Plans under consideration to widen parts of Rt. 15 north of Leesburg to four lanes and build a bypass around downtown Lucketts have drawn opposition from people who would rather see the congested road keep its rural character.
County consultants and transportation staff are studying their options on Rt. 15, long known as one of the most congested roads in Loudoun at rush hour. In July, the latest draft of the two leading options was published—both of which include widening Rt.15 to a two-lane median-divided road, installing new roundabouts, and building a bypass around Lucketts.
At a community meeting July 30, Lucketts area residents heard about a third option devised by their neighbor Peter Gustafson. That proposal would keep Rt. 15 two lanes, build roundabouts, and realign some intersections to tie into those roundabouts. People at the meeting estimate 80-100 people were in attendance.
Gustafson’s wife Mary said it’s a way to move traffic along and save the taxpayers money.
“It accomplishes the same thing better, cheaper, faster, less intrusively,” said Mary Gustafson. And she said the third option got overwhelming support at the meeting July 30.
“The Village of Lucketts and the people along there certainly should have a voice in what happens,” said Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance, who spoke at the meeting July 30 about his experience fighting for road improvemetns around Hillsboro. “So that’s my perspective eon it, and I think people shouldn’t give up. It seemed as if they were being pressured to kind of acquiesce.”
The consultant options have been prepared during a process that includes a stakeholder committee, although stakeholder Martha Polkey of the Catoctin Coalition and the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition said that committee too heavily favors homeowners associations.
“That was a little troubling, because we’re not representing farmers, we’re not representing people who have small operations or just live out in the country,” Polkey said. And she said even that committee has been left behind by the consultants’ recommendations.
“It’s kind of ended up seeming like they already had their conclusion, and this public process has been just to kind of show that they had a public process,” Polkey said.
People opposed to the county’s work so far have contacted Ian Lockwood, the engineer who designed the roundabouts on Rt. 50, among other highly-regarded road projects in Loudoun. Lockwood held a three-hour meeting with Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin). Higgins said Lockwood’s ideas have been forwarded to the county consultants—but he said keeping the road two lanes is not realistic.
“What he did through Aldie and Middleburg and now to Upperville, it’s beautiful, and I would love to see something like that on Rt. 15,” Higgins said. “But here’s the rub. Rt. 50 then had about 6,000 or 7,000 cars a day, today it’s about 8,000 or 9,000 a day in that area. We’ve got 26,000 [on Rt. 15], so you’re not comparing apples to apples.”
Higgins defended the process so far as “more open than any process the county has ever held.”
“The real need is another bridge crossing down around Rt. 28, but that may or may not happen in anybody’s lifetime, and we have to deal with the now,” Higgins said.