BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- The Sept. 15, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) deadline is fast approaching, and while construction will be completed on time, staff and patients can expect to see additional improvement projects unrelated to BRAC into 2012.
To enhance military base operations, the BRAC law was signed November 2005, mandating closure of installations nationwide, including Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). All closures and relocations are required to be completed by Sept. 15, 2011.
Some medical services at WRAMC will integrate to the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), forming the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda (WRNMMCB).
"Construction is well on track to meet the BRAC deadline, and we will meet the BRAC deadline," said Cmdr. Scott Raymond, resident officer in charge of construction, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC),Officer in Charge of Construction (OICC) Bethesda.
Raymond estimates more than 50 percent of the hospital renovations have been completed thus far. Staff and patients can expect to see additional projects into 2012, which are needed to maintain a viable and fully functioning base, said Capt. Steve Hamer, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command, OICC Bethesda.
"The [America and Arrowhead] buildings are up and running and they're seeing patients in them," said David Oliveria, Navy Medicine National Capital Area's (NAVMED NCA) deputy chief of staff for facilities and BRAC program manager.
The 550,000 square-foot America building in Bethesda, which opened Dec. 20, 2010, houses a cancer treatment center, pharmacy and several outpatient clinics, such as dermatology, audiology and internal medicine. It will also be the home of a new amputee center to include prosthetics and physical and occupational therapy, said Oliveria.
The eight-level America garage has also opened for patients, offering 944 spaces. An addition to NNMC's Building 9, he said, the 162,000 square-foot Arrowhead building, which opened Jan. 14, houses the Emergency Department and will provide 50 inpatient Intensive Care Unit beds.
Arrowhead also houses expanded Nuclear Medicine and Imaging, Cardiology and Interventional Imaging departments.
While much of the work is complete, Oliveria said, "There is still a lot to be done. We are in the last lap of the race."
Construction is well underway for the Wounded Warrior Barracks (building 62), slated for completion in July, said Raymond.
Additionally, a new 70,000 square-foot fitness center and an administrative building (building 17), are scheduled to be completed in August. Near the Fisher Houses, a multi-use parking garage, offering 1,200 spaces is on track to finish by the end of August, Raymond said.
The Navy Exchange (NEX) project is scheduled to begin this year, said Oliveria. The 35,000 square-foot building is scheduled to close this month and demolished next month to make way for a new 150,000 square-foot store on site, along with a two-story parking garage. The store is expected to re-open at the end of 2012.
In the meantime, an interim NEX store, located by the Navy Lodge, will remain open, offering a smaller selection of merchandise; customers can also shop online at www.myNavyEx-change.com.
"There's a lot of scaffolding around [buildings 9 and 10] because those buildings are under heavy renovation," Oliveria added, stating that these renovations are slated to be completed by September.
Buildings 3 and 5 are also being renovated, said Raymond. This work is expected to continue until December 2012. Contractors will also be working on a special project to reconfigure and upgrade 10 operating rooms by September, and an additional seven by May 2012; meanwhile, three operating rooms (OR) under BRAC will be completed this summer.
To help ease the flow of traffic on and off base, the gate project is also in full swing, he said.
"You can see that heavy equipment that's working on [the North gate] now," said Raymond.
Construction at this gate, near the G lot, is currently in the first phase. The existing lanes will be replaced by new lanes, which will be covered by a large canopy. This phase is scheduled for completion in March, he said.
"Then, we'll open up the new lanes of travel and start working on phase II," Raymond said, during which a new visitor center will be built.
The visitor center will be a place, off to the side of the lanes of travel, where individuals can receive temporary passes, he added. Construction at this gate, as well as enhancements to the South gate, are scheduled for completion in July.
Until the end of August, contractors will continue working on the Perimeter Road gate by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). When complete, there will be a truck inspection lane and space for vehicles to turn around and exit, when necessary, without interfering with traffic, said Raymond.
"It's a lot better than being in line, waiting for a truck to turn around and back out," he added.
Perimeter Road improvements will begin after completion of the new administrative building and Wounded Warrior Barracks, as construction traffic shares the same roads, he said.
By September 2012, the Grier Road gate is expected to be finished, and in March 2012, the NEX gate should be finished. With both of these gates located off Jones Bridge Road, they will not be under construction at the same time, Raymond added.
"They will also be coordinated with work at the NEX," he said.
Throughout these renovations, the challenge remains going through functional spaces and managing all projects in a way that will not impact patient care and safety, said Raymond.
"Patient care and safety will be our top priority as we renovate throughout functional spaces," he said.
With the significant amount of work, Hamer asks everyone to be aware of their surroundings.
"Keep an eye out for caution signs and 'do not enter' signs," he said. "In order to support world class facilities, [there's] a lot of infrastructure and construction that has to be put in place to support that. There's an end gain, and we try to manage it and spread things out so that it's not overlapping and so overwhelming; I want people to know it's for a good cause."
For more information, call the BRAC construction hot line at 301-319-BRAC (2722).
For more news from National Naval Medical Center, visit www.navy.mil/local/nnmc/.