Rt. 15 Plan Outcry Continues at Planning Commission Hearing

A proposal to widen Rt. 15 north of Leesburg to four lanes south of Lucketts Road, build a bypass around the Village of Lucketts and other road improvements drew continued resistance during a Nov. 30 Planning Commission public hearing.

That proposal has alarmed some residents, business owners and conservation groups in the area, who have urged county planners to consider less disruptive and less expensive solutions for the corridor’s traffic snarls.

Longtime farmer John Adams said he’s lived in Lucketts for 51 years, and seen everything on Rt. 15 in that time. And he said the traffic backups on Rt. 15 won’t be solved until Maryland decides to do something about the two-lane Point of Rocks bridge, which that state has no immediate plans to improve.

“You people from down east need to understand that this is one of the biggest boondoggles your staff has ever put forward, because they’re going to spend almost a half a billion dollars to solve a road problem that they’re not going to solve until Maryland decides what they’re going to do,” Adams said. “So the best you can do is make this the safest two-lane highway from Leesburg to the river.”

And he was among those who said widening the road would invite more development in rural Loudoun.

“Who’s pushing this? It’s not the residents of Lucketts, for goodness sakes,” Adams said. “It’s coming from the development community.”

“Do not destroy the entire character of this scenic byway and turn it into just another highway, probably with housing developments and shopping malls. The developers are salivating,” said longtime resident Elizabeth Newberry.

Business owners like Avis Renshaw of Lost Corner Farm and Mom’s Apple Pie, Jonathan Staples of Black Hops Farm and Vanish Farmwoods Brewery and Suzanne Eblen of The Old Lucketts Store said the plans threaten some of Lucketts’s iconic rural businesses.

Staples said when he was working to buy the farm, he was competing with two developers. While he was securing financing for the project, one of the bankers said if the brewery doesn’t work out, the farmland would vanish—and thus the name for the brewery.

“It still feels like a place that a lot of it could be 100 years old, and by working with the other businesses in Lucketts we’ve worked to create a culture of sort of a village center that stretches from the pink silo all the way to Vanish and SkillsUSA, and to imagine a four-lane highway coming through and just smashing everything we’ve done is just really heartbreaking,” he said.

Instead, many of those organizations have asked the county to consider improvements such as replacing stoplights with roundabouts and building wider, hard shoulders for the road.

“Commuter needs should not override the local Lucketts community needs,” said Evan McCarthy of the Piedmont Environmental Council. “Immediate improvements can be made at significantly reduced cost to improve safety in the entire corridor and should occur without further delay. These improvements should not impact the community negatively.”

And Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Executive Director Michael Myers said a bypass could also threaten the nearby JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary, which the conservancy obtained with help from JK Moving founder Chuck Kuhn in 2020. The sanctuary includes a globally rare kind of swampland, and Myers said more than 150 volunteers from organizations including the Lucketts Ruritans, scout troops, the Tuscarora Key Club, and others have helped plant trees, clean up trash and remove invasive plant species.

“I may be a little biased, but I can’t think of a more worthy parcel to protect than one that hosts a globally rare wetland,” Myers said. “We must do more to protect rare wetlands, and we should all work together to identify more areas within the karst Limestone Overlay District to protect. Otherwise, amphibians, wildlife and humans will be deprived of unique, vital and special places and resources.”

But some people living in neighborhoods along the road support the proposal.

Craig Salvatore  of the Selma Estates HOA said he’s heard “loud and clear” from residents of that subdivision that they want to see the road widened.

“As it stands now, it’s a roll of the dice attempting to turn northbound from Montresor [Road] onto Rt. 15 North, I worry about my spouse and children’s safety every day when they try to make that turn,” Salvatore said.

According to a report prepared for the Planning Commission, county planners have received 134 written comments, and an online survey in July on the proposals returned 951 comments. In that survey, 64% of respondents preferred an bypass on the eastern side of the village, 24% preferred a western bypass, 6% preferred no bypass, and 1% preferred to consider traffic calming measures or additional roundabouts.

