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.”
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.
Retain the existing roadway without making any improvements.