Monday, March 16, 2015

Pilot Trail Project Along Pepco Utility Corridors

As part of a settlement agreement in conjunction with the Pepco/Exelon power company merger, Pepco will undertake a pilot trail project in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Pepco will build an access road in one of its power line corridors that will also serve as a pedestrian/bicycle path.  If the pilot project goes well, we can expect to see more such trails in the future.

From the settlement agreement:

Pilot Project to Provide Public Recreational Use of Pepco Utility Corridors and to Enhance Utility Access to Facilities

27. Certain parties have requested Pepco revisit its policy regarding access to its facilities and foster the development of both paved and natural surface trails open free-of-charge to non-motorized public use on its transmission corridors, including to provide for nonmotorized transportation benefits. In response to these requests, and in conjunction with work it has planned and that it intends to perform on its transmission corridors, including its efforts to enhance utility access to its facilities, Pepco agrees to coordinate with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”), Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and the Maryland - National Capital Park and Planning Commission (“M-NCPPC”) to establish a pilot project in its Maryland service territory by which Pepco will grant to an appropriate governmental or private entity in both Counties a limited, non-exclusive license to access specified portions of Pepco’s transmission-line property for recreational and transportation use by the public. Paths will provide increased access to Pepco to its facilities along the transmission corridor, therefore, Pepco will have access along any path to serve its facilities. Permanent paths will provide for faster access for restoration of lines damaged during storms and less impact on wetlands and streams since pathways will be built to mitigate damage to sensitive areas. Pepco agrees to work cooperatively with DNR, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and M-NCPPC to define the license terms. The first pilot project will be a combined paved and natural surface trail system along the transmission corridor from Westlake Drive near Montgomery Mall to the Soccerplex in Germantown (the “Bethesda-Dickerson Corridor”). Within four months after Merger closing, Pepco will solicit the input and work cooperatively with the DNR, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, M-NCPPC and other interested parties on the design of an unpaved trail in the portion of the Bethesda-Dickerson Corridor between the Soccerplex and Quince Orchard Road (the “Unpaved Trail”).

The terms of the licenses for the pilot projects shall include, but are not limited to, the
a. Construction (e.g., access points and parking, standards, path material, bridges, signs);
b. Maintenance (including but not limited to responsibility for snow removal, grass cutting, debris removal);
c. Times of Use;
d. Acceptable non-motorized uses, including pedestrians, dog walkers, runners, cyclists, horseback riding;
e. Monitoring acceptable use;
f. Responsibility for handling complaints from adjoining landowners, including intake and response;
g. Liability and safety requirements;
h. Assurance that Pepco’s access and use of its property and facilities located therein are not limited in any way; and
i. Pepco shall retain final approval regarding the location of the pilot project(s) and the site of any future access, based upon factors such as safety, security, and Pepco’s need to continue to provide safe and reliable electric service consistent with its obligations to customers. Pepco will not forfeit or abridge its property rights in any way.

Pepco, the Counties, M-NCPPC and DNR will cooperate to gain approval of these trails and to construct them in a way that reasonably minimizes the portion deemed to be impervious surfaces in order to reduce the storm water retention requirements. Pepco will seek recovery in regulated transmission and distribution rates of the costs that it incurs in connection with the project. Pepco agrees to pay all reasonable costs associated with the pilot project if it is able to obtain such recovery in regulated rates. If Pepco is not able to obtain rate recovery of the full amount of pilot project costs, it will work with the Counties, M-NCPPC and DNR to reevaluate and appropriately limit the scope of the pilot project, pay the costs of designing the Unpaved Trail, and cooperate to seek alternate sources of funding to complete the pilot project.

Pepco further agrees, following the implementation of the pilot project, to collect lessons learned and identify criteria and conditions under which it would consider future projects to allow access to its property for non-motorized recreational and transportation use.