Loudoun Supervisors to Vote on Controversial Rt. 15 Widening

Loudoun supervisors are expected to Thursday vote on long-awaited fixes for one of Loudoun’s most congested and accident-prone routes, but that decision will likely face some opposition.

County transportation staff members have recommended a number of projects, including widening Rt. 15 to a four-lane divided road between Battlefield Parkway and Montresor Road, redesigning the intersection of Rt. 15 and North King Street to a T-intersection with a traffic light, and bringing Limestone School Road and Montresor Road to one intersection on Rt. 15. They also recommend accommodating design guidelines from Journey Through Hallowed Ground where feasible. The road is designated a Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, recognizing its scenic and historic route from Gettysburg to Monticello.

The fixes come after years of studies on the congestion on parts of Rt. 15, including in 1998, 2006, 2007, 2014, and 2016.

People living along the road have divided themselves. Many support widening the road to four lanes. Others argue doing so would only make traffic worse and destroy a scenic rural road.

The debate has gotten heated and at times combative, with the two sides forming competing organizations, which have worked to keep their membership secret while seeking to undermine the credibility of the other.

Among those, Fix Route 15 Now has argued that the process to widen Rt. 15 is taking too long, and has pushed to accelerate it. The organization has sent out regular email newsletters advocating a faster process and widening the road to four lanes.

The group has not responded to a request for comment, and does not advertise its membership.

The Catoctin Coalition has formed the Catoctin Route 15 Alliance, which is opposed to widening the road. Its members have signed nondisclosure agreements about the group’s meetings and membership. Martha Polkey, one of the members of that alliance and an outspoken opponent to widening the road, said local farmer John Adams is heading the alliance. She argued the county should try to keep the road’s rural nature despite its traffic, saying the problem can be fixed by building shoulders along the road and a one-lane roundabout at Whites Ferry Road.

Sparring between the two groups has been combative. Polkey said she even had some of her emails stolen and posted on Facebook by a critic using a pseudonym.

But one of the proponents of widening the road is Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin).

“While I have my own preferences as far as … an appropriate rural design and context-sensitive design, I also realize that we’ve got to accomplish some things in this road project, so I think the staff recommendation is reasonable and appropriate given what we have to work with,” Higgins said.

At the request of some of the opponents to widening the road to four lanes, engineer Ian Lockwood—who has designed other popular and successful intersections in Loudoun, such as the Rt. 50 roundabouts—submitted an alternative concept to the county. That design incorporates one-lane roundabouts. But Higgins said traffic is much heavier on Rt. 15, and that design wouldn’t accommodate traffic today.

“That would have been a great solution ten years ago, but today, after we spend all that money, after a couple of years we’d be over capacity again,” Higgins said.

Higgins has not advocated widening Rt. 15 to four lanes all along its length, but he has said parts of it need to be widened. And he said that was an idea that came from the residents of the area through the county’s Rt. 15 stakeholder committee.

“My desire in this whole process was to bring everybody together, to not have any groups that were taking over the process, and have the data and the need and the facts drive the process,” Higgins said. “You can still disagree on what your outcomes are, but at least everybody knows something needs to be done with that road.”

This article was updated Sept. 19 at 11:26 p.m. with a correction about Fix Route 15 Now’s stance.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

5 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors to Vote on Controversial Rt. 15 Widening

  • 2018-09-19 at 3:50 pm
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    Widen the darn road already! Keep kicking the can down the road…no pun intended. This is suppose to be a major roadway. We need to put this project at the top of the list, Virginia!!!

  • 2018-09-19 at 9:27 pm
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    It used to be that the job of the press was to not only report the news but to investigate stories, learn the facts, and, when necessary, fact check quoted sources. In his recent article in Loudoun Now, https://loudounnow.com/2018/09/19/loudoun-supervisors-to-vote-on-controversial-rt-15-widening/, Mr. Renss Greene made the statement that:

    “Fix Route 15 Now has argued that the process to widen Rt. 15 is taking too long, and has pushed to accelerate it. The organization has sent out regular email newsletters advocating a faster process and construction of roundabouts along the route.”

    He did get the first few things correct here. We do think the process has taken too long. We do think that a 10-year timeline is outrageous. We do, in fact, generally agree with what the county is proposing but it should be fairly obvious that we do NOT advocate for the construction of roundabouts on Route 15. We hope this is a typo that will be corrected soon.

