Route 15 Congestion

The Route 15 bypass north of Leesburg sees daily traffic backups that frequently lead to 10-mile trips taking 30 minutes or more. 

Virginia's Route 15 North that connects to Maryland will be expanded to four lanes in the years ahead, at least on the commonwealth's side.

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at its business meeting Thursday to pass on two other concepts: one to retain the existing roadway, and the second, known as Concept A, geared at safety and capacity improvements without widening.

The approved proposal, Concept B, includes plans to widen the roadway to four lanes to Lucketts, build a bypass around Lucketts and add shoulders further north toward Maryland.

Broad Run Supervisor Ron Meyer (R) said his motion for Concept B came after nearly 700 accidents and five fatalities occurred on the roadway since 2012. The board voted 6-2-1 for the widening option with opposition from supervisors Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge). Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) was absent.

"This takes a tremendous step forward towards safety,” Meyer said. “We’ve had almost 700 accidents since 2012 on this corridor—700—numerous fatalities, including one as recently as a few weeks ago, and this board is taking the proper steps to make sure we are going to eradicate that once and for all; and I hope this sends a clear message to Maryland that we are reaching our hand out to work with them and shake hands, and start talking about what we are going to do to fix this corridor.”

Higgins, who represents the Route 15 area north of Leesburg, attempted to table the discussion after his motion for Concept A failed 2-7-1. His motion to table also failed 2-7-1.

Concerned about Concept B's impact to businesses and residents and the price tag, the Catoctin supervisor favored Concept A, which keeps the roadway at two lanes and puts in a median divide from Montresor Road to Saint Clair Lane.

There is an approximately $48 million difference between the concepts, according to county staff, which added that costs will be further refined as the project moves through design and more detailed features can be determined.

"I do not feel it is worth spending $48 million to knock out about 10 businesses in a stretch of road for two miles to get you some congestion relief in 2040 that may or may not be there," Higgins said.

Buffington, who favored Concept A, said, “I have to go with Concept A. It supports improving safety almost as much as Concept B, and it supports reducing traffic congestion in my opinion more than Concept B, and it’s a lot cheaper, and it also better supports our farmers and rural businesses.”

Route 15 is a four-lane, median-divided roadway in the Town of Leesburg that transitions to a two-lane roadway north of Battlefield Parkway and continues to the Maryland state line at the Point of Rocks bridge over the Potomac River.

Afternoon congestion on northbound Route 15 has been increasing for decades, according to county staff, and traffic routinely backs up beyond Battlefield Parkway for a mile or longer.

In recent years, both the Town of Leesburg and the Virginia Department of Transportation have studied the segment of Route 15 to determine the cause of congestion and identify potential solutions.

On Thursday night, speakers expressed their frustrations with the traffic congestion and options to address it.

State Del. Dave LaRock (R-33rd) endorsed Concept B, the plan that was approved. Others urged the board to table the discussion.

“One of the biggest concerns that I have is that if there is an emergency, a house that’s on fire, if there’s someone who has a medical emergency situation, places on the shoulders would barely be adequate to move emergency vehicles back and forth through this parking lot we call Route 15," LaRock said.

Catoctin Coalition Member Martha Polkey used a wine bottle to illustrate how four lanes merging onto a two-lane bridge would look. As she concluded her time criticizing the plan, she held up her bottle and said, “Think carefully before you buy it.”

Route 15 | Widening Wine Bottle

On July 18, the Route 15 Safety and Operational Plan was unveiled, proposing to widen the roadway from two lanes to four. A speaker showed what she thinks that will like with a wine bottle.

Dulles Supervisor Matthew Letourneau (R), who laid out budget scenarios, said focusing on the finances in the roadway study and operational report “will drive you crazy.” He suggested looking at staff’s recommendation from an operational and safety standpoint.

“It's sort of logical that when you have more road, you have a little more options and you know you have the volume to support that,” Letourneau said. “I do take very seriously here the comments from Loudoun County Fire and Rescue and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. I think those are the probably the most impactful because they need room and options to get to where they are trying to go.”

Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) added, “If I take into consideration the three things that matter the most to me, safety, my conscience and my constituency, and last congestion relief, if I take all those into consideration ... my vote tonight will be for Concept B.”

Concept B is estimated to cost $217 million compared to Concept A’s $168.8 million, according to the safety and operational study.

____

Concept A — Safety Focused Improvements

This option proposes to improve Route 15 to a two-lane, median divided roadway from Montresor Road to Saint Clair Lane. North of Saint Clair Lane, the road would be two-lanes undivided with the travel lanes and the shoulders improved to meet the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) current standards. A traffic signal would be installed at the Lovettsville Road intersection. This option proposes to realign the intersection of Newvalley Church Road to be located across from Spinks Ferry Road, with a roundabout provided for intersection control. A bypass around the Village of Lucketts is also proposed; the alignment and location of the bypass would be determined during the design phase of the project.

