Will The Greenway’s Downtown Link Stay In The Plan?

Housing density and community design aren’t the only issues in play as Leesburg leaders review the Crescent Parke rezoning application. A controversial idea from long ago is getting new attention, as well.

Current plans of both the town and the Virginia Department of Transportation envision an extension of the Dulles Greenway from its current terminus at the Leesburg Bypass to Harrison Street or Catoctin Circle.

That concept was put on the books a decade before the privately-owned toll road opened 20 years ago, but there’s always been questions about whether the concept was a good one. Deliberations on the Crescent Parke project may answer those.

The connector was first proposed in the 1986 Town Plan. At that point the Dulles Toll Road Extension, as the Dulles Greenway was then known, also was just a line on the map with no funding for design or construction in the state’s budget. Later, the General Assembly would clear the way for the highway to be built as a private enterprise, which opened in 1995.

The Town Plan’s “Harrison Street Extension” was a four-lane road intended to bypass the existing Virginia Knolls townhouse neighborhood and connect to the Greenway interchange on the bypass. The connection would take pressure off of the bypass, South King Street and Sycolin Road by dispersing traffic entering and leaving downtown Leesburg, planners said.

The Greenway extension got a new round of review more recently as the town developed the Crescent District Master Plan. Town planners worked with VDOT to determine whether the connection was necessary. A traffic study concluded that 25 percent of the traffic entering or exiting the Greenway at the bypass interchange would use the link to the downtown area. It also concluded that not building the connector would increase traffic on Rt. 15 north of the bypass by 60 percent.

The Crescent Parke developers have offered to reserve a 90-foot right of way for the extension to be built through their property. As far as construction is concerned, the project doesn’t appear anywhere on the town’s, region’s or state’s long-term plans.

Councilman Dave Butler is among those who advocate scrapping plans for the extension.

“We’re not ever going to get four lanes of a Greenway extension. The cost of doing that would be a zillion dollars and it doesn’t change [the traffic situation] much,” he said this week.

“Ultimately, it is the Town Council’s authority to make the decision to either leave the Dulles Greenway Extension on the Town Plan or to remove it. This decision should be made in consultation with VDOT to fully understand the impacts of such decision on the regional road network, including VDOT-controlled roads such as the Bypass,” the town’s planning staff wrote in a report to the council.

That discussion is expected to commence shortly.

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