In January, Pepco and Montgomery County Parks broke ground on a new 6-mile long trail from the Muddy Branch Stream Valley to the South Germantown Recreational Park, home of the Maryland SoccerPlex. The trail, and a 13 mile paved trail in the same corridor to be built later, is a pilot project between PEPCO and the county, and the only one required in the PEPCO/Exelon merger agreement but the county is hoping to build others and the county promises that "This is the first of several projects slated for Pepco land."
Montgomery Parks will construct and patrol the trail; and Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) will maintain it. A large portion of the trail is expected to be complete this spring, completion of the entire trail is expected to take about a year, dependent upon funding. The paved trail, to be built "later" will run from the SoccerPlex to Cabin John.
The use of utility corridors as bikeways has attracted a lot of interest in the County over the years, as they can provide long trails separated from traffic. They were most recently considered as part of the 2005 Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan, but ultimately rejected because utility companies were not in support of bikeways along their rights-of-way. The use of utility corridors for trails has seen a resurgence of interest in recent years and it came up in discussion of the County's bike plan last month.
The Bicycle Master Plan recommends four trails on utility corridors:
• Utility Corridor #1: This trail was conditioned as part of the PEPCO-Exelon merger. It is part of the Germantown – Grosvenor Breezeway and connects the Germantown Soccerplex to Montgomery Mall.
• Utility Corridor #2: This trail is part of the Germantown – Burtonsville Breezeway and travels in a crescent across Montgomery County on an electrical corridor.
• Utility Corridor #3: This trail connects Bowie Mill Road to Cherry Valley Drive in Olney via an electrical corridor.
• Utility Corridor #4: This trail connects Georgia Avenue to Heartwood Drive in Olney via a natural gas corridor. It exists in part as it parallels Headwaters Drive in Olney.
There were several recommendations to extend each of the above trails and to add a bikeway on one new utility corridor.
Staff Response: Staff has had no opportunity to travel along most of the utility corridors that are recommended to be added to the Bicycle Master Plan because many of them are inaccessible except on foot and based on a review of topography, many will be challenging to implement due to steep slopes. However, we recommend adding the following corridors to the plan, which will enable the County to study the feasibility of constructing trails on these corridors:
• Extend Utility Corridor #1 to the C&O Canal Towpath near Dickerson: This trail would provide substantial value as it would connect Germantown to the C&O Canal Towpath.
• Extend Utility Corridor #4 south to Muncaster Mill Road: This is a short extension of Utility Corridor #4 that was identified by Planning staff.
Staff does not support trails on the following utility corridors:
• Extend Utility Corridor #1 to Westlake Drive: The original concept for the PEPCO-Exelon trail was to travel along the utility corridor from Germantown to Westlake Drive near Montgomery Mall. An advisory group staff from M-NCPPC and MCDOT recommended against routing the trail along the utility corridor between Tuckerman Lane and Westlake Drive due to the steep slopes in this area and to instead route the trail along Tuckerman Lane and Westlake Drive. Staff continues to support this approach.
• Extend Utility Corridor #2 to River Road / C&O Canal Towpath: While this trail would provide substantial value as a connection between Germantown and the C&O Canal Towpath, it would travel on a utility corridor through the Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park and the Blockhouse Point Conservation Park. Because of the potential impacts to water quality, the Countywide Park Trails Plan recommends natural surface trails in this location
• Extend Utility Corridor #3 north to the Germantown – Burtonsville Breezeway: Planning staff believe this trail is unnecessary because it would duplicate the proposed MD 108 sidepath and would create a midblock crossing.
• Extend Utility Corridor #4 north to the Germantown – Burtonsville Breezeway: Staff does not support extending Utility Corridor #4 to the Germantown-Burtonsville Breezeway as it would duplicate the Georgia Ave to Gold Mine Road bikeway. Instead, we recommend extending the Gold Mine Road bikeway to the Germantown - Burtonsville Breezeway. A portion of this bikeway is included in the design of the Gold Mine Rd bridge replacement project.
• Connect Damascus to Clarksburg Town Center via an electric corridor: Staff does not support a bikeway on this corridor because the proposed Ridge Rd (MD 27) sidepath would provide similar connectivity but would also provide connectivity to the adjacent neighborhoods and Cedar Grove Elementary School.