Letter: Elizabeth and Stuart Newberry, Leesburg

Editor: My husband and I live one mile from the Point of Rocks bridge in Virginia. Rt. 15 north of Leesburg is being asked to support an enormous amount of traffic between Maryland and Virginia that it was never designed to carry. The truth is that another bridge between Rt. 15 and the Beltway is absolutely imperative in this growing region. Plans for this bridge have been delayed much too long, and an agreement with Maryland on this issue must be part of any discussion of traffic in this area.

As there will need to be some changes made on Rt. 15 north of Leesburg, I would refer you to the proposals made by the Catoctin Coalition, neighbors who have worked long and hard on proposals, i.e., wider shoulders for disabled vehicles, more left turn lanes in trouble spots, a roundabout at White’s Ferry Road, fixing the merge lanes coming north from Leesburg, adding an additional lane from Montressor south to Leesburg, posting warning signs about not passing in no passing zones—fines doubled. (You cannot believe the places drivers pass on this road.)

Bottom line, turning Rt. 15, a scenic byway into a four-lane highway would only encourage more unwanted growth. It is a horrible solution to the traffic issues.

Please heed the voices of those living along this road who will be most affected  by any changes.

Elizabeth and Stuart Newberry, Leesburg

10 thoughts on “Letter: Elizabeth and Stuart Newberry, Leesburg

  • 2018-05-22 at 11:14 am
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    I can sympathize with Mr. and Mrs. Newberry living so close to busy Route 15. I know that I have much difficulty trying to get onto and off of Evergreen Mills road each day. It carries over 12,000 cars a day where I live. I can imagine what the traffic count for 15 is each day. To their point about a new Potomac River Crossing–the challenge is that we can only control our side of the river. As long as Maryland continues to block the start of meaningful discussions, I believe that we still need to do something on our side of the state line. For now, seemingly, the only route open to us is to try to alleviate some of the challenges on our existing highways. The new 2040 Transportation Plan calls for 4-laning 15 only as far as the road to White’s Ferry. Some of the other enhancements that Mrs. Newberry calls for are being considered for the rest of the highway. The comment about inviting more growth is well intentioned but perhaps not relevant for this discussion. The 2040 Draft Comprehensive Plan makes no changes to density in the Rural Policy Area. This means that it will be exceedingly difficult to rezone property in the area north of Leesburg with or without a widened road. In my opinion, the traffic is already present on 15 North of town. We should do anything possible to relieve the pressure on travelers through the area as well as those folks living along the highway.

  • 2018-05-22 at 12:47 pm
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    The Catoctin Coalition is a front group for the Piedmont Environmental Council which wants NO improvements to 15. It’s nice this couple want another bridge, but Maryland politicians and citizens are not doing anything to advocate or a bridge, so the best that can be done is to improve 15 and put in a bypass around Lucketts and maybe some day Maryland will wake up and work with Virginia to make a connection.

    • 2018-05-26 at 11:58 am
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      The writer makes a good point about Maryland’s unwillingness to look beyond their border in trying to solve regional transportation issues. And, this is to the detriment of their own residents pouring over the PoR bridge each day to jobs in northern Virginia.

      In the meantime, a big housing development at the tiny hamlet of Tuscarora, MD (MD Rts 28 & 85) and booming growth in Frederick, infill housing in Leesburg and those already planned for Loudoun will only exacerbate the problem.

      That said, attempts to vilify the Catoctin Coalition, a grassroots citizens’ group, working for Route 15 safety over decades, and falsely characterize it as a “front group for the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC)” is misguided at best. It is not unreasonable to expect the two groups to be alligned when it comes to reasonable, rational, minimally invasive, cost-efficient solutions for our rural arterial. People live on and along this road. We can not simple wave the magic 4-lane wand to appease those who falsely believe that’s the answer.

      So, let’s stop the cranky name-calling, vilifying, negativity, and alternative facts to arrive at meaningful solutions. And using the tragic deaths of those who have lost their lives on Rt15 to pursue their agenda is completely inappropriate. And to think I’m insensitive, I have a “memorial” at the utility pole at the end of my lane to a young lady who died there. The two oft quoted 2017 deaths were tragedies—the result of the offending drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Local citizens now accused of “blood letting” were the very same who took the time, measurements, photographs and did the research to find out the causality and what these deaths had in common. The killing vehicles both crossed wide medians where there were no rumble strips. Subsequent communication and meetings with Supervisors Higgins, Randall, staff and VDOT got this corrected. There were no more fatalities in 2017 and thus far in 2018.

