2021 | Government

County proposes bus depot, restoration center at correctional facility site in Rockville

Rockville officials will be briefed in early 2022 on potential projects

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County officials have proposed redeveloping the roughly 40-acre site of a correctional facility in Rockville to also include a bus depot and a restoration center, but plans are preliminary.

The proposal would be for land off Seven Locks Road and Wootton Parkway, which includes a detention center that can currently hold up to 200 inmates and processes about 13,000 people annually.

David Dise, director of the county’s Department of General Services, said in an interview that the project plans are still in the preliminary stages, as county officials are finalizing details of both the correctional facility/restoration center and bus depot projects.

Both will be in the latter years of the county’s six-year capital improvement program, which won’t be presented to the County Council until at least early next year, Dise said. 

The correctional facility renovation and restoration center project would need to be completed first, to provide the space for the bus depot, Dise said. But employees in the Department of General Services are still creating a “program of requirements” document that provides details for the overall design of the projects, he said.

The correctional facility will be “downsized” from its current capacity, Dise said. 

“In layman terms, [the restoration center] is trying to intercept folks who have encountered the criminal justice system and help them out, so they don’t end up being incarcerated or possibly even spending an evening at the correctional facility,” he said. “And these are usually folks who are having a bad moment, if you will. … So they can either be counseled with, or detoxed … in order for them to avoid being admitted to the full-on correctional facility.”

The other piece is a proposed bus depot. Dise said that roughly 200 to 250 buses could be located there, along with a maintenance facility. The fleet likely would be electric buses.

Most of them will be school buses, although a final number is not yet known. There will also be general transportation buses as part of the fleet. 

Chris Cram, a spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, confirmed in a text message that MCPS knows about the proposal, but wrote that school officials “have not received confirmation of final construction funding.” 

The county is looking at the site off Seven Locks Road to free up space at the MCPS bus depot off Crabbs Branch Way in Derwood, to provide some sort of economic development opportunity, Dise said. That could include some repurposing of the site, but no proposal has been finalized. 

The new location would still be in the central area of the county, meaning the depot would still serve the same high school clusters of schools, he added.

The proposed site might help alleviate limits on space at multiple MCPS bus depots countywide, Dise said.

Cram confirmed this in a text message to Bethesda Beat.

“Our depots are crowded [and] they house multiple functions,” Cram wrote in a text message. “For example, at the Shady Grove Depot there are buses, a repair facility, training facility, transportation main offices, radio repair and other functions such as a materials shop. Depots need to be located such that buses can deploy quickly to their routes and one in the Rockville area would be in line with those needs.”

Rockville’s mayor and City Council discussed the project earlier this year. City Manager Rob DiSpirito said a more detailed briefing from county officials to the mayor and council will occur early next year. 

“My request to the City Council was, we’re going to need more time before we … have anything approaching detail to brief them on, which we would expect to be this spring,” Dise said.

Ricky Barker, Rockville’s director of planning and development services, wrote in an email that even though the county owns the land and property, Rockville’s planning commission needs to approve any proposal.

“Any site-related changes to property Montgomery County owns in the City is required to go through a ‘Mandatory Referral’ for the City’s review of the site plan,” Barker wrote. “The site plan would be submitted by the County, staff would review it for compliance with the City’s requirements and make a recommendation to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will review the plan and then takes action.”

 

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