Concept B – Capacity and Safety Improvements

This option proposes to improve Route 15 to a four-lane, median divided roadway from Montresor Road to the southern portion of the Village of Lucketts. Between Lucketts and Saint Clair Lane, the road would be two lanes, median divided. North of Saint Clair Lane, the road would be two lanes undivided with the travel lanes and the shoulders improved to meet VDOT’s current standards. A traffic signal would be installed at the Lovettsville Road intersection. This option proposes to realign the intersection of Newvalley Church Road to be across from Spinks Ferry Road, with a roundabout provided for intersection control. A bypass around the Village of Lucketts is also proposed to be four-lanes to Stumptown Road and two lanes median divided north of Stumptown Road; the alignment and location of the bypass would be determined during the design phase of the project.

No Build

Retain the existing roadway without making any improvements.

(29) comments

Skyprince

A waste of time and money to even consider 4 lanes....it is just moving the choke point further north. Loudoun sold its soul to the devil years ago approving development all along Route 15. We have never had good leaders in the BOS. Pick any Western state, and you see that they don't approve development without taking into consideration if the roads will handle it. Here, an out of state developer waves a check and the BOS falls on the ground trying to help them. Maryland might be willing to build a bridge west of the American Legion Bridge where 495 crosses the Potomac, but never at Point of Rocks...just ask them! They forever say thanks but no thanks and since they own the Potomac to the VA shoreliine, it makes NO sense to bring 4 lanes to the bridge and then have it funnel to two lanes again! On my home today I looked at either side of Route 15 north of Leesburg imagining the destruction it would create. The antiques stores in Lucketts would go,the trailer park probably, part of Roots too. Before you start digging in the ground just look at the destruction 4 lanes would create...and it would only really help Marylanders. They are already laughing at this plan knowing that it is a waste of time. One of the big chokepoints is the merge of Business 15 to Route 15. IF you could at least fix that, it would help in the short run. As it is now, people let people in from Business 15 which slows down main US 15. That would not be too difficult to fix by adding a better merge lane.

Penguin

Most commenters fail to realize that good chunk of those commuters are Lucketts, Lovettsville, Waterford, and to some extent Purcellville residents trying to get home as well.

marv

I have driven on Rt. 15 since 1953. Until and unless the bridge size is doubled and Maryland increases 15 North, any size increase North of Luckets will be as worthless as a fanny burp in a windstorm.

TomPaine

A wider road is safer and should be done regardless of the traffic flow improvements. There is no run off area for people not paying attention and we all know that is an epidemic. Let's make the road safer with four lanes and wider berms and then work with MD to get a new bridge whenever that can happen. I'll be MD commuters would raise a stink if VA was four lanes and MD wasn't.

More Cowbell

Main issue with Route 15 is BOS allowed way too much development without providing turning lanes on this death road. Widen isn't going to help much since bridge and MD side is 2 lanes. Put in roundabouts, remove lights. Widen the road and install turning lanes. Simple fix. Hard to believe they voted themselves $60K raise and can't figure out simple issues.

debbbie

I agree with the majority of the BOS on Option B. However, where and how is Wexton helping us with the worst road in terms of safety and efficiency in Loudoun County? Dear elected officials- Please get these four lanes done ASAP. Higgins- get out of the way and stop obstructing our safety and quality of life.

LoudounPulse

Why are we spending money so Marylanders have an easier time commuting? If traffic on RT.15 is a problem, maybe those folks in Maryland should leave and bring their paychecks too Virginia. Else put a toll booth at the RT.15 bridge to collect fees to recoup the money our tax dollars will be spending on this road improvement.

amerigirl

People who live in Virginia use it too.

MarcStinebaugh

For someone dying to see a solution, this seems like a wasteful way to go about it. This is simple, the traffic lights cause the problems. Everyone can see this in action. Bypass Lucketts, yes, there's no better solution. At Whites Ferry Rd, put a free flowing intersection, even a large roundabout would suffice, for now. Shoulders everywhere that is reasonable. This could be fixed quickly and much less costly. This isn't that complex. Maryland needs to step up, also. We need a bridge where White's Ferry is, or from Countryside West of Algonkian. I've already determined the best location. We all need to band together on this. Our representatives are not doing this correctly in either state.

TomPaine

Maryland owns the river and doesn't want a crossing. Best case scenario that might be politically possible would be another bridge at Point of Rocks to make four lanes over the river. But VA should still do four lanes for safety reasons alone regardless of what MD does.

TomPaine

Anything to improve flow is appreciated. A traffic circle at Lovettsville road would be better than a light though. I hope this project gets the highest priority. Route 15 is a serial killer of a road.

BobOhneiserEsq

Was this a vote for action or pre-election politics? If safety is an identified issue then why isn't VDOT (responsible for the interstate highway) fixing such safety issues NOW? Why isn't VDOT fixing the road NOW under its own operating budget instead of Loudoun taxpayer dollars? Why hasn't the Feds or Maryland been brought into the plan for long term resolution? When does it become obvious we need new board management? How about Nov 5th? Ohneiser - independent candidate for Chair of the BOS

Qwertyuiop

How about having a “Plan C” (aka widen to 4 lanes all of the way to the Potomac)?

