Plans are advancing to widen Rt. 15 to four lanes between the Leesburg Bypass and Montresor Road and improve some intersections—but not without some protests from people living along the road.
Rt. 15 north of Leesburg has long had a reputation as one of Loudoun’s most congested and dangerous roads, and the county government and Virginia Department of Transportation have commissioned numerous studies that recommended improvements to the road over the years.
The county’s efforts to improve Rt. 15—which requires amending the Countywide Transportation Plan that designates the road as a two-lane rural highway—has enjoyed broad public support, especially from the people who make their daily commute on the road. But area residents have concerns.
“I’m here tonight along with my neighbors to do the hard work of citizenship,” Pat Logue said during a Dec. 19 Planning Commission public hearing. “I’m asking you to postpone your amendment to this plan because citizens, in my opinion, have not been fully informed.”
She was among a handful of residents along Rt. 15 who asked the Planning Commission to delay a decision on amending the Countywide Transportation Plan.
But others—including Supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg)—turned up at the meeting to urge the commission to sign off on the changes.
“This [comprehensive plan amendment] is absolutely critical to addressing the safety and congestion relief project that we’re talking about,” Higgins said. He also pointed to the county’s request for funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for work on Rt. 15.
Some were grudgingly in favor of the project.
“Do I want it to be four lanes? No. But I also want to be young and thin, and that ain’t gonna happen,” quipped Walter Raheb.
“This is not just about congestion relief, this is about safety,” said Raspberry Falls resident David Goodrum, a member of the Rt. 15 Stakeholders Committee that has been reviewing alternatives. “How many more people need to die or be seriously injured on Rt. 15 before we step up and put in the necessary measure to make our road safe?”
Ultimately, the planning commission gave the changes a unanimous recommendation of approval and passed the matter on to the Board of Supervisors.
“When you move a lot of housing developments along a major thoroughfare, you are eventually going to have to change the major thoroughfare whether one likes it or not,” said Commissioner Eugene Scheel (Catoctin). “That’s the broader historical question.”
The changes were greeted with applause in the boardroom.
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the plan amendments Feb. 14. Higgins said the county has yet to determine exactly how far up Rt. 15 the widening work will need to go—but pointed to a consultant report indicating no traffic fixes on Rt. 15 intersections would work for long without also widening the road.
“I’m not in favor of adding an extra lane any further than we have to, but we need to know how far that is and then act accordingly,” Higgins said. A consultant report on how far that widening will need to extend is due back in the spring.