Lucketts Clash Continues as Board Nears Decision on Rt. 15

Competing visions for the future of Rt. 15 and the Village of Lucketts continued to clash during an hours-long public hearing Wednesday, as the Board of Supervisors nears a decision on road work in the corridor.

Conservation groups and local businesses have asked supervisors to put off their plans to amend the comprehensive plan, widen Rt. 15 to four lanes and build a bypass around the village, instead asking them to create a Small Area Plan to lay out a vision for the area, and to take more immediate steps such as constructing road shoulders and roundabouts. And if the county decides to build a bypass, conservation groups have asked them to build it to the east of the village, rather than threaten the JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary to the west and the rare species that live there.

Modifying the comprehensive plan will be necessary to win outside funding for the project, Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Director Joe Kroboth said during the May 12 hearing. Doing so would update Rt. 15 in the county’s master planning documents from a rural two-lane road to a four-lane median-divided road along much of its length.

County transportation and planning staff members now recommend the eastern route for a village bypass, citing a flood plain on the western side.

But people living in subdivisions along the road have organized in favor of widening the road as soon as possible, and building the bypass to the west, citing traffic and safety problems on the road and the greater number of properties that would be impacted by an eastern bypass. And while there is no specific route set for a bypass on either side yet, an eastern option could also bring the road close to Lucketts Elementary School, which they argued is also a safety concern.

They also expressed frustration that they have had to wait so long for a solution.

“I think it’s easy to see that there’s a lot of people here that are frustrated,” said one. “They’re frustrated each and every day. Their wives get home late. Their kids are late for school.”

“We’ve studied this enough. It’s time to actually start construction, and even now it’s going to be a long time before we see the end of this,” said another.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Executive Director Michael Myers urged supervisors to protect the JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary, the first property the nonprofit acquired to protect.

“While all properties have value for wildlife, our property truly is one of a kind,” he said.

Area businesses and farmers argued against widening the road and bypassing the village. Roots 657 co-founder Muriel Sarmadi, Rick Brossman of Brossman’s Farm Stand and Chris Petro, operator and manager of Farm John’s Market and Misty Meadow Mushrooms argued the county’s plans could harm their businesses.

Brossman said for much of the day, the road is empty, and its problems could be solved by fixing the choke points and skipping the bypass work. Pietro argued for immediate solutions such as roundabouts rather than the potentially longer timeline of the larger projects. And Sarmadi said the bypass would make more farmland unusable.

“I think we fixated on safety, and we’ve left off the rest of what safety really means,” Brossman said. “Safety means you’ve got safe food coming to your table from farms.”

And Loudoun Farm Bureau President Tia Walbridge urged supervisors not to go forward with the comprehensive plan amendment, citing the damage to farmland, pointing to the already rapid loss of farmland in the country and arguing a four-lane road would only invite more development. She encouraged supervisors to do “something that will actually sustain farms, rather than just saying it.”

There was even dueling testimony from people who had been in car crashes on the road—one crash survivor, Bruce Pierce, argued for the four-lane road, and Avis Renshaw read a letter from people recovering from a crash on the road who said four lanes would not make it safer.

“Four lanes is not going to stop the road rage and the rapid speeds. That is what causes the accidents,” Renshaw said. “But roundabouts will ameliorate the stop-and-go traffic.”

Supervisors voted to send the decision to comprehensive plan amendment to their meeting June 21, with some including Supervisor Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin) and County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) expressing a preference for the western bypass.

Two supervisors voted against it. Supervisor Tony R. Buffington said the proposed comprehensive plan amendment would only make things worse in the long term, and called for more near-term safety improvements such as the roundabouts and road shoulders.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to spend $300 million or a lot more, probably, with inflation to four-lane a road to a two-lane bridge. I also don’t believe that bypassing Lucketts businesses is good for Lucketts businesses,” Buffington said. “And I believe that talk of this is causing new cluster development housing all along the corridor that’s hurting traffic and safety right now.”

Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) said there is too much uncertainty around the comprehensive plan amendment.

“We’re being asked to vote yes on this project with no detailed budget, no detailed timeline, no assurance of where the funding is going to come to pay for this, and I think, frankly, I don’t think that we are reducing congestion with this four-lane expansion,” he said.

“Yes, it’s a big project. So was the interchange at Belmont Ridge Road and Rt. 7, and every other large interchange in Loudoun County. All of these projects are big projects,” said Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg). “This is truly about saving lives, and we have lost far too many lives on Rt. 15 because previous boards did not take action.”

Randall asked county staff members to come back with further analysis of both eastern and western options for the bypass, including whether a western bypass could avoid the wildlife sanctuary.

Supervisors voted 6-2-1, with Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) absent.

16 thoughts on “Lucketts Clash Continues as Board Nears Decision on Rt. 15

  • 2022-05-12 at 2:50 pm

    I don’t know the answer to Route 15. I just hope supervisors keep their eye on the prize: Improved safety on Loudoun’s roadways. Week after week, we read about more carnage. There are too many cars on the road. And not enough safety measures in place — even if the number of cars were to drastically decrease. Supervisors need to think outside the box. Otherwise, they’re leaving a legacy of devastation for future generations. Happy Bike Month Loudoun!

  • 2022-05-12 at 3:09 pm

    Listen to Supervisor Umstattd! Not only is this long overdue and people died directly due to lethargy but it is an interstate highway which our own Congresswoman is yet to convene a combined federal and state meeting to consider long term solutions that may include widening Point of Rocks bridge, setting up time of day constraints on the bridge or even putting in another bridge where the stalled ferry used to run. Even VDOT is dragging its feet as it claims that in a world where Elon Musk can land a spent missile on a barge they can’t put in a circle at the Rasberry Falls light or even fix the light! Maybe changing street names, taking down statues and adding blacktop to parks is all this board can handle. 🙂 (Do Lucketts residents who have to traverse this road have a Supervisor representing them?)

  • 2022-05-12 at 5:33 pm

    Who is pushing to widen Route 15? Maryland commuters, owners of $1 million homes in Selma Estates and elsewhere, developers with a gleam in their eyes. If they win, all they will eventually get are massive traffic jams as four lanes have to merge into two at the Point of Rocks bridge.

  • 2022-05-12 at 6:13 pm

    It is irritating to read once again that the subdivisions along Route 15 are banding together to get Route 15 four laned, no one asked them to move here and when they signed on the dotted line to purchase their property, they fully knew what Route 15 was and that as long as the BOS was approving more and more houses on Route 15, the road was only going to get worse. Four laning Route 15 that will only end in a two lane road near the Point of Rocks Bridge is mindless at best. It will only push the choke point further down the road, the epitome of kicking a can down the road. And just because these subdivision dwellers want Route 15 four laned, why should it come at the destruction of Lucketts and the folks who lived there long before John, Harry and Sally moved to Loudoun, most probably from the North East who want to re-create the mess they left behind.

    • 2022-05-14 at 8:54 am

      Sedona you have no idea where the “subdivision dwellers “came from.
      They have every right to live here as those that may have arrived here a little earlier.
      For that matter, landowners have property rights that give them the right to develop their land just as the landowners that preceded them had the right to build homes on theirs.
      if existing residents want to keep it the way it is , they can buy the undeveloped land and preserve as is.
      No one who bought a home was guaranteed there would be no more development after they arrived.
      No one is destroying Lucketts. They just want a safe road .

  • 2022-05-13 at 7:09 am

    Four-laning Route 15 will only make the road more dangerous.

    Besides, look at a map. Built it and they will come (North/South traffic avoiding I95)

    • 2022-05-13 at 6:18 pm

      They are already coming. Expansion within Loudoun County is a Fait Accompli along with the rest of NoVa. Wishing it back to 30 years ago will not solve the problem. While I agree that 4 lanes in and of itself will not fix the problem, expanding the roads and adding safety measures such as turning lanes and realignment of intersections will.

