While the county government and developers spend millions to keep traffic moving elsewhere along Rt. 7, Loudoun supervisors are moving toward putting crosswalks across the county’s main artery in Sterling.
Most of Rt. 7 in Loudoun is already designed as a limited-access highway, with a grassy median, high speed limits, and relatively few access points. But in Sterling, Rt. 7 takes on more of the characteristics of a city street—including the people walking across its six lanes. This year, after a sustained push by Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling), supervisors will consider finding funding for crosswalks between Northern Virginia Community College and Potomac Run Plaza; at Potomac View Drive, one stoplight east of the community college; and at Lakeland Drive, at the Sugarland Crossing shopping center just short of the Fairfax County line.
“At the end of the day, it’s to provide safe passages for citizens to get to their jobs, to their schools, to their homes in a safe manner, because people are crossing there all the time,” Saines said.
Supervisors will discuss adding the crosswalks to the county’s Capital Improvement Program in the next fiscal year, skipping to the front of the line in the six-year program. They are estimated to cost $822,000. The board has already prioritized the crosswalks near the community college in those discussions.
“If I have my colleagues’ support to do so, we would love to see it get done sooner than later, because we’re just going to see traffic increase, if anything,” Saines said. “And as more people come of age in the Sterling area—which is happening every day—we’re going to see more and more people walk on that stretch to get home, get to their jobs and to the school.”
Those crossing locations were recommended in a county-commissioned feasibility study that looked at five intersections.
Saines pointed to the trails beaten into the grass in the median, and said it’s luck that nobody has been killed crossing Rt. 7 recently.
The crosswalks would be particularly important to Northern Virginia Community College. In a meeting with Saines and his staff, Loudoun campus provost Julie Leidig said if a crosswalk were built, the college could build pedestrian access to it on campus.
“We try to discourage students from running across Rt. 7 because it is not safe,” Leidig said. “We’re not always successful.” She pointed out some of the college’s students are dropped off or walk and don’t have a car.
Between the college and the shopping centers—like the newly opened Cascades Overlook—across Rt. 7, it’s a hot spot for dodging traffic.
“We would definitely want to talk to the county and Virginia Department of Transportation, and partner with them on any plans they would have to give our students safer crossings, because it seems very difficult to stop them from crossing,” Leidig said.
But like many projects in Loudoun, those new crossings will be competing with a goliath—Metro. Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) has already indicated his first priority will be bike and pedestrian access to Loudoun’s future Metro stops.
“If it’s not getting that network to Metro, I’m not going to be supporting that if it’s a one-or-the-other proposition,” he said.
Supervisors will next hear about the proposed crosswalks at a meeting in November, when county staff bring the county’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan to the Board of Supervisors Transportation and Land Use Committee.