The Planning Commission will advise the county Board of Supervisors specifically on changes to the county Comprehensive Plan, which describes the ultimate planned condition of the road. County supervisors and planners propose to change the road’s classification in that plan from a rural, two-lane, undivided road to the median-divided four-lane roadway. After hearing the public input Tuesday, Planning Commissioners agreed they aren’t yet ready to make a recommendation without more discussion and information.

Commissioner and Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance (Blue Ridge), who led the ReThink9 project that improved Rt. 9 through Hillsboro, said that project demonstrated that roundabouts can make roads safer and keep traffic moving.

“We need to make sure we do get it right. This is a one shot here,” Vance said. “I was told 20 years ago that everything that we’ve just accomplished in Hillsboro could not and would not be done and would not work. We’ve just completed a post construction study and some of the results are pretty amazing.”

The commission voted 8-0-1, with Commissioner Jane Kirchner (Algonkian) absent, to send the Rt. 15 comprehensive plan amendment to a work session for further discussion.

27 thoughts on “Rt. 15 Plan Outcry Continues at Planning Commission Hearing

  • 2021-12-02 at 3:35 pm
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    I side with preservationists on this one. I realize cars are great. They advanced society immeasurably in the 1920s, when they became common. But today, we’re enslaved within an “autocracy.” To the point where we’re willing to destroy history & natural beauty on their behalf. Reasonable measures can be taken to improve Route 15. But we shouldn’t create the monstrosity envisioned by some county planners. Happy Hanukkah Loudoun!

    • 2021-12-04 at 12:05 pm
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      Exactly where is the natural beauty of Lucketts? The highway if planned along WITH smart development could make it a much more attractive and user-friendly for folks living in the northwest section of Loudoun. Rising tide lifts all boats. Time to move into the 21st century.

  • 2021-12-02 at 3:40 pm
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    Make it double decker with roads on top heading to Maryland and the roads on the bottom going into Loudoun.

  • 2021-12-02 at 3:54 pm
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    Ultimately spend millions and millions and ultimately have a massive traffic jam at a bridge that won’t be widened? Appease Maryland commuters? Increase development pressure on an important rural area? Jeopardize a historic village? Potentially wreak environmental havoc?

    What a great idea!!!

  • 2021-12-02 at 4:12 pm
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    These noise makers don’t represent the majority of Lucketts’ citizens who have attended many VDOT meetings over the past few years with very little to show from it. The reality is that NONE of the neighborhoods on the west side of Route 15 north of Leesburg allow south to north traffic and ALL feeder roads that allow locals to get off Route 15 north are either illegally narrow for two lanes or under-maintained gravel. VDOT can’t even figure out how to employ a smarter light at the Rasberry Falls interchange or build a workable circle/roundabout. Instead of the lame excuse that Maryland won’t cooperate why haven’t these “concerned citizens” even asked their Congressional representative to bring Maryland and the Federal Dept of Transportation to the table as this is obviously an interstate commerce issue. They just don’t want any progress or even a reasonable solution to EVERYDAY HEAVY TRAFFIC! Open up paved service roads on both sides of Route 15 or FIX IT! 🙂

  • 2021-12-02 at 5:05 pm
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    I am a long time user of route 15, going into Maryland. I have never experienced a significant traffic delay on the Point of Rocks bridge. It would be good to see some data on the extent of back-ups on the bridge.

    • 2021-12-03 at 2:55 pm
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      That’s the point Z- it doesn’t back ups because it’s a single lane northbound going on to a one lane bridge

      Make it a 4 lane 55MPH highway and it will be 2 lanes dumping into a single (is it 25MPH or 35MPH?) northbound lane…… just like so many highways in CA.

