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Residents, Loudoun County officials continue to seek solutions for Route 15 congestion

Twenty-years ago Marc Halley moved from the rapidly developing Ashburn area to the Saddlebrook community off Route 15 north of Leesburg.

Two decades ago, Halley recalls it used to take him about 45 minutes to commute into work in Tysons Corner, but in the last two years – up until he retired one month ago – he said his commute just about doubled and sometimes nearly tripled.

“I think [traffic on Route 15] is the single biggest issue in the northeastern part of Loudoun County,” Halley said. “I think there’s just so many people that have to deal with Route 15. It’s the single biggest thing that makes everybody miserable.”

Halley is not the only one who laments about Route 15 congestion. In the last month at least 250 citizens have attended three public input meetings on the issue organized by county staff, Catoctin Supervisor Geary Higgins (R) and Leesburg Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D). The county has also received about 500 comments from county residents on the traffic nightmare.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, an average of 24,000 daily trips take place on Route 15 between North King Street and Lucketts Road.

The county says afternoon congestion on northbound Route 15 has increased in recent years, causing traffic to constantly back up starting near Whites Ferry Road all the way past Battlefield Parkway.

For the last several years, the county and VDOT have been studying the corridor to find the cause of the congestion and work out solutions.

But some residents say those efforts have been slow.

In May Higgins recommended the Board of Supervisors expand the scope of the study.

The board signed off on Higgins’ recommendation, and the effort led to the three public input meetings in June and July, as well as the creation of a stakeholders committee to look into the major issues on Route 15.

“In the past there hasn’t been a critical mass of interest or a way for people to get involved,” Higgins said. “But I think now there is definitely a critical mass to actually get something done on Route 15.”

Umstattd, who has many constituents that deal with the Route 15 mess, said she agrees that something needs to be done.

Right now all options are on the table. Formal plans on how to relieve congestion in the corridor have yet to be finalized, but the county has mostly floated two recommendations by consultant group Kimley-Horn.

Both recommendations propose widening Route 15 to four lanes between Battlefield Parkway and just north of Whites Ferry Road to about 2,000 feet north of the intersection. The recommendations also suggest intersection improvements at King Street with a traffic signal and realigning the road to make it more of a traditional T intersection.

The recommendations differ in that one suggests a traffic signal at Whites Ferry Road and the other a two-lane roundabout.

Kimley-Horn estimates the two recommendations could cost anywhere from $31 million to $43 million.

Following the public input sessions, Higgins said he wants to figure out the most “efficient options” and aesthetically pleasing options and then let the public decide exactly what it wants.

Supervisor Umstattd said she supports four-laning Route 15 to Whites Ferry Road, adding a roundabout there instead of a traffic signal and adding shoulder lanes on both sides of the road to address safety issues on the route.

Kimley-Horn staff say they think the best way to relieve congestion is to widen Route 15 to four lanes by about 2,000 feet north of the Whites Ferry Road-Raspberry Drive intersection, which they think will provide congestion relief through about 2030.

Halley said he is still unsure which option he prefers. He doesn’t know how the roundabout would fit into the area, and he wonders at what cost the road widening would have on the community.

“If [the widening] were to relieve congestion, isn’t it at the price of all those people there?” Halley said.

Supervisor Higgins said he wants to get some concrete options nailed down from the latest public input process so that the county can start looking for a funding plan by fall.

Higgins anticipates it will take about three years to start construction on the project. He thinks funding is likely to be the biggest obstacle.

“I think the biggest challenge is, once we arrive at some solutions is getting some funding and getting the project rolling,” Higgins said. “But I’m optimistic we’re going to stay on a timeline that I’m trying to work with.”


Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @sydneykashiwagi.

Comments


I thought Higgins couldn’t get enough of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground program that made a lot of people rich.  Now he wants to invade the honorary designation for which group of his constituents?


Time has come to widen the road.  People have had their heads buried in the sand for a long time.  The road is not only bad during rush hours, yes it is at it’s very worst during that period, but it’s a pain on the weekends, in the middle of the day, and really even opposite rush hour.  Let’s get our head out of the sand and do what’s right.  Like someone else has mentioned the road has been improved in many locations, but our section, both north and south of Leesburg, is long overdue for some upgrades.


Simple solution & also revenue producing - Toll Booths.


Yeah, we’ll see. I’ve been in Loudoun for 27+ years. VDOT has always been AWOL in Loudoun county. Neglecting to put up lights at very busy 4 way intersections. Heck their own statement shows how slow they work, been studying for several years why route 15 gets congested…..DUH!


Won’t take 20 years.  The support for new lanes on 15 is overwhelming and the Supes will act this fall.  Higgins is getting it done!


It will take VDOT another 20 years to study. Good luck getting anything done by them.


Stumy-

The light that you mentioned causes problems but are you saying the traffic flows without delay on the 15 freeway north in the PM after the white ferry traffic signal?

