Advocates for Loudoun’s rural spaces and for the village of Lucketts led a tour of Rt. 15 on Friday, hoping to sway the county government away from plans that they say could destroy the area’s rural nature and small businesses.
Opponents to the county’s current plans for the road have gotten little traction with county supervisors or planners. The county has already worked to widen the road to a four-lane, median-divided road from Leesburg to Montresor Road south of Lucketts. County planners are working on a comprehensive plan amendment that will dictate what the road will look like north of Montresor, including through or around Lucketts. They have proposed extending the four-lane road to Lucketts and building a bypass around the village.
That has local businesses worried that the bypass would drain away their customers.
“Could my business survive any of this? And we all feel that way, we don’t know,” said Old Lucketts Store owner SuzanneEblen.
She, along with the Muriel Sarmadi of Roots 657 and Jonathan Staples of Vanish Brewing wrote that, while they understand Rt. 15 needs work, they worry about the impacts that work could have on their businesses and the village’s character. They, too, asked for a context-sensitive design.
And at least one bypass option would also encroach on a floodplain, where the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy hopes to expand a globally rare wetland habitat, said Executive Director Michael Myers.
“We’re not saying that a bypass option is better on the eastern side, we’re just saying don’t build it on the western side,” Myers said. “We’re not transportation experts, so we’re highly skeptical that any bypass would actually long-term alleviate this congestion.”
And others are worried about community members who feel they have not been heard. That includes residents of the mobile home park in Lucketts.
“I understand that the mobile home residents here are renters, however they are an essential part of Lucketts,” said New Virginia Majority organizer Sofia Saiyed, who has also been closely involved in the fight to save the homes of the Leesburg Mobile Home Park residents a few miles south. “They are essential worker, families, children, elders, and they deserve to be involved in the planning process.”
“This kind of engagement is really critical to ensuring that Lucketts stays healthy and strong as a community, as opposed to just sort of seen as a place to get through quicker,” said Gem Bingol of the Piedmont Environmental Council.
And Susan Lee, senior warden at Christ Church in Lucketts, warned about the impacts of widening the road in downtown Lucketts, while flags outside depicted how wide the road would be if made a four-lane median-divided road in the village, tracing a path directly through the building.
Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Assistant Director John Thomas said the county still has no concrete plans for the area.
“There is nothing on the table that talks about impacts to buildings at this point, because there’s no design of this spot where we’re standing here right now. If and when there’s actually a line and a study of that line that sets forth that design, then we’ll go back again and minimize those impacts,” Thomas said. “The last thing that any design manager wants to do is touch a building, touch a church, touch a mobile home park, so the path of least resistance is what the design manager will look at.”
Although the county has gathered public input and hosted public meetings on the project, those meetings have done little to sway the course of the plans. Opponents point out that widening the road only moves the bottleneck further north—and that Rt. 15 can only be widened so far before hitting the two-lane Point of Rocks Bridge, which is Maryland’s jurisdiction. Lucketts-area residents also commissioned an alternative plan by the same traffic engineer who designed the Rt. 50 and Rt. 9 traffic calming projects, which would put roundabouts through Lucketts, but have been unable to get county staff members or supervisors to consider that option.
They also commissioned their own traffic study, which argues widening the road would attract more drivers to take Rt. 15, canceling out any congestion relief.
They are also not the only skeptics. The county has sought and failed to obtain funding for the project from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s SmartScale program. The county also has not pursued a suggested plan developed with VDOT’s Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment.
Supervisor Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin) attended the tour. More information on the county’s work is at loudoun.gov/route15CPAM.