Plans for D.C. Circulator Depot in Md. ‘ Not Currently Moving Forward’

WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL: The District’s controversial plan to build a Circulator bus depot and DMV testing facility in Prince George’s County is “not currently moving forward,” a D.C. agency has informed the D.C. Council.

The response came in 2023 performance oversight documents submitted to the council earlier this month by the D.C. Department of Transportation. The Department of General Services, which acquires and oversees D.C.-owned property, paid $10.5 million in September 2021 for 1201 Claybrick Road in Capitol Heights, with a vision of housing both the D.C. Circulator and a new commercial driver’s license testing facility for the Department of MotorVehicles.  

“DGS has advised that the funding required for this project is not in their FY24 budget, and it is not currently moving forward,” DDOT wrote in its responses to the council’s transportation andenvironment committee.

A D.C. official tells me via email that while the property “remains an important part of our portfolio, the District has been taking a closer look at its overall needs since its purchase.” More details are expected concerning the property following the fiscal year 2025 budget process, which should conclude in June. 

The estimated $109 million Claybrick Road project was proposed as a “state-of-the-art green facility,” with a principal office building spanning 33,600 square feet over 12 bus-maintenance bays, overhead electrical charging for 120 vehicles, an accessorystructure to wash the Circulator fleet and a canopy structure for fueling. The District was expected to apply for federal funding.

The Department of Motor Vehicles was expected to relocate its commercial road tests, of which it performs roughly 2,000 a year, to the western portion of that location. D.C.’s CDL on-road testingcurrently takes place on the Landover Metro Station overflow parking lot at 3000 Pennsy Drive, while the CDL services center is located on Kenilworth Avenue in Northeast D.C.

But the project, which would require a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, faced severe headwinds from the start. Prince George’s County residents, political leaders, academics andthe Maryland Department of the Environment all raised red flags over issues including traffic congestion, air quality, equity, communication, noise pollution, road damage and more, according to an August 2022 DGS presentation on the plans. 

The District of Columbia “is planning to build a dirty bus maintenance and training facility next to and directly upwind of Cheverly and Seat Pleasant in Prince George’s County, Maryland,” Sacoby Wilson, professor at the Maryland Institute for AppliedEnvironmental Health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, wrote in a letter to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments in November 2022. “These are communities of color who have long faced pollution burdens associated with environmental pathogen, which this proposed project will only contribute negatively to.”

Cheverly Mayor Kayce Simmons Munyeneh, who had protested the proposed development, took issue with the District in that it didn’t look anywhere but Prince George’s, and landed on a site that’s “literally my backyard.” She was very glad to hear it’s not advancing.

“It doesn’t really benefit Prince George’s County in any way,” the mayor said an interview.

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