The county department of transportation Tuesday hosted a meeting on plans to add a third eastbound lane to Rt. 7 from Rt. 9 to the Dulles Greenway and a third westbound lane from the Dulles Greenway to West Market Street.
The areas are known for their daily rush-hour gridlock. Traffic studies have shown travel speeds as slow as 20 miles per hour, where the speed limit is 55 miles per hour.
According to Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Preliminary Engineering Manager Jim Zeller, the county has no firm plans for that project yet. It will first need to take into account impacts at the four interchanges along that stretch of road: Rt. 9, West Market Street, South King Street and the Greenway. It will also access its policy for local access from Rt. 7 in that area, and determine whether bridges would have to be widened or replaced bridges or other structures removed.
“Once we get a general idea of what it is we’re building and how we’re going to do it, then we start preliminary design, which is basically determining the project’s footprint,” Zeller said.
Some Leesburg residents are already worried about being near that footprint. At the meeting they expressed concerns about a wider, louder Rt. 7. Some, particularly from the Fox Ridge neighborhood, said it meant affecting their lives and property values to benefit people driving through Leesburg.
The county has not yet set aside money for the project. It will seek funding from the state Smart Scale Program, and could also pursue funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and from federal grants. With no designs in place, the county has no estimate for the cost of the project.
But without designs in hand, county representatives also cannot confirm whether expanding the right-of-way would impact homes near the Leesburg Bypass, or whether the project would include considerations like sound barriers.
The Board of Supervisors initiated the project, at the same time starting work to amend the Countywide Transportation Plan to describe Rt. 7 as having four lanes in either direction in that area at full buildout.
County staff members expect the first planning documents in December. Loudouners will have several chances to comment on the project: when county supervisors take up the county’s capital improvement plan during budget deliberations, during public comment on the county’s Smart Scale application, and according to transportation staff, during another public meeting after some design has been completed. Comments and questions can also be submitted at Route7@loudoun.gov.
The meeting was attended by Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg),who lives in the Fox Ridge neighborhood; Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk; and Leesburg Councilman Ron Campbell.