    Meanwhile, it seems that the Catoctin Coalition, a special interest group which as WE reported here; http://fixroute15now.com/who-is-the-catoctin-coalition/, was founded specifically to oppose widening Route 15, has splintered yet again into ANOTHER organization opposed to improvements which is of course, although they put Mr. Adams in as a figurehead, led behind the scenes by the same person now in charge of the original group and consists of the same members. Once again, an attempt to deceive the public about the amount of true support their anti-Route 15 agenda has. We do find it rather ironic that the same people attacking our group for remaining anonymous have forced their own members to sign non-disclosure agreements.

    Why is it that despite being interviewed by Loudoun Now for basically every article about Route 15, Ms. Polkey is never asked to justify her group’s stance that single lane roundabouts and no widening is a solution to the safety and congestion problem on Route 15 even though ALL evidence says otherwise? Why wasn’t she asked this time why one anti-route 15 group needed to form another anti-route 15 group? Evidently nobody at Loudoun Now looked into the proposal supposedly submitted by Mr. Lockwood. This did not actually happen. Because they were only able to raise $200 out of the $20,000 needed to hire Mr. Lockwood, the special interest groups merely combined a bunch of his old PowerPoint presentations he gives to various groups around the country into a giant file and sent it to the Board themselves. Of the more than 110 pages they submitted, only a handful have anything to do with Route 15 and none of those address with actual data how the 26,000+ vehicles on Route 15 would be handled. We discovered this with a cursory Google search of Mr. Lockwood’s prior engagements. Again, this is the type of reporting that used to be done by the press looking for the truth.

    We also want to make clear that our non-response to this article was due to the fact that we were given mere hours to respond to an email before publishing and we all have our own jobs and families to focus on. We would be happy to answer any questions Loudoun Now may have via email.

  • 2018-09-20 at 8:08 am
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    Well, well, well here we go again. We can all rest assure and sleep soundly at night knowing that Martha Polkey, the self-ascribed safety coordinator of the Catoctin Coalition with all of their overwhelming track record of safety improvements, is now forming yet another special interest group, the “Catoctin Route 15 Alliance” to continue their legacy of successful safety improvements and congestion relief along Route 15 – NOT!

    WARNING! Martha and the Piedmont Environmental Council Recruits (PECRs) are dangerous to one’s health and safety along the Route 15 corridor.

    There are Lies, Damn Lies, and then there are Martha Polkey’s words!

    More to come as Martha P and the PECRs take to the stage front and center tonight, September 20th, 2018 at 5PM with second show starting at 6:30PM at the Board of Supervisors Business Meeting.

    They won’t be hard to miss fans as they have noses like Pinochio, pants that are on fire (liar, liar) and blood on their hands!

    Oh and as far as those stolen emails Martha, file a complaint with the Sheriff’s Office and they’ll pop on over to your place right after they finish up with their paperwork from the accidents on Route 15, they may however be delayed a bit from the traffic….

  • 2018-09-20 at 9:36 am
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    I think it’s time to recognize that Route 15 is no longer a rural road. This connection to Maryland, is regional serving, providing service to more than the villages north and west of Leesburg. This HIGHWAY is operating significantly below its capacity and must be improved! The effort to squash the improvements could be better served by attempting to get Maryland and the Federal Government to cooperate in finding efficient and timely solutions to an interstate transportation issue. An aesthetic design should be required, but WIDEN ROUTE 15 NOW!

  • 2018-09-21 at 5:06 pm
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    This is all chewing gum and bandage, but that is what happens when politicians over the years fail to do anything. No, Route 15 is not a country road any more and it is not designed for that volume of traffic. But what is interesting is what happened AFTER this vote. The board voted 6-3 to narrow future river crossing options near Loudoun County Parkway and Route 28, and here, Randall, Volpe and Umstattd voted “no.” We know why Volpe did that — this is her district and she’s getting a lot of flack for it from Broad Run farms residents. Randall said Maryland has no interest, but Umstattd offered no reason at all – -none . That was really befuddling that she would support these chewing gum and bandage solutions on 15 but not a future bridge that would help Leesburg and Lucketts much more.

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