The Leesburg Town Council is expected to render a big decision tonight that could shape the future of two highly trafficked intersections.
Council members are expected to pick their preferred design alternative for the intersections of Rt. 7/Battlefield Parkway and Rt. 7/Cardinal Park Drive at tonight’s meeting. The intersections’ new designs will be a part of a $58 million interchange project that the town hopes can begin construction within the next three years, should it receive the remaining $25 million in funding it still needs.
Council members were given four design alternatives for both the Battlefield Parkway and Cardinal Park Drive intersections. Each alternative came with its pros and cons, and have been vetted by town staff and VDOT representatives, as well as members of the public in a recent public meeting.
The staff-recommended design alternative for the Battlefield Parkway intersection is a single-point urban interchange. This option would create the most flexibility in dealing with property owners on the north side of the intersection and in providing new access for the commercial properties. Those properties, which include Meadows Farm Nursery, would have their access to Rt. 7 eliminated and alternate access would need to be provided, Capital Projects Manager Tom Brandon said. During last week’s Eastern Gateway District public input meeting, a representative of SixSeven Corporation, which represents those properties, distributed a pamphlet indicating the businesses’ support for the staff-endorsed design alternative. A call to their representative this week was not returned.
The council also was given six options to consider for the Cardinal Park Drive intersection, three of which staff determined were not viable, Brandon said. That leaves the council with three choices: right in/right out with a traffic signal; right in/right out with an auxiliary lane; and right in only. Brandon said the staff is recommending that the council proceed with the right in/right out with the auxiliary lane option. A future extension of Russell Branch Parkway to the Leegate development, linking to the Cardinal Park Drive area, is expected to provide additional access for the commercial area. Developers behind the Leegate project are required to build the Russell Branch Parkway extension first before proceeding with any residential or nonresidential construction, Brandon noted.
A third decision for the council tonight will be on the delivery method for the project. The council may choose between design/build, or design/bid/build. The former option would bring the project to years sooner, which is why staff is recommending that option, Brandon said.
With the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority set to vote on its next round of funding in the coming months, Chairman Marty Nohe was in attendance at Monday’s work session to provide some insight to the council on the impact of its design decisions, particularly on the Cardinal Park Drive intersection. County and town plans have for decades called for the intersection to be closed when the interchange is built. Keeping right in/right out access may work, but Nohe said efforts by Cardinal Park Drive businesses to keep the traffic light could derail the project.
“I’ve been asked by a few individuals whether an option exists to leave the traffic signal there. From an NVTA perspective that would be very problematic,” he said. “Under state law and frankly also because it’s the right thing to do, we evaluate [projects] based on the degree to which they relieve congestion, and the effectiveness of congestion relief relative to cost. When we evaluated [the project], the VDOT consultant evaluated it specifically with the removal of both traffic signals. With that it got a middle of the road score but good enough that it was able to get funding. If a traffic signal were to remain the congestion relief score for the project would go down. More importantly, the project would change substantially enough that we can no longer say it was the same project we evaluated.”
Should the council decide to keep the signal at Cardinal Park Drive, Nohe said, it could reapply to the NVTA for funding as a new project. But that would hold up the release of already approved NVTA funds, and delay construction by a few years, he said.
Tonight’s council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Check back at loudounnow.com to see which alternatives the Town Council chooses.