The Town of Hillsboro’s long-planned road project will begin in January, and many area residents are still upset about the detours they’ll have to follow.
Close to 40 people spent Thursday night in the Old Stone School to get updates from Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance and Vice Mayor Amy Marasco on the town’s long-planned Rt. 9 Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety project, which will soon close the highway through town at different times for about a year to install roundabouts on both ends of town, build sidewalks and bury utility lines. As the duo outlined the detour that local traffic will be directed to use, residents cited concern that many drivers might use Cider Mill Road to skirt town rather than drive an extra mile down Rt. 9 to Stony Point Road, the officially-designated local detour.
Planned since 2004, the town’s road project is expected to kick off by January 2020, according to Vance. He said the town is days away from announcing the construction firm it will hire for the project.
Under the traffic plan, local westbound Rt. 9 traffic will be directed to take Stony Point Road south to Woodgrove Road south, to Allder School Road east, to Hillsboro Road north, back to Rt. 9 to on the east side of town. West Virginia traffic will be directed to take Rt. 340 south to Rt. 7 east.
But many residentsexpressed doubts that much of the out-of-state traffic would take Rt. 340, but instead may head toward town and use Stony Point or Cider Mill Road—winding, rural roads they said aren’t equipped to handle additional traffic.
In response to a resident’s question about who decided that Stony Point Road would be safer option than Cider Mill Road,VDOT’s Transportation and Land Use Director for Loudoun Farid Bigdeli said it was the town’s consultant that recommended the route to VDOT for review. “There was no other option except that one,” he said.
The resident asked how Stony Point Road was considered a safe detour route, considering its single-lane intersection with Cider Mill. “How inconvenient is it to send all these people down these detours and what are we going to do when someone dies?” he asked.
Marasco said that safety is a top concern of town leaders and that while the town can’t guarantee that no accidents will occur, there would be increased law enforcement in the area monitoring the traffic flow.
Vance said the town has about $100,000 set aside in the project budget to pay the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police for extra enforcement that the town will direct. He said the town is also looking to purchasing remote cameras to help with traffic monitoring.
Residential access was also a point of debate. The residents, specifically those living on Cider Mill, expressed concern that they would technically not be allowed to drive down their own road.
Gatie Gore, a 36-year Cider Mill resident, suggested that the town or VDOT issue decals for those living on Cider Mill. Marasco said that was a great idea.
Residents were also concerned about Rt. 9 being closed through town for the majority of the day for up to 14 months, since they would be forced to take the local detour to get to the hospital in Leesburg or to pick up their kids from Woodgrove High School during emergencies.
Marasco said the town will have the ability to work with the construction firm to open Rt. 9 through town in the event of a catastrophic event. “Construction workers are amazing in their training to move out of the way in a disaster,” she said.
One Round Hill resident also expressed concern about the detour at the meeting and asked how the town would work to keep traffic from cutting through her town.
Vance and Marasco pointed out that there would be a law enforcement officer positioned at the Woodgrove Road/Allder School Road intersection to ensure traffic follows the designated detour and doesn’t continue down Woodgrove onto Round Hill’s Main Street.
Regardless, the Town of Round Hill is expecting increased cut-through traffic and is working with VDOT to manage it—possibly by installing signage at the Evening Star/Woodgrove Road intersection to direct southbound traffic to Evening Star, and not Main Street; restricting through trucks from using Main Street between Greenwood Drive and West Loudoun Street; and installing a temporary or permanent traffic signal at the East Loudoun Street/Evening Star Drive intersection.
The selection of a construction firm for the project will come after a more than three-month process in which the town in August received three above-budget bids. In response, town leaders worked with VDOT to find ways of reducing the project’s cost, ultimately finding that closing Rt. 9 through town for longer periods of time and lengthening construction crews’ days would drastically reduce the duration of, and price tag for, the project.
Instead of drawing the project out for up to 36 months, the new plans will see it complete in 12-14 months.
The town rebid the project Oct. 10 and received three responses by Nov. 7.Sagres Construction Corp. bid $22.48 million, General Excavation bid $18.29 million and Archer Western Corp. bid $14.33 million. All fell within the savings estimates town engineers had projected and two of them were millions less expensive than the lowest bid from the first time around, which saw General Excavation bid $19.95 million.
The highway is scheduled to be opened to eastbound trafficfrom 4-9 a.m. on weekdays and then closed for the remainder of those days. One lane will be open all weekend, from 2 p.m. on Friday to 6 p.m. on Sunday. In all, the highway through town will be closed for up to 60 non-consecutive days in five-day increments, which might happen during the summer when school is out, Marasco said.
Once the firm is hired, the town will hold “Pardon Our Dust” meetings, in which stakeholders will be briefed on how the town is managing the project.
The town is also working on an “Open for Business” marketing campaign to help continue directing visitors to the area during construction. That campaign is a partnership between the town and Visit Loudoun, the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development, The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Hillsboro Business Alliance and the Loudoun Heights Agritourism Council.
Vance said the town also will have its own campaign that will install wayfinding signs around the area directing visitors to local businesses.