Yes VIRGINIA, There ARE Plans to expand Route 15 In Maryland!

One of the pages out of the playbook that the “special interest no growthers” often turn to is repeatedly stating at public hearings, public assemblies and even writing such dribble in local newspapers’ letters to the editor, is that  “Maryland has no intention of doing anything on their side of the Point of Rocks Bridge to widen Route 15!”  Well, once again thanks to the tireless efforts of our research team, they have uncovered a 2018 Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) planning document titled “The Highway Needs Inventory (HNI)” that totally dispels one of the most oft repeated false narratives employed by these “special interest no growth” groups.

The MDOT HNI report lists out 18 distinct road projects in Frederick County, Maryland.  Of the 18 projects, 11 are top priority AND four of these top priority projects are for expanding Route 15!

We at Fix Route 15 Now strive to bring out the facts and information for residents to consider when seeking answers to their questions about Route 15 North of the Town of Leesburg up to the Maryland state line. There is so much false and misleading information being spread by the “special interest no growth” organizations and elected officials it is often a challenge for residents to separate fact from the false narratives. Fix Route 15 Now has always based our positions on the facts and linked to the source documents backing up those positions. 

The MDOT HNI planning document pierces the veil of false and misleading information trumpeted by these groups that Maryland has no plans to fix Route 15!  In fact, they are already planning on spending nearly $400 million to do so from the Point of Rocks Bridge (i.e. Potomac River up to Route 340)!

The MDOT HNI is updated every 2 years by the Regional and Intermodal Planning Division, Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering, within the Maryland Department of Transportation.  Please see the full Frederick County Maryland HNI report at https://www.roads.maryland.gov/oppen/hni_Fr.pdf

Below is a table that summarizes the four Route 15 projects that are contained in the above referenced HNI report.  The table contains the specific HNI report page #s and map reference #s; the route names and area limits, length, improvement type and estimated costs.

 Map Pg # Map Ref # Route – Route Name Limits Length (miles) Improvement Type Cost ($Mil.)
  8    15 US 15 – Catoctin Mountain Highway Potomac River to US 340  7.2 Freeway reconstruct (includes interchanges and access control improvements) $368M
 8    1 MD 26 – Liberty Road US 15 – (Catoctin Mount. Hwy) to MD 194 (Woodsboro Pike)  2.1 Multi-lane reconstruct, including a grade separation at Monocacy Blvd. $136M
  6    5 US 15 – Jefferson National Pike US 340 West Split to I-70  4.1 Freeway reconstruct with interchanges  $64M
  6    6 US 15 – Frederick Freeway US  to North of Biggs Ford Rd.40  6.4 Freeway reconstruct with interchanges $792M

Just like the “special interest no growthers” have falsely stated that Maryland owned the Point of Rocks Bridge, which a concerned citizen debunked by presenting documentation that the bridge is jointly owned by Virginia and Maryland, the MDOT HNI report fully debunks the “special interest no growthers” false claim that “Maryland has no intention of doing anything on their side of the Point of Rocks Bridge to widen Route 15”! For further reference, regarding the POR bridge being jointly owned by Virginia and Maryland, please see the link below from our earlier post about the bridge.

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Does Supervisor Higgins Support Staff Recommendations and the Will of his Constituents?

Up for discussion and vote at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting are the concepts for Route 15 north of Montresor Road to the state line. You can find all of the information regarding these concepts in our Tuesday post but the main takeaway is that VDOT and county staff recommend “Concept B” as it provides the most safety and capacity improvements even as Supervisor Higgins purposely limited the amount of road that could be widened. A tipster sent us the latest newsletter from one of the no-growth groups which claims that at a recent community event, Higgins stated he will support Concept A.

These developments beg the questions:

  • Is Supervisor Higgins aligned with staff recommendations for Concept B?
  • What is so attractive about Concept A to Higgins?
  • Are there any pending campaign contributions hanging over his head based on today’s vote? (NOTE: Higgins is currently running for VA State Senate)
  • Why would Higgins purposely go against public opinion which overwhelmingly supports widening? (See executive summary here: https://www.loudoun.gov/DocumentCenter/View/153196/Route-15-Report-Executive-Summary-Report-April-2019, 72% surveyed want Route 15 widened north of Montresor Road. Also note the inconsistent response options that combine the bypass preference)

What should you do?