    • 2018-05-26 at 12:37 pm
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      I’m sorry that you are so misinformed. Try spending 20 years educating yourself about what makes for safe road design that addresses congestion relief, safety for ALL drivers, accessibility for emergency vehicles and local traffic and adhere to protective environmental regulations and historic preservation objectives. Repeatedly concerned citizens have submittted their findings that counter VDOT and point out the flaws in designs that we are all surveyed about. Open your eyes! the surveys are seeking the answers they want. They are not offering the best solutions. The County seems powerless to agree with studies that confirm that hairbrained designs including continued use of signalized intersections and four-laning makes roads safer and less congested.
      In spite of the fear mongering we both still want to see the road improved. But hurling stones is no way to make for allies in this magnicent struggle we are facing. I ask that you look at all sides to know that we are not your enemy.

  • 2018-05-23 at 10:17 am
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    The Catoctin Coalition certainly does NOT represent everybody living in the northern section of Route 15. In fact, a lot of people who were in the Catoctin Coalition no longer agree with their mission. The vast majority of people polled recently have said they just want it fixed. 875 respondents were polled, and 97% said they want to see a fix. And the vast majority of respondents to the poll all live north of Leesburg along Route 15 (600-650 people in the poll lived along Route 15). This clearly shows the Catoctin Coalition does NOT represent the vast majority of people. And I can tell you that as a long time resident, the Coalition, the Friends of Route 15 and the Lucketts Ruritan Club have been working for DECADES to prevent any improvements to Route 15. It has finally come to a head. Here’s an excerpt from the minutes from a June 25, 1986 Friends of Route 15 Meeting, just to show you how long they have been trying to prevent any development, and the lengths they will go to: “Six principal suggestions for activities came out of the meeting: (1) that the group keep its ear to the ground and report any developments or potential ones to Mr. Brown for his files and possible action, (2) that the group submit ideas for guerrilla warfare against those interested in improving Route 15, (3) that the group be prepared to push for an alternative, (4) that the group establish a liaison with the supervisors of Montgomery county, Maryland, (5) that the group seek a lawyer/lobbyist to act as guerrilla warfare boss, and, (6) that the group explore the means of making Route 15 and property within 500 feet on either side of it an Historic District.” So, this has been going on since 1986 at LEAST. That’s over 30 years of “guerrilla warfare” tactics, and believe me that some of the people at that 1986 meeting are still around today influencing this. It’s time to get this thing fixed. The engineers have studied this thing over and over again. Fixing the merge at Battlefield, then the merge at King Street and then moving cars through White’s Ferry Rd are the solution. I’m not saying widen all the way to the bridge. I agree, that would encourage more out of state traffic. But, widening to Lucketts seems to make sense. Then the bottle neck will be the light in the middle of Lucketts. How they will fit a roundabout there, I don’t know. I think a bypass to turn Lucketts into a truly majestic historic area where folks can walk freely and go shopping without worrying about an onslaught of traffic dividing the town would be a great idea.

  • 2018-05-23 at 10:37 am
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    Oh, and the Catoctin Coalition does NOT support adding a lane from Montressor south. In fact, they’ve fought just about everything that has been proposed so far. There is a working group made up of residents, businesses, and special interest groups that has been working on this, which the Catoctin Coalition is a part of. But, the Catoctin Coaltion has thrown up road blocks at almost every proposed enhancement. Fortunately, the working group is filled with a lot of other representatives who have pushed hard to get something done finally.

  • 2018-05-23 at 1:09 pm
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    Well, well, well…what have we got here but none other than the well-oiled public relations arm of the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and the Coalition of Catoctin Supporters (COCS) and their letter writing sycophants who ALL have “blood on their hands” for blocking shoulders and the widening of RT 15 for decades resulting in the tragic loss of life through their obstructionist policies and tactics under the ruse of a national scenic byway storyline.

    Just when we thought “Catoctin Lives Matter” we start to see the true motives of the PECrs and COCS – who are undermining a long overdue thoughtful process and study with recommendations to address the unnecessary loss of life and massive congestion experienced by the residents who commute everyday along the RT 15 corridor north between Leesburg and the Point of Rocks. This transparent and collaborative process headed by Supervisors Higgins and Umstattd, has included a community stakeholder group, unprecedented community outreach meetings, surveys soliciting input and ideas, and combined analysis by traffic professionals and consultants. All of these prescriptive efforts at widening RT 15 with shoulders have been sanctioned by the Board of Supervisors to include the Planning Commission re-designation of RT 15 from a rural roadway to a 4 lane highway due to the horrific loss of life, traffic volumes 3 times what the road was engineered to handle, residential communities experiencing cut-though traffic and the massive roadway congestion which blocks emergency vehicles access to incidents and victims needing urgent medical care.

