Loudoun Supervisors Launch Rt. 15 Work

Loudoun supervisors have started wheels turning on a project to widen parts of Rt. 15 north of Leesburg.

Following a unanimous vote Thursday night, the county transportation staff and consultants will start designing the project to widen Rt. 15 to a four-lane divided road between Battlefield Parkway and Montresor Road, redesign the intersection of Rt. 15 and North King Street to a T-intersection with a traffic light, and bring Limestone School Road and Montresor Road to one intersection on Rt. 15. They also recommended accommodating design guidelines from Journey Through Hallowed Ground where feasible. The traffic signal at Whites Ferry Road would also have to be redesigned to accommodate four lanes.

Supervisors set out the guidelines for designing Rt. 15 improvements after decades of studies, years of traffic, and a months-long process that involved bringing in people living along the road. But it was a process that became at times contentious.

“Our goal was to develop consensus at the stakeholder level, but sometimes that didn’t happen,” said Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Director Joe Kroboth. When a committee of residents living along Rt. 15 couldn’t reach agreement, he said, county transportation staff based their recommendations on cost and predicted impact on traffic.

In particular, some along the corridor opposed widening the road, and pushed to build a roundabout at the Whites Ferry Road intersection as the best option to keep traffic moving.

“It is unconscionable that the county would compromise these historic and natural resources for future generations, and reject them as economic drivers of tourism dollars,” said Mary Gustafson, who with her husband owns a farm near Rt. 15.

But despite discussion that lasted late into the night, supervisors were unanimous in their vote, including on the roundabout. Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said up to this point, the county had suffered “paralysis by analysis.”

“This has gone on for decades, but what’s different this time?” Buona said. “What’s different this time is there is a critical mass of our public that are saying, fix the problem.”

Some supervisors hedged their vote, noting the design for the project is not yet set. Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said, although he may not agree completely with the project’s particulars, “knowing that we can make changes moving forward, even though the motion says something very specific right now, I’m going to be OK with the motion here tonight.”

“This is a safety issue for me primarily,” said Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg). “This road is terribly unsafe. When there is an accident, or when there is a fire, or when somebody has need of an ambulance, if it’s in rush hour … you can’t get your fire engines, your ambulances, and your law enforcement up this road because nobody has any place to pull over.”

And while the Rt. 15 debate has gotten heated, Preliminary Engineering Manager Jim Zeller said it was “actually the easy part.”

“The hard part is getting into the manner of how the road is going to be widened and what it will look like, and how we go about balancing unavoidable impacts,” Zeller said.

Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) called the Sept. 20 vote “the end of the beginning.”

“The heavy lifting is just starting with the design stage. I am not getting everything that I want tonight,” he said. “No one is going to get everything they want out of this project, and I think the analysis needs to drive this project.”

rgreene@loudounnow.com

4 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Launch Rt. 15 Work

  • 2018-09-21 at 3:03 pm
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    Once again, it should be noted that these important safety improvements to Route 15 North are a long time in coming, and were started only after Supervisor Umstattd got on the Board of Supervisors. For way too many decades this road was allowed to be a danger to those who drove on it, and now, at long last, we are going to see something done to make this a safer road. It is great that Leesburg finally has a Supervisor that we can be proud of. So, thanks to Supervisor Umstattd for her great work on this.

  • 2018-09-22 at 9:49 am
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    @Lawgh you are kidding right? There’s no cause and effect here, at least not as you imagine it. Umstattd spent the better part of the last 15 years railing against growing the town in any dimension and actively subverting efforts to improve traffic by getting her cabal on council to vote down things like Crosstrail Blvd, completing Battlefield, and widening 15. The problems are actually of her making. Giving her credit for solving them because of her presence on the BoS is laughable unless you consider that by getting her off the town council some progress could be made. Then yes, her presence on the BoS could be the “cause”.

  • 2018-09-22 at 9:52 pm
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    Umstattd did nothing on this except 2nd Mr. Higgins motion. She was in office for nearly 20 years as mayor of Leesburg before Higgins got elected and he drove the train on this one.

  • 2018-09-24 at 9:41 am
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    Always glad for the opportunity to praise someone who deserves it. TownBully and Vindicator, of course, are less than honest about Supervisor Umstattd. Then Mayor Umstattd won election after election after election for mayor of Leesburg, making her one of the longest serving mayors in Leesburg going back to the 1800’s. Clearly, she was doing something right. And Battlefield Parkway would not be built, but for then Mayor Umstattd’s great efforts in getting that road system completed. And one fact cannot be overlooked. Supervisor Higgins has been on the board for at least two terms. Supervisor Umstattd is now in her first term of the Board of Supervisor. Before her, Ken Reid was on the Board of Supervisors for one four year term. And only last year did the effort to make Route 15 North safer, and get funding to do that, happen. At the start of Supervisor Umstattd’s term on the Board of Supervisors. So, what conclusion should be made for this? The obvious one, and the only one. That Supervisor Umstattd was the catalyst for this road to be made safer. So, again, thank you Supervisor Umstattd for your great work on doing what was needed to be done to make Route 15 North safer.

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