A meeting hosted by the county government on plans to alleviate congestion on Rt. 15 brought out the differences in views among the people living along that corridor.
People entering the Lucketts Community Center Wednesday evening were greeted outside the doors with protest signs bearing messages like “Loudoun B.O.S. abandons rural farms & businesses” and “Loudoun BOS votes for less safe 15.” Inside the doors, opponents to the county’s plans to widen parts of Rt. 15 had set up their own parallel meeting with a map of an alternate plan for the corridor.
Inside the county government meeting, opinions were not more reserved.
“It’s about time something’s done,” said one attendee. “And I’m sorry that these people want to live on the farms. My thing is, sell your house and go to Wyoming.”
Others worried widening the road could impact agricultural businesses in the area.
“Moving forward, we’re going to have make a determination about are we going to maintain the agriculture that we have, and the infrastructure to support that,” said another.
Susan Glass, of the county Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure, said the intent of the project approved by county supervisors was to “retain the rural character of the corridor.” And Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) said he has met with farmers along the road.
“Nothing is not an option,” Higgins said. “We’ve got to do something on this road to address the safety. We’ve had three fatalities in the last year and a half, and I don’t know how many other accidents.”
He also dismissed the alternative design for the corridor, which is based on work by the same engineer who designed traffic calming improvements to the Rt. 50 corridor. Higgins said he met with that engineer, Ian Lockwood, for hours, but said the designs that worked on Rt. 50 won’t work on Rt. 15 because of its heavier traffic load.
In 2017, the Virginia Department of Transportation counted an average 18,000 vehicles a day on the most congested part of Rt. 50 west of Rt. 15, near Aldie. By comparison, the state counted an average 26,000 cars a day on Rt. 15 between Leesburg and Lucketts.
East of Rt. 15, traffic on Rt. 50 scales up dramatically, reaching about 49,000 vehicles a day at Old Ox Road.
County supervisors last week unanimously voted to start designing work on Rt. 15 just north of Leesburg. Conceptually, that includes 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 together at one intersection on Rt. 15. They also recommended accommodating design guidelines from Journey Through Hallowed Ground where feasible.
The design was arrived at after a public input process that Glass said brought in thousands and responses at public meetings and online surveys.
The county government does not yet have concrete plans for that work. The county is also conducting a parallel safety and traffic study on Rt. 15 north of Whites Ferry Road.