Important funding for the design and construction of an interchange at the heavily-trafficked intersection of Rt. 7 and Battlefield Parkway in Leesburg appears back on track this week, thanks to quick action by town leaders.
Last week, Del. J. Randall Minchew (R-10) noticed that the subject of funding for the interchange was taken off the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s Dec. 8 meeting agenda. Following up, Minchew said the NVTA staff pulled off the project because it appeared the town was pressing to retain the traffic light on Rt. 7 and Cardinal Park Drive—something VDOT engineers say shouldn’t be allowed because it would be too close to the interchange.
“A deferral could have been very problematic,” Minchew wrote.
Minchew said he called Leesburg Mayor David Butler to alert him to the problem.
Reached Tuesday, Butler explained how the misunderstanding arose.
“The Interchange Justification Report is required by VDOT in order to do an interchange of this type,” Butler said. “They’re looking at three different alternatives to the entrance at Cardinal Park Drive and Rt. 7. Two of them include a [traffic] light. So NVTA was confused about this because their expectation was that the light would no longer be there, and their reaction was to take this item off the agenda.”
Butler said the town agrees the light would impede traffic flow and does not object to its removal.
“If that light goes away as well as the one at Battlefield Parkway then there are no lights between the other side of [Rt.] 28 and Berryville,” Butler pointed out.
So the mayor called NVTA Chairman Marty Nohe to see what he and the council could do to assure NVTA voting members that they, too, believe the light at Cardinal Park Drive should be eliminated once the Battlefield Parkway interchange is constructed. According to Butler, Nohe advised that the council write a letter to the NVTA stating that the council and town staff plan to select an option for the Cardinal Park Drive/Rt. 7 intersection that does not include a traffic light.
In the letter, sent Tuesday, Butler wrote, “I want to assure the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority that the Town of Leesburg fully intends to remove the traffic signal on Route 7 at Cardinal Park Drive as soon as permissible. … Although the [IJR] study must look at various options to meet federal and state requirements, the Leesburg Town Council fully anticipates supporting a configuration that results in the removal of the traffic signal on Route 7 and Cardinal Park Drive.”
The item regarding funding the project was restored to the authority’s agenda. If approved, it would secure an additional $20 million for the interchange. With $13 million for the project already awarded, the town would still need to secure an additional $25 million to move forward with construction. The council is expected to formally request the balance in fiscal year 2018. There is not yet a construction start date listed in the town’s Capital Improvements Program; however, the report put together by the NVTA identified a fourth quarter of 2019 target.
“It’s important to get the money this year because next year there will be a lot more projects and so there’s the risk that we wouldn’t get the money next year at all,” Butler said.
In a nod to his former opponent—the two challenged each other for the 10th District House of Delegates seat in 2011—Minchew praised Butler on his quick action.
“Fixing this NVTA-Leesburg misunderstanding early, before the deferral of the action item occurred, was critical in keeping the project on track and Mayor Butler deserves the credit,” Minchew wrote. “As an NVTA voting member, I really appreciate his efforts.”