It’s hard to travel around eastern Loudoun these days without coming across traffic cones and jersey barriers protecting road construction crews. Finally, hundreds of millions of dollars have been put to work to break open congestion points and build new neighborhood links.
Now, county and state leaders are taking a closer look out west.
The challenges are twofold.
Aside from the Rt. 7 bypass, which was extended from Clarke’s Gap to Round Hill in the early 1980s and widened to four lanes a decade later, the “major” roads serving western Loudoun have changed little since growth first followed the Dulles Airport sewer lines in the 1960s. A few stoplights and a couple of roundabouts have been added to Rt. 9, Rt. 15 and Rt. 50, but that’s about it—and little more is in anyone’s plans. Combined with a continuation of a low-density community development strategy, those may be enough. But Loudoun’s zoning rules won’t stem the tide of commuters from more affordable counties that make up much of the daily traffic in those corridors.
County supervisors have been urged to pursue a new study of rural arterial roads. While such an effort would be unlikely to result in plans to crisscross rural Loudoun with four-lane throughways, the results should be valuable in freeing traffic choke points and, more importantly, improving safety for local residents and commuters alike.
Another challenge is found just off those main drags. Hundreds of miles of unpaved roads are the frequent source of neighborhood pave-or-preserve battles. They are an attractive asset when properly maintained and a source of frustration when not. At the depths of Virginia transportation funding crisis, there was little money to pave or maintain them. Many fell into dangerous levels of disrepair. Those challenges have resulted in creative and promising approaches from VDOT engineers. Not only have maintenance efforts improved in recent years, but crews have focused on stabilization efforts that—while more expensive than traditional passes of a road grader—provide long-term results. They also have developed a number of lower-impact paving options that can be employed when necessary.
It’s a course that, if followed in coming years, could ensure that the rural roads that have adequately served countryside residents for generations will continue to do so for generations to come. But, like the important roadwork underway east of Goose Creek, those successes won’t come without the focused effort of county and state leaders.