Residents filled the auditorium at the Carver Center in Purcellville on Monday night to get a progress report on western Loudoun transportation projects.
The session was organized by state Sen. Richard H. “Dick” Black (R-13), Del. David LaRock (R-22) and Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser and included participation from executives and project managers from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the county government.
Six major projects—each aimed at improving traffic flow on Rt. 7 and Rt. 9—were highlighted, but key topics during the forum involved the impact of the General Assembly’s decision to divert funding from the NVTA to Metro and finding ways to link the pace of growth to the county’s road capacity.
There wasn’t much to offer on the latter question, with Black pointing out that state law doesn’t allow localities to halt development through building moratoriums, as some audience members suggested. However, Black and LaRock offered hope that more road construction money could be coming to the region.
NVTA Executive Director Monica Backmon explained how the General Assembly’s decision earlier this year to divert revenues generated by Northern Virginia hotel stay and home sales from the authority to Metro significantly reduced the amount of money available to combat gridlock on the region’s highways. Over the next five years, nearly $400 million—more than 20 percent of the expected total—will be lost from the NVTA’s original funding plan.
The move to provide more operational funding to Metro was hailed by Gov. Ralph Northam and members of Loudoun’s General Assembly delegation as a key accomplishment, but members of the Board of Supervisors and county business leaders decried the act.
On Monday, LaRock and Black said they planned to introduce budget amendments that tap some of the commonwealth’s surplus to restore the NVTA’s funding.
“It was a horribly, horribly bad deal for Loudoun,” said LaRock.
He noted that it has the effect of making the county’s residents pay a greater share of Metro’s cost than would be required under the funding formula in the regional compact.
“We’re working on it,” LaRock said.
Black said the nature of the regional transportation funding district exposed the money to be raided.
“When you have something that applies to just one portion of the state, legislators in other areas say, why should I give up my money to Northern Virginia,” Black said.
However, it is Northern Virginia that provides much of the state’s school funding and legislators in community that derive that benefit should recognize the trade off on transportation, he said.
“We need roads more than they need them because we’ve got all this industry that is really providing the wealth to fund the rest of the state. While we give them school money, they really need to be backing us up on our roads,” Black said.
Closer to home, the forum highlighted several projects that will help western Loudoun traffic move better, although nothing will happen overnight. Project that are in the planning and engineering phases include the East Market Street/Battlefield Parkway interchange in Leesburg; a new interchange on the Rt. 7 Bypass at Rt. 690; the widening of Rt. 7’s eastbound lanes between Clarkes Gap and the Dulles Greenway; and the construction of a roundabout on Rt. 9 at Rt. 287. Engineers also are working on short-term options to improve rush hour flow at the Rt. 7/Rt. 9 interchange and the Rt. 7/Rt. 287 interchange in Purcellville.