More than four years behind schedule, local leaders say they have identified a new location for the Montgomery County Public Schools Shady Grove bus depot.
The current depot, on Crabbs Branch Way, was part of a “master plan” the county developed in 2006 to make way for housing, a park and a school. The goal was to have the buses relocated by January 2017, but now, in May 2021, the plan has not materialized.
Throughout, county officials have recognized that the relocation would be challenging, according to the master plan, with strong opposition from communities who don’t want to see the associated increased traffic. The County Council set criteria that say the new location can’t be in immediate proximity to a residential area, putting a serious strain on leaders to find a rural area large enough to house the fleet of about 400 buses.
In an email to Bethesda Beat this week, Montgomery County spokesman Scott Peterson wrote that the county has “identified a site” and is “in discussion with MCPS.” He wrote: “We don’t make public sites we have identified until all factors have been determined so as to not adversely affect negotiations related to that project.”
Follow-up questions for more general information about the potential site and a timeline for resolution were not answered.
In 2016, the school board appeared to be nearing a final plan to split the depot’s buses among several new locations, including temporarily putting about 100 at the school system’s central office parking lot on Hungerford Drive. The plan, however, was met with stiff opposition from Rockville residents and Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton.
During a school board meeting at the time, Donnell Newton said she was concerned about “traffic congestion, the neighborhood infiltration with the buses and the noise and the pollution.”
In the years since, community members have pushed the county to follow through with the relocation.
Last year, the Shady Grove Civic Alliance started an online petition demanding the move, gathering about 600 signatures. The petition says the “failure of the county to act” is affecting nearby home values, discouraging businesses from investing in the Derwood community, polluting the air and exacerbating traffic around the Shady Grove Metro station.
“For too long Derwood has been treated inequitably, shouldering the burden of housing too many of the County’s unfavorable, but nonetheless essential operations,” the petition said.
Approved plans for the property include nearly 700 multi-family units, a 4-acre park and a school site. Development around the bus depot has been evolving for several years, including the approval of 1,520 homes on the western section of the property near the Shady Grove Metrorail system.