Based on my observations…NO. One a couple Friday’s afternoons I have came from MD taking the 15 freeway south and observed the north lanes are pretty much solid traffic from super Target ALL THE WAY to at least the traffic light in Luckets, and sometimes as far as the point of rocks bridge. That has to be at least 10 miles


Buffacuse, you are correct that everyone who moved here (no matter when) contributes to traffic, schoolchildren, etc.

But the localities had a huge hand in the problems too:  restrictive land use contributed to leapfrog growth and the lack of affordability that accelerates it, and attrition-based “planning” by the same advocates of no-growth helped make the roads what they aren’t today, on the conviction that roads cause growth much as medievalists thought meat bred flies.

The fed does contribute to the problem, but in a very personal way:  upper level government workers and media mavens have for years lived here in the country and commuted to their power jobs in the city, and nothing can be allowed to change for them in their private county (no matter when they moved in either).

I can think of one set of folks instrumental for years on the 15 north corridor, a retired newsperson and their spouse, a former govt. contractor, who lobbied passionately (and still do) for no growth, and lobbied equally passionately (and still do) for reduced safety on 15, going so far as to comment in previous years that people would learn to drive less if the road remained as is.

Yes, those people who die on it?  Should have just driven somewhere else.

(and then we can use more tax money to support and promote my hobby farm—same folks have been receiving county support from the time they had only 5 pet sheep, and would come into public hearings in their farm outfits to cry that their way of life—as a DC power couple with the best of all worlds—was in “danger”.  Now they have a full flock, at least.)

They are just a couple of the many with the same philosophy that removes bypass possibilities from road plans near towns (see rte 9, and see the removal of the WTC years ago to prevent an additional bridge crossing), attempts to sue West VA for improving roads on their side of the border (see PEC and the new Shenandoah bridge they tried to prevent being built), and has adherents who can say with a straight face “these towns were here before the roads were!”

Um, no, the towns are there because there’s been a road there for a long time.  (to which I once received the reply “I meant before the roads were paved” in a sulky voice.  We already have the most miles of unpaved roads in the state, and at the time I heard that comment, the BoS was trying to legalize carriages on all roads in Loudoun, so we could be “just like the Amish!”, according to one elected official.  Seriously)

Route 15 goes through many states, and is improved everywhere but here.  I’m sorrier for the folks who need to use it to try to move about, than the folks who regard it as their private driveway.

Harsh, I know.

So are some of the accidents up there, on that public road.


Make it a toll road from Leesburg to the MD line.

voila.


Kimley-Horn staff say they think the best way to relieve congestion is to widen Route 15 to four lanes by about 2,000 feet north of the Whites Ferry Road-Raspberry Drive intersection, which they think will provide congestion relief through about 2030, how pray tell will this help because then your going to have 4 lanes dump into 2 lanes and the people traveling past Raspberry will now be affected by the congestion yet again.  I have lived in Lucketts for 25 yrs and I can assure you that the problem with congestion started when the light went up at Raspberry.  Do something with that light, dont allow people to make left turns allow this traffic to flow freely.  A roundabout may help with this like it did on 15 down by Aldie. 


Buffalo-

The commuters from WVA and Gettysburg as you mentioned commute to the jobs in DC most likely b/c the homes are semi affordable although not super cheap either. The cost of homes is out of control even in Loudoun county. 400K puts you in an average TH, and 600K puts you in an average SFH. The mortgage on the latter is almost $3,000 a month counting the crazy high real estate taxes.

The solutions to fix the 15 freeway to widen between whites ferry and battlefield won’t do anything. If widenened the 15 freeway needs to be 4 lanes total all the way up to the bridge in MD. They overbuilt homes along that corridor which are not affordable at all. I don’t commute the 15 freeway daily, but I can see afternoons being miserable probably take at least 30 mins to get from Super Target to the Point of Rocks Bridge.


Always interesting to see who actually does their job, and who posed at it for four years.  Ken Reid wasted four years on the Board of Supervisors, doing nothing about Route 15 North. Then, Supervisor Umstattd is elected, and guess what?  Things are now getting done.  Ken Reid should be ashamed of himself.


Just curious if it’s dawned on Mr. Halley that he’s every bit as responsible for the congestion there as anyone else—and that the fact he moved there 20 years ago compared to someone who moved there last week is irrelevant…a car is a car, regardless of when it’s owner moved there.

Nevertheless, the route 15 commute is very much like the route 9 commute…it has become a nightmare because people working in DC for the feds from Maryland and PA for 15, and West Virginia for route 9, sought the cheaper housing in PA and WVA.  I am stunned at the number of Gettysburg commuters I’ve seen on 15 and who I know work in DC and the number of people willing to live in WVA doing the same.  These roads were not built with this purpose in mind—hence the problem.

Whatever ultimate solution is arrived at—funding should come from the federal government—not state and county coffers.  I’d like to see Comstock and company make an effort to address this in real, not lofty rhetorical terms.  In no way should Loudoun foot the bill for this—we didn’t create the mess.  This is not, for a change, a developers-out-of-control issue.  This is a result of the growth in the federal government producing more jobs, more commuters, and turning roads into commuting arteries which were never intended for that purpose.

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