Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance is refuting claims that Clarke County officials did not know about a planned road improvement project in the town that could temporarily impact traffic in Clarke County.
“I am dismayed with the statements from Clarke County, as they are clear misrepresentations of the facts,” Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance said in a news release Friday night.
Hillsboro, in western Loudoun County, plans to temporarily close part of Route 9 (Charles Town Pike) for at least a year to make road improvements and add traffic calming measures. The resulting detours could add an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 more vehicles daily along Route 7 (Harry Byrd Highway) and U.S. 340 (Lord Fairfax Highway) north of Berryville in Clarke County. It also may add traffic to Va. 612 (Shepherds Mill Road).
Clarke County Administrator David Ash maintains county officials did not know about the Hillsboro project until last Tuesday night, when he received a phone call concerning a meeting about it the following day.
In Vance’s release, he said the meeting’s purpose was for emergency services personnel to provide feedback on issues pertaining to the project.
Nearby localities were notified, he said, when public hearings pertaining to the project’s design were held in 2012.
“This project has had wide exposure within and across VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) districts for years, as well as wide media exposure,” Vance said.
Following VDOT protocol, he said, meetings with the public about road projects also are held after construction contracts are signed.
Hillsboro is working with VDOT to analyze options that could reduce the project’s length from 31-36 months to 11 months, said Vance, adding that the town has a “robust public outreach plan to reach all entities in the tri-state area” — Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland — that will be implemented when VDOT finishes its analysis.
Hillsboro welcomed Clarke County officials, nevertheless, to sit in on the meeting with first responders, he said. The consensus among first responders was that the longer the project takes, “the greater the risk to public safety,” he said.
Under current project plans, Vance said, many people who begin their trips along Route 9 in West Virginia or Maryland are anticipated to use U.S. 340 to reach Route 7, but Hillsboro traffic is expected to use a route around the town.
During last week’s meeting, he said, a state trooper “indicated he will work with Clarke County and assign more troopers (to the county) as needed during the construction to address any public safety issues.”
“The project engineers are proposing a variety of traffic measures to guide motorists safely and to recalibrate signals as necessary to move traffic through this corridor safely,” he said. He did not elaborate on any specific measures, but he said they are expected to include “safe, clearly marked detours as well as signage that clearly marks ‘local travel only.’”
Vance disagreed with an assertion by Clarke County officials that Hillsboro could lessen the number of vehicles venturing onto other roads by keeping Route 9 open during construction and alternating lane closures. He said that is “dangerous to workers and motorists and increases risks exponentially.”
He also disagreed that Shepherds Mill Road would be affected by the detours.
Hillsboro officials “specifically stated at the meeting where Clarke County officials and law enforcement were present that Route 612 in Clarke County would never, under any plan, be part of any signed (designated) detour route,” Vance said. “We will work directly with the Clarke County sheriff to take measures to discourage non-local traffic on the route.”
Vance said he believes that as four-lane highways, Route 7 and U.S. 340 in Clarke have the capability “to accept a significant increase in motorist and truck travel.”
He mentioned that when improvements planned for U.S. 340 in 2021 are made, plans are for Route 9 to be a designated detour route.
“We live in a tri-state area, and all of our roads are part of a larger network,” Vance said. “Each of our communities can help relieve the congestion burden when we work together.”