  • 2021-12-02 at 5:13 pm
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    The critics are right. Four lanes terminating at a 2 lane bridge with a 25MPH turn…. lunacy. It sounds like driving in California.

    Make it a safe, wide 2 lane road like RT50 through Hunt Country.

  • 2021-12-02 at 5:24 pm
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    A lot of noise from NIMBYS.

    Rt 15 is an attractive safe divided highway through Gettysburg, which has a lot more historical significance than Loudoun. It spoils nothing.

    Save some lives and build a modern highway. A widened bridge will quickly follow, when the road is fixed.

  • 2021-12-02 at 5:42 pm
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    Certainly can’t argue with the logic that widening will not help the north bound traffic until MD does something on their side. If the roundabouts helped Rte 9 perhaps that’s the way to go with 15.

  • 2021-12-02 at 7:01 pm
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    Clearly the problem with route 15 is that previous BOS’s approved more and more houses on the Route 15 corridor when they should have fought it. I think it is hilarious that the Selma Estates residents are complaining about route 15. Who in God’s green earth do you think caused the issue? You development of course!

    Four laning Route 15 a few miles only moves the choke point and does not solve the problem. Maryland will never agree to a new bridge near Point of Rocks. And why should they? They saw first hand the desecation of farmland on the VA side of the river. VA should have worked with MD years ago and extend Route 28 across the Potomac, that may have been more possible. But now, just moving the choke point to Lucketts area is unconscionable. The current BOS should look at past BOS member about their mistakes in approving more and more houses in that corridor. That is where the problem is!!

  • 2021-12-02 at 8:50 pm
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    It appears the residents of Selma Estates want the county BOS to now improve RT 15 so residents can make left turns. This is after the BOS committed $3.4 million dollars to Selma Estates flood mitigation in the capital improvement program. How does this happen? Who approved or rubber stamped the development? Why isn’t the developer held accountable? This is what the future will be for all of RT 15 north of Leesburg when the salivating developers and the self important and arrogant BOS let this happen.

    • 2021-12-11 at 2:21 pm
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      I can’t remember the dates for each BOS terms etc. I do know that the BOS lifted a ban on development to the land in the Karst District for a few years and then it was reinstated. During the short time it was lifted, the land for Raspberry Falls and Selma Estates was sold. I’m guessing the $$$ toward mitigation is a CYA fund more than anything. I would agree with your post if I didn’t know about this…. I do believe that the residents have false sense of inflated clout based on exactly what you posted. The risk entering/exiting that area and the entrance so poorly placed were things that they overlooked in considering and purchasing and they are accountable for their own oversight. Those homes were built several 100 thousand dollars less than the exact same models from the same builders in the same county, if you don’t question that, then…. and the traffic has been the same there for as long as I can remember and I was born in ’75. Definitely something that no one hide from them when they decided to purchase their homes.

  • 2021-12-03 at 8:38 am
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    The Bridge is the issue! Can’t the state or the Feds get involved here, somewhere they are actually needed! We all know Loco lives to throw good money after bad to constantly do studies! But the widening us not just the issue, until the bridge is redone we still funnel whatever they do into TWO LANES!
    Please preserve this area’s integrity. You should be able to keep everyone happy. The big developments knew the roads, people who bought knew the roads. We cannot reinvent the wheel just to accommodate the developments. This road has always been an issue that keeps getting worse and worse but Hillsboro has proven there ARE options to massive widening and billions spent to come to a skreeching halt at The Bridge!
    Any study should be done by the State and they should get MD to stop being a bully and just build a better bridge. Why does MD’s interests override VA’s and prevent this? It is a safety issue as well as a traffic issue. How much longer can this bridge hold up under all this.
    Besides this stretch of road has always been dangerous and it is much more so now.
    BUT there are alternatives without compromising the integrity of businesses and farms and the area

