Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007

CCT may get new route by town hub

Energy building’s proposed historic designation prompts look at realignment

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A building designed to withstand a nuclear bomb may end up helping development explode in Germantown.

County planners and property owners are optimistic about a new alignment for the Corridor Cities Transitway that would take it along Middlebrook Road and bypass the Department of Energy building in Germantown.

The 50-year-old building, which sits on 105 acres just west of Interstate 270 on Route 118 and was specially designed for the then U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, was recently designated as a potential historic site by the Maryland Historical Trust. That means the state has to change its CCT route to keep federal funding, said Rick Kiegel, CCT project manager for the Maryland Transit Administration, at a Dec. 6 meeting of community members tasked with updating Germantown’s 1989 Master Plan.

‘‘I think this is very good news for Germantown,” said Karen Kumm, an urban designer with the county’s Department of Park and Planning. ‘‘... Germantown will no longer be a place you buzz through. It will be a destination.”

The CCT, first conceived more than 30 years ago, is a 13.5-mile light rail or rapid bus route that would connect Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metro station.

The current alignment extends north to Germantown Road along the southwest edge of the Department of Energy site.

Although other alternatives, including running the path parallel to I-270, are also under consideration, the northeast side of Middlebrook Road appears to be the best option, Kiegel said. The state is still determining how to tie the CCT from Middlebrook back into the original alignment, he said.

‘‘That’s ideally where we’d like to be because that’s in the height of development,” Kiegel said.

The current stop on Middlebrook may be eliminated in favor of stops near Germantown Town Center and Seneca Valley High School, Kiegel said.

The historic designation also affects the proposed widening of I-270 to include express toll lanes, he said. That project and the CCT are both part of the I-270⁄U.S. 15 Multi-Modal Corridor Study, a joint initiative between the MTA and the State Highway Administration to improve traffic between Rockville and Frederick.

Environmental assessments must be conducted for each phase, Kiegel said, giving planners some leeway in determining a new CCT alignment for Germantown. If the project is funded and stays on schedule, construction on the first phase would begin in 2012 and be complete in two years.

At an estimated $865 million, light rail is more expensive than the projected $539.4 million for rapid bus, Kiegel said, though officials have said light rail, the faster alternative, is cheaper to operate. Ridership numbers forecasted for 2030 are projected at 16,000-20,000 daily boardings for light rail and 15,000-19,000 for rapid bus, he said.