    Oh please save us from this unholy alliance and their cult of followers who delight at the thought of more blood being spilled on this “national scenic byway” that is really turning into a “slaughterhouse scenic byway”! The irony of this road safety and congestion issue that has been ignored for decades due to the obstructionist, guerilla warfare tactics by this group is that the majority of these cult members own businesses in and around Leesburg and the Route 15 corridor. Their motto should really be “we are a full-service corporate entity where we don’t mind taking your life and your money!”

  • 2018-05-26 at 11:09 am
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    As the coordinator of the Catoctin Coalition since 2002, I have in my files a letter sent to elected officials with a list of requested improvements to Route 15, and one of the very first ones is for improved shoulders. I know each and every member of the Coalition, past and present, whose members live or have lived here (some move away, some have joined more recently, and some sadly have died). Our record for promoting improvements and increased safety is long and conclusive. Our guiding principles for traffic calming–getting traffic through safely and providing safe access for residents, our schools, designing the road to discourage reckless behavior, and using the safest of all intersection controls–roundabouts–are principles shared by national (FHA), regional (MCOG Visualize2045), and state policy (VDOT). –And most recently by Capt. Greg Ahlemann of the Sheriff’s Office, who spoke at the NVTA in support of the Hillsboro traffic calming project, because he understands good road design can modify reckless driving behavior. The anonymous commenters language about “front groups” takes us back to the 2003-07 Board of Supervisors (investigated by the FBI), and the battle between the housing development industry and citizens’ wishes for sustainable development. Today, with the draft Envision Loudoun Comp Plan before the public, with the developer-dominated stakeholders committee stating that we “need” 20,000 more housing units (on top of the 30,000 approved but unbuilt houses already in the pipeline), we are right back to the battle for the future of Loudoun that we had in 2003-07–with citizens throwing out most of those Supervisors in the 2007 election. Citizens in the Envision Loudoun Public input sessions and in the (scientific) UVA poll in 2016 have strongly stated their chief concerns are overdevelopment and congestion–but the draft plan will make them worse. The commenters’ attacks on the Piedmont Environmental Council also are a blast back to that earlier time, when an actor dressed up as a spider in an attempt to paint a sinister picture of PEC–the organization that was trying to save citizens from more crowded roads, schools, and loss of farmland and open space that comes with overdevelopment. PEC has worked to preserve farmland, promote the rural economy, and against bad planning decisions (such as building housing developments in the karst region–which resulted in Raspberry Falls and Selma residents having to deal with drinking water contamination and sinkholes opening up near homes and roads. This is a good debate to have, but civilly and with facts.

  • 2018-05-27 at 11:20 pm
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    Well, well, well…NOW what have we got here but none other than the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and the Coalition of Catoctin Supporters (COCS) blog writing sycophants weighing in on the letter to the editor from Elizabeth and Stuart Newberry. All of whom have “blood on their hands” for blocking shoulders and the widening of RT 15 for decades resulting in the tragic loss of life through their obstructionist policies and tactics under the ruse of a national scenic byway storyline AND which is in direct opposition to the recommendations of the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee consultants as well as other professional traffic safety engineers.

    In response to “Gus” stating that the Coalition of Catoctin Supporters (COCS) is “a grassroots citizens’ group, working for Route15 safety over decades” is akin to calling Adolf Hitler one of history’s greatest humanitarians – who was just a tad bit misunderstood! And just when you thought the propaganda couldn’t get any more ludicrous, “Gus” goes on to state “and falsely characterize the COCS as a “front group for the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC)” is misguided at best”! One has to wonder what “Gus” is smoking in his pipe?

    Gus! “JUST SAY NO” to the wacky weed…..

    Here are some undeniable facts:

    1. the COCS have been ineffective at “working for Route 15 safety over the decades”

    2. the COCS did receive their initial “start-up” organizational funding from yep, you guessed it, none other than the PECrs.

    3. “Mumble strips” were installed in 2017, not “rumble strips”. “Mumble strips” are right up there with “fiddlesticks” as far as road safety effectiveness when it comes to preventing drivers who fall asleep at the wheel from crossing over the double yellow lines and killing people in the oncoming lane!

    4. According to the PECrs and the COCS “Catoctin Lives DON’T Matter!” just check out the vimeo below. https://vimeo.com/257034159

    So “Gus” is correct that the PECrs and the COCS are indeed IN alignment! One might even go as far as to say the PECrs and the COCS are unabashed members of an “unholy alliance” who have systematically been working against Route 15 safety improvements over the decades and have further plans to continue their obstructionist behaviors well into the future – even after some of their members have signed the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee Charter “advocating for project success”.

    And in response to M. Polkey, the coordinator of the COCS comments – there are “Lies, Damn Lies and then there is Martha Polkey’s words!

    More to come….

  • 2018-05-29 at 12:40 pm
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    Given the results of their work, I find it ironic that the same folks who are very proud to tell us that they have been working towards a Route 15 solution for decades still think we should listen to them now.

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