ChucklesTheClown

And also why not replace the bridge with a 4-lane one?

Mencken's View

It's on the side of a mountain with a railway tunnel. Prohibitively expensive.

countyresident

ellisaana- Maryland's population has expanded exponentially too. That road is a cut through for Marylanders to head to the metro-DC area. Of course, Virginians use it. But it is already scenic and notably less stressed outside of rush hours. And the rush hours are to/from Maryland. We already have big roads for commuters, they are called "highways".

countyresident

Why? Why should Virginia do that when it's all the people from Maryland coming through there? Make it a toll road somehow, at least the payments could offset some of the cost if this silly plan moves forward.

ellisaana

Not everyone who drives on 15 is from Maryland. I am a native Virginian and have lived in Loudoun county since the 1970s. Rt 15 was built in 1926, it was, and still is, a National US highway from New York to South Carolina. It is also my preferred way north to visit friends and family who have moved to Maryland, or live in Pennsylvania and New York. Several years before I retired, my company consolidated offices and move their Northern VA operation to Hunt Valley Maryland. I used Rt 15 to commute to weekly meetings north of Baltimore. Keep it scenic, yes, but upgrade it for safety, and ease of travel. (sections of Rt 11 in the Shenandoah Valley are a great example of that.) The fact is - Loudoun's population has expanded exponentially since the road was last improved. Leaving Rt 15 as a circa 1940's death trap is not going to keep people from driving on it.

rcfx1

If those two options aren't acceptable, what is another one? Ms. Winebottle? How about you?

Skyprince

Just when you think the current BOS can get no dumber, comes this plan! Sure there is a problem with traffic on Route 15 north, but 4-laning it for a few miles until it merges back into a two lane road to feed the 2 lane bridge at Point of Rocks, make no common sense at all. Maryland has no interest in building a new bridge at Point of Rocks...ask them, they are not that interested in building a bridge where Route 28 would cross the Potomac either. I happen to know people in the Hogan's office and they have no appetite for either bridge. They laugh at Loudoun's poor land management and do not want Montgomery or Frederick County to emulate Loudoun's mess. And why should they? This is a colossal waste of 300 million dollars that only feeds the needs and wants of developers who want to build more houses north of Leesburg. We have a tremendous opportunity this fall to remove Higgins from office. I don't know him, but from the things I read about what he says, he is not the person who should be representing this part of the county. Send Him Home!!

whatorfordican

Supervisor Higgins was against the widening. He’s also not even running for BOS so what are you even talking about? Vote for the Dem candidate if you want MORE development like this. Just like the Catoctin Coalition, you seem to advocate for smart preservation but perhaps you are blinded by the realities of local party politics. Pro Tip: read the article before commenting.

Mencken's View

Higgins is for the widening; he's just being sneaky. And he's running to replace Dick Black in the Senate. The Dem in the Catoctin race, Forest Hayes, is pushing development around Metro, not in the rural area. But the Republican candidate, a former Patrick Henry College defense lawyer (who attends the same church as Higgins and LaRock), claims to be a farmer (instead of a lawyer who bought a farm), and describes his plan for Western Loudoun thus: "country living with convenience." Hardly sounds like a plan for retaining farmland. Then there's Sam Kroiz, the independent who actually is a farmer. Three-way ticket.

Concerned

I agree with your comment about Higgins. He is a developer shill on a leash lead around by Minchew. He pretends he cares about preservation yet he gave Loudoun Mutual $42,000 of our ToT funds so they can re-zone their property in Waterford commercial, with Minchew as their lawyer. Imagine how much more they can sell the property for after the fact, when they leave? He also was instrumental in rezoning the land for the mega gas station at the Point of Rocks bridge, another Minchew client. And has done nothing but provided lip service for the Hamilton "dump" fiasco.

applicant45554

What's going on with the route 28 crossing. That would seem more efficient than widening this road.

marv

Maryland will have no part of it.

ellisaana

If, by that you mean the bridge - it and the entire river, belong to the state of Maryland.

ellisaana

Sorry, I mis-typed that. The Potomac river including the south bank up to the high water mark belong to the state of Maryland. Virginia can't build a bridge across it. Maryland does not want traffic from Virginia spilling into wealthy Montgomery County. They have designated much of the north bank of their river as a wildlife preserve.

Concerned

There are other supposed public rights-of-way already in place already that are over the river such as Edwards Ferry. Rte 15 was designated as a National Heritage Area, but so what. The designations are meaningless when the government wants something.

WesternSky

Loudoun's road planning strategy. Wait until 10 after the improvement is needed, then take credit for doing the obvious. Now do the same to Evergreen Mills and 15 South.

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