Rockville city officials are concerned about the impact of three major county projects to renovate a correctional facility and locate a bus depot and restoration center on about 40 acres in the city.

City officials say the projects — notably the bus depot — could have a significant effect on traffic and noise. They have wondered why other sites around the city weren’t considered. 

Last month, Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and City Council members discussed the three projects at a meeting with David Dise, the county’s director of the Department of General Services, and Greg Ossont, the deputy director.

The three projects — at a site off Seven Locks Road and Wootton Parkway in Rockville — would be:

  • A 12,000-square-foot restoration center, which would be a short-term facility for residents struggling with behavioral health issues. It would cost $18.7 million and be completed by 2027 at the earliest
  • A 75,000-square-foot criminal justice complex, replacing the current detention center at the site. Offenders would stay there up to 72 hours before being processed through court. The projected cost is $78.6 million. It would be completed by 2029 at the earliest.
  • A zero-emission bus facility and maintenance yard. It would mostly serve Montgomery County Public Schools, but also accommodate some county Ride On buses.

The bus facility would serve electric, and potentially hydrogen fuel cell, buses. More than 200 buses could be parked there. Dise and Ossont said the depot needs to be in the Rockville area to stay centrally located to many schools in the county.

It would be a new site replacing the school’s current bus depot off Crabb Branch Way near Rockville, which serves roughly 400 buses, county officials said. The remaining buses would be parked at schools countywide, county officials said.

That project is estimated to cost $86 million and would not be completed until after 2030.

Newton and City Council members questioned Dise and Ossont about why the facilities had to be in Rockville, primarily the bus depot.

Dise said that Montgomery County Public Schools has looked at other sites, but the new bus depot must be within the Rockville area to serve the same bus routes and schools as the current depot off Crabbs Branch Way. It also has to be large enough to have space for the maintenance facility and bus fleet, which other sites did not have, he added.

City Council Member Monique Ashton asked about the increase in noise because of maintenance. Ashton noted that the Carl Henn Millennium Trail for pedestrians and bicyclists goes right by the main entrance and exit for the site.

In an interview, Ashton said the bus depot and maintenance shed would bring a lot more industrial use to that area of Rockville. Nearby residents would face increased traffic, along with the impact of the widening of Interstate 270, if that project is approved and completed. 

Ashton wants county officials to consider all possible locations for the bus depot.

“I just want to make sure we’re taking a deeply analytical look, and also thinking about what our multiple school systems and residents need,” Ashton said. “If you look at that intersection, it’s one way in and one way out, so that’s a lot for almost 270 buses, so I think that is concerning.”

Dise could not be reached via two phone calls for comment on Thursday. He said at last month’s meeting that because the buses at the site will be electric, they will need less maintenance, and it will be quieter than if there were diesel buses there. 

Regarding the number of buses and overall traffic impact, Dise said a traffic study will be completed before any of the three projects are approved.

Dise said county officials don’t regard those studies as a “necessary evil” — rather, they can be informative and lead to a better final project.

Newton and the Rockville City Council do not have authority over approving the projects. City officials have said that responsibility falls to the Rockville Planning Commission. But Newton and City Council members wanted more information about the proposal, and were first briefed on it months ago.

There has been no formal proposal brought to the city’s Planning Commission, according to city documents. 

 

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com

Steve Bohnel

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com