The PEPCO/Exelon merger last year had quite a few sweeteners in it to try and garner support, and one of those was to allow for some trail building on some of their power line corridors, starting with a pilot project. Design work on the pilot project was to start four months after the merger was approved, which happened last May, and according to MORE not only has that happened but those designs could be complete by the end of this month.
The pilot trail is really two trails, a 5 mile natural surface trail that would connect the Muddy Branch and Hoyles Mill trails, and a 13 mile paved trail from the Soccerplex to Montgomery Mall in Germantown.
Hoyles Mill is farther north than the Soccerplex along the same corridor, so what I guess you'll have is a paved trail from Montgomery Mall to Muddy Branch (the long green park about halfway along the line in the image below), then both a paved and unpaved trail to the Soccerplex, and then an unpaved trail to Hoyles Mill.
Needless to say, this is a great trail opportunity for outside the beltway. It comes out of a 2014 suggestion by Montgomery Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson, which in turn comes from a group of local advocates who saw the merger as an opportunity.
The trail...has long been a project of Bethesda resident John Wetmore, a pedestrian advocate and creator of the public access “Perils for Pedestrians” television show.
The county government included the request for a trail in its settlement agreement with Pepco and Exelon after prodding from Wetmore, trail groups and civic activists such as Potomac’s Peggy Dennis.
While Anderson's letter suggested three routes - this one as well as ones parallel to Patuxent River State Park and a NE route from the Potomac to the Patuxent - only this one is specifically mentioned in the merger agreement. That agreement states that PEPCO will coordinate with the governments
to establish a pilot project in its Maryland service territory by which Pepco will grant to an appropriate governmental or private entity in both Counties a limited, non-exclusive license to access specified portions of Pepco’s transmission-line property for recreational and transportation use by the public
And it identifies this route as the first pilot. Any other routes are less assured
Pepco shall follow the implementation of the pilot project, collect lessons learned and identify criteria and conditions under which it would consider future projects to allow access to its property for non-motorized recreational and transportation use.
The other issue is who will pay for the trail and PEPCO thinks it should be the ratepayers.
PEPCO will pay for “reasonable costs associated” with the project, but only if it is able to recover the funds from regulated rates. If the utility can’t obtain the funds from the rates, it would pay for design costs and then work with the county to find funds to build the trail, according to the agreement.
In other words, the newly formed Exelon and Pepco company will be allowed to recover the costs of the trail through increasing electricity rates, a process that would also have to be approved by the state’s Public Service Commission.
John, he brought my attention to the deal in the merger agreement, also notes that there is at least one other power line trail in the Maryland suburbs. A spur off the Northwest Branch Trail to Cool Springs Road in Adelphi is built along a power line corridor, and has been since at least 2008, but I couldn't find any information on how this was negotiated.