    • 2021-12-04 at 8:32 am
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      The bridge may AN issue but the unsafe condition of the current road is THE issue. As a high speed two lane thoroughfare without adequate shoulders, inadequate turn lanes and heavy, increasing traffic, it should be obvious Rte 15 needs improvement.
      Just because the bridge may be a choke point, that is not justification to not improve the rest of the route. How many more accidents, deaths and wasted time sitting in traffic will it take?
      It will improve the safety and quality of life for thousands including businesses that rely on safe, convenient access for their customers.
      I believe in conservation and cherish the rural, agricultural nature of western Loudoun.
      I fail to see anything but benefits in widening and improving Rte !5.
      Conservationists cant be against every change. Pick your battles or lose your credibility.

      n

      • 2022-01-10 at 7:35 pm
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        The conservationists, and preservationists, have worked to get improved shoulders and roundabouts to replace signals (where lots of accidents happen: low-cost solutions that allow safe access onto and off of roads and at businesses, and where farm equipment crosses the highway from one side to the other. The competing vision is to widen the road so that land speculators can turn fields and pastures into housing developments, using the widened road (paid for by Loudoun taxpayers alone) as a sales talking point. Speculators already are paying sometimes thrice assessed values where they think they can make a bundle in rural Loudoun. This is the first part of the development industry plan for western Loudoun.

    • 2021-12-11 at 3:16 pm
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      I’ve watched, ridden and driven this as a local my entire life and 2 changes mark the significant backups IMO. Even as the population rose, the traffic probably didn’t as much as we think and that’s possibly the reason both MD and VA rightfully argue. The 2 issues as they have happened over the years are the circle on the Maryland side (mostly the fact that if you didn’t learn to drive around circles, like Chevy Chase Circle, it’s worse than a snow forecast to these drivers, which is a systemic failure). That has had a huge negative impact on us all. I’m not trying to offend anyone, I can appreciate that it doesn’t snow everywhere or snow like what this area gets, so please don’t hate. The other is timing of the lights on the long stretch has been tweaked repeatedly with narrow sighted “improvements” and no delivered solution on both MD and VA sides. Since these things, the anger and arguing of leaders, drivers, residents of both Maryland and Virginia has skyrocketed. Not sure where you are from, but Maryland and Virginia have had a banter rivalry forever among many locals and officials play on this and it keeps getting worse and worse. Things like the school buses on the Loudoun side seemingly cause the backup but it’s not. Our buses time and record the stops and the stops are based on a child’s enrollment address buses operate like this all over the country for safety of children as it should be. The 18 wheelers allowed on both sides is an issue, drivers who have to turn at places like this side of the bridge and now the ferry closing contribute some too

  • 2021-12-03 at 11:09 am
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    Funny how all these businesses looking to profit off the current situation on 15, but they point fingers if another business/developer wants to make a profit. Good development can transform small communities like the current s-box of Lucketts into something that could benefit folks that live or would live around there. Who cares about Maryland doesn’t build a bridge. Make 15 walkable, bikeable, with real amenities that would make living there/near-there fabulous, and no -one would want to cross over to MD anyway. Lucketts is frankly an eye-sore that really could use some upgrading, and that includes some of the so-so at best businesses around there now.

  • 2021-12-03 at 12:56 pm
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    What’s so dangerous about Rt 15 north of Leesburg? More accidents are reported on 4 lane RT 7 west of Leesburg and 6 lane Rt 7 east of Leesburg. So maybe more lanes mean more accidents? Also, who cares about RT 15 in Gettysburg, or in Maryland. Need to stay focused on Loudoun residents not pass through commuters.

  • 2021-12-03 at 2:48 pm
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    This road more than any other in the area needs to be widened and made safer. There are far too many accidents. The berms are deficient or non-existent and traffic movement is often glacial for no apparent reason. Yeah, put all pressure on MD we can but build up our side of the bridge so that the MD commuters are well aware of the chokepoint and complain to their leaders.