  • 2022-05-13 at 9:20 am

    When do we wake up as a people supposed to run OUR COUNTRY? President Obama got highway funds to build up interstate highways in Hawaii when there were no contiguous states to connect. Somehow we accept that Point of Rocks Bridge can’t ever be expanded regardless what interstate traffic is now causing and will eventually cause to a greater extent as Loudoun and points south continue to build out. We accept that VDOT can’t figure out how to build a roundabout instead of the Rasberry Falls light which triggers even when nobody is trying to go east to west. Been on Veterans Bridge lately? Is protecting the convenience and profit of one under-assessed antique store and one significantly under-assessed gas station worth all of us spending hours in Route 15 traffic EVERYDAY? 🙂

  • 2022-05-13 at 10:14 am

    This road should have been widened 20 years ago. Everyone keeps mentioning backups at the bridge, so what, at that point it’s all the MD commuters. Maybe at that point they will put pressure on their own politicians to get a new bridge. As for the avoiding I95, people have been using 15 for years to do that, which is part of the existing problem. People need to take their heads out of the sand and get the road done.

  • 2022-05-13 at 10:32 am

    Give us proper turn lanes on the road. All the traffic has to stop for a car to turn; there’s your problem.
    Roundabouts to replace every traffic signal, and at the major uncontrolled intersections, would be fantastic. An alternating passing lane in each direction north of Lucketts before St. Clair Lane would help a lot.
    Better shoulders would be nice too.
    You can make the road safer without building a second roadway for 2 more lanes, which also probably means they’d install more traffic signals instead of roundabouts.

  • 2022-05-13 at 11:27 am

    I heard at the May 11 meeting the opposition say that they’ve been advocating for improvements for years, but I recognize those same people that previously blocked those improvements. One of the opposition speakers had previously gone before the board stating “people die on roads, driving is dangerous business”… as if it say safety was not a concern. And now they say they want immediate action and that the CPAM will delay putting in shoulders NOW??? What a farce.

    If you want to put in shoulders, you have to :
    – get funding (at least a year, which they said you can’t apply for, because all the funding sources have congestion relief tied to it as a stipulation, so you have to use local funds instead of state or federal),
    – do a road design (that’s a year at least, probably 2 when they hit snags like culverts that have to become bridges now (this is what is happening south of Montressor)),
    – do land acquistion (if they don’t want to sell, that’s 2 years in court… and we already know they don’t want to sell and also have to deal with all the conservation easements),
    – get utilities moved (that can be 6-12 months),
    – bid out the contracts and start construction. And on this long stretch of road, construction will be 2 years.
    So, just doing shoulders will take 8-9 years. May as well add that second lane, and put in some medians, because it’s going to take the same amount of time.

  • 2022-05-16 at 9:33 pm

    Loudoun supervisors have already committed $3.4M toward Selma Estates flood mitigation. Of course the planning for this development was approved by the BOS. Not a good track record. Now they want to spend 300 million. Deaths on RT 15? Provide statistics Supervisor Umstadt. How many? Time frame?
    I read the traffic status notifications several times a day. There are a lot more accidents and slowdowns on RT 9, RT 7, and RT 15 south of Leesburg. As for the subdivisions it appears these folks are like those that move next to an airport and complain about the noise.

    • 2022-05-19 at 6:23 pm

      This BOS isn’t going to be satisfied until they satisfy their envy of Fairfax Counties congestion and over population.

  • 2022-05-17 at 9:13 am

    Make Rt 15 a gravel road. That will calm traffic and add to Loudoun’s “Rural Road” network. It would be great for tourism and biking.

  • 2022-05-17 at 1:20 pm

    Good to see Smith is for giving up his car…again… to solve the problem he claims of too many cars on the roads in Loudoun.

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