2017 may be been viewed as the Year of Construction Zones by some motorists, but they can look forward to a smoother commute in 2018.
Three large projects are scheduled to wrap up before next fall.
More than $130 million is being spent to build the Rt. 7/Belmont Ridge Road interchange and to widen Belmont Ridge Road to the south. While some ramps may open to traffic earlier, construction is expected to be fully complete by summer. Combined, the projects total $134 million and will eliminate another traffic light from Rt. 7 and creates an overpass improving safety at the W&OD Trail crossing.
About a mile east, the developers of One Loudoun are close to finishing construction of the Rt. 7/Ashburn Village Boulevard interchange that removed another Rt. 7 traffic light in October. Miller and Smith picked up that project after the county government several years ago issued bonds to finance construction of the Rt. 7/Loudoun County Parkway interchange bordering its One Loudoun development.
Plans are advancing to remove other Rt. 7 traffic lights relatively soon. The extension of Riverside Parkway on the north side of Rt. 7 will allow the light at Lexington Drive to be removed, and the Town of Leesburg is working to finalize designs and complete funding for construction of the Battlefield Parkway interchange and removal of the Cardinal Park Drive traffic light.
But Rt. 7 isn’t the only corridor keeping construction crews busy. Old Ox Road along the west side of Dulles Airport is being transformed from two lanes packed with a mix of residential and industrial traffic to a four-lane divided highway at a cost of more than $100 million. That work also is expected to be complete by summer.
Meanwhile, work continues to fill in missing links of the eastern Loudoun road network. In September, the last piece of Loudoun County Parkway opened to traffic, providing a new north-south link between Rt. 7 and Rt. 50. Early next year, a new section of Claiborne Parkway will open to connect Ryan Road and Croson Lane in the Brambleton area.
In the longer view, county leaders are eyeing options to improve the rush-hour traffic flow on Rt. 15 north of Leesburg. The construction of roundabouts and additional lanes are among the choices under debate. However, discussions also have resumed about the merits of a new bridge across the Potomac River to improve the connection between Virginia and Maryland. The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority put two new river crossings—one, the Outer Potomac River Crossing, from Rt. 28 in Loudoun to I-270 in Maryland, and the other, the East Potomac River Crossing, from I-95 to US-301—on its long-term project wish list. While that’s no guarantee of funding or legislative approval, it is the first step to getting on the authority’s six-year plan, on which it spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
The Montgomery County Council remains unanimously opposed to the idea, but representatives from three Maryland cities—Gaithersburg, Rockville, and Takoma Park—voted at the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board in July to give it further study.