Editor: Loudoun’s new draft 2040 Countywide Transportation Plan contains a real shock for those of us who have presumed that the plans to improve Rt. 15 were not just to improve congestion (caused by queuing at the signals, more Loudoun development, and more Maryland traffic) and improve shoulders (to allow quick accident response), but to make it a model project for improving a National Scenic Byway in a way that celebrates entry into Loudoun’s beautiful rural area, with its vibrant and growing heritage tourism and agritourism-based economy (which brings $1.7 billion annually to the county in tourism revenue).
The county’s submission for $54 million to the NVTA last year (which the county only shared with citizens May 15) for the $81 million project to widen 3.5 miles of Rt. 15 contains a clue to what is really going on. It states that a goal of widening is to make the route “more attractive” to drivers currently using more eastern routes: “This benefit could be felt as far away as the American Legion Bridge carrying Interstate 495 over the Potomac River.”
So the county’s stated goal is not to solve congestion from current traffic but to attract even more traffic onto a newly four-laned, 3.5-mile section of Rt. 15 that will constrict into two lanes further north–with a two-lane bridge and road above it that Maryland will not widen (its priorities are more multimodal than Loudoun’s and its worst traffic issues are on I-270 and Rt. 15 north of Frederick).
Hold that thought, and read on. The draft 2040 CTP states that Rt. 15 is to become like Rt. 7: a “principal arterial expressway,” with access “only at major intersections.” (You can read it at http://envision-loudoun.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/CTP-FINAL-DRAFT-Loudoun-2040-Comp-Plan-2018.05.07.pdf)
This means no farm equipment, no roadside farm stands, no antiques markets, no school buses picking up children, no left-hand turns in and out of the three (soon to be four) parks, and certainly no left turns for mere property owners whose 120 roads, driveways, and entrances front the byway. This will mean the end of farming, the end of the scenic byway, and the beginning of the end of rural Loudoun–the goose that lays the $1.7 billion golden egg each year.
No farming equipment means no farms; no farms means thousands more houses. Bear in mind that the county’s staff wrote this chapter at the same time they were touting how closely they were listening to citizens’ concerns and desires for Loudoun’s future.
If this is not your vision of that future, you have until June 1 to comment on the draft Comp Plan. But don’t stop there. Be sure to send your comments to each supervisor and each planning commissioner.
Martha Polkey, Lucketts
Coordinator, Catoctin Coalition