escalators is under repair.
The slow and cramped conditions on the one escalator would turn into something much worse. Because every escalator eventually needs to be rebuilt, there will be many points in the future where the Bethesda Metro station would be crippled in an emergency situation than under normal conditions.
Because of the ongoing global credit crunch, interest rates remain historically low. Part of the cost of any project is the cost of obtaining financing. As anyone with a mortgage knows, a lower interest rate lowers the monthly payments to service the construction bond.
Montgomery County should issue the construction bonds as soon as possible. Not only will they improve safety and ridership in one of Montgomery’s most celebrated pieces of infrastructure, they’ll get a good price doing so.