    • 2021-12-03 at 5:53 pm
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      What you’re suggesting is exactly the approach WV took with Rte 9. Been out that way lately?

  • 2021-12-03 at 8:26 pm
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    A way to make it safer: slow down and put away the phones.
    The accidents are caused by humans, not by the road.

  • 2021-12-04 at 8:04 am
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    Flex, I agree. The roads should be made safer with turning lanes, roundabouts and solid shoulders. Widening the road to 4 lanes will only encourage reckless driving.

    Go check out route 50 both north and south of Gilbert’s corner. Traffic used to back of horribly, it’s 2 major roads ( instead of 1) and traffic flows again.

  • 2021-12-07 at 9:07 am
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    The traffic congestion on Rt.15 is 90% out of state traffic (MD,PA) not VA traffic, and is only present during commuting hours, . Good folks from rural MD, PA come to VA for higher paying jobs in the high-tech corridore (Dulles) and US Government (Arlington). How do we best get these folks to work? Build a bridge across the Potomac at Rt.28 and Rt.7 in VA. EVERYONE KNOWS THIS IS THE BEST PATH FORWARD FOR THE NEXT 100 YEARS. Rt.28 has no stoplights from Rt.7 ALL THE WAY to Dulles Airport, the Toll Road to the Beltway, Route 66 and other major arteries in VA. It’s idiotic to force this out of state traffic farther WEST to Rt. 15 when all of them are heading EAST to work. Imagine what would happen if the 2 lane, 100 year old bridge at Point of Rocks failed and these folks suporting our government and national security couldn’t get to work. Take a look on Google Maps and you can see the common sense of this and the idiocracy of trying to use Rt. 15.

    • 2021-12-08 at 10:08 pm
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      Is Loudoun Now in the pocket of these special interest groups? What a biased article. Why not highlight that this is just a vocal minority who wants to make things as painful as possible so no one wants to use the road? These people have been blocking improvements on this road for decades. They don’t care that people die on the road. In fact, they even stated it to the Board of Supervisors! They said “people die on roads.”

      Find Fix Route 15 Now on Facebook or http://www.fixroute15now.com

      • 2022-01-10 at 7:41 pm
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        This comment, and the website, sponsored by the development industry.

  • 2021-12-11 at 1:13 pm
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    I wanted to purchase 42131 Saddlebrook Pl when it was for sale several years ago. I couldn’t understand why it was on the market so long. A huge house on 9ish acres, where the reclaimed lumber from the huge barn would have brought a decent dollar to put towards improvements, etc. So I started researching the property and the area around it.

    The karst district is no joke. I grew up in Brookmont/MoCo and used to go caving with a group in Maryland. Those caves line up with Loudoun’s Karst District.

    Loudoun has a lot of undesignated karst areas, part of why Luck Stone quarries wrap our perimeter. The designated Karst District of Loudoun, this particular area of Leesburg over to the Potomac River, gives regular warnings to stop messing with it. I will not bore anyone with everything that I have learned, as I assume most aren’t fascinated with the uniqueness like I am, but I fear “man” challenging nature in this stretch invites massive and devastating sinkholes with any major modification of any kind.

    FF to 2018 and I drove it everyday to take one of my daughter’s to radiation in Baltimore. Sitting in traffic was something we made the best of and we took note of just how many trees and such which line the current rt. 15 are mostly underground. Seriously, how often do you see just the top of a full size mature tree at eye level or no visible roots and half of the tree trunk underground?

    I propose that the first step be to implement restrictions and require permission for use to heavy trucks and vehicles like has been used on Macarthur Blvd. in MoCo (I am aware of why they put this in place 50+ years ago, but the delicate nature is similar)

    Maybe a required good faith disclosure regarding land and traffic, so other’s can’t fall victim like the owners in Raspberry Falls and Selma Estates.

    All of the information I studied, the first sheriff’s residence and other property details can be found online and what is not online is available at the historic library in Leesburg.

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