Call and email Supervisor Higgins’ office and tell him and his staff to support Concept B!

Call and email all of the other Supervisors and tell them to support Concept B!

Contact information located at: https://www.loudoun.gov/86/Board-of-Supervisors bos@loudoun.gov

Tell these elected officials to stand up for what the majority of citizens want and to FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!

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Why are these groups still allowed to influence decisions about needed infrastructure?

On August 1, 2017 Supervisor Geary Higgins championed the
creation of the Route 15 Stakeholders Committee, which was supposedly intended
to bring about true, meaningful improvements to the road between Leesburg and
Point of Rocks. Included in this committee of concerned residents were
representatives of several of the organizations we have highlighted in the past
– the Catoctin Coalition, Journey Through Hallowed Ground, and Lucketts
Ruritans among others. They all signed the below document promising to advocate
for project success and provide feedback from the organization and people they
represent.

http://fixroute15now.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Stakeholder-charter.pdf

As this stakeholder committee met and various public surveys
and traffic studies were done, two things became very obvious – widening the
road was the only way to handle the traffic volume currently on the road and
80% of the public was in favor of this widening. This is not what these representatives
have in mind for us so they decided to actively work against the committee and
in some cases attack it and Supervisor Higgins for what amounts to their own
failure to communicate to the people they supposedly represent.

Their response to being part of a tiny minority of people
wanting the road to stay the same as it is today was to form the Catoctin Route
15 Alliance in the Spring of 2018. Among other goals, the purpose of this new
organization was to prevent, “if necessary through legal action” any attempt to
4-lane any portion of the current Route 15 corridor. They were also so proud of
their work that they made all their members sign non-disclosure agreements
promising to not even disclose their objectives, membership, or operational
conduct. You can read their charter and list of members here:

http://fixroute15now.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Catoctin-Route-15-Alliance-NDAs.pdf

Fast forward to today. This group as well as its partner
organizations are still being allowed to influence county decision making by
submitting irrelevant and non-functional “suggestions” for Route 15
improvements. Two of these proposals are included in the package to be
evaluated during the July 18 Board meeting. No other outside organizations are
offered this luxury. Why? Why does Supervisor Higgins continue to waste the
time of the Board and the lives of the local citizens by delaying real
improvements in order to placate this small group of people who have already
stated their intentions to prevent any improvements?

Are you tired of your daily life being held hostage by this
small group of people? Are you tired of the needless death and destruction
caused by an unsafe road that is 300% over capacity? If so, please attend the
Board meeting on the 18th and let YOUR elected representatives know
that you’re fed up with what is going on. Support REAL improvements to Route 15
and

FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!

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Route 15 Safety and Operations Study to be Presented 7/18/19

On July 18th, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors will review the topic of the Route 15 Safety and Operations Study between Montresor Road and the Maryland State Line. The subject is item number 6 on the agenda. Previously, we have released the study from the consultant, Kimley Horn and we know that the obvious choice is to move forward with Concept B. However, the no-growth special interest groups have also been working behind the scenes, continuing to push their ideas of “traffic calming” and trying to scare residents about potential outcomes of VDOT/Loudoun Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure proposals.

About the Proposals

 

A map view of Concept A and B can be found here: https://www.loudoun.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/8197

Concept A does not offer any widening north of Montresor Road but includes a Lucketts bypass. Some of the two lane road will include a median and proper shoulders but these features do not extend all the way to the state line.

Concept B continues the widening started in Phase 1 all the way to Stumptown Road including a Lucketts bypass. Some portions of the two lane road north of Lucketts will include a median and proper shoulders but these features do not extend all the way to the state line.

It’s obvious that when presented these two options that Concept B makes the most sense. The issue is that Supervisor Geary Higgins purposely instructed the consultants not to offer widening north of Lucketts and has openly said he “does not want to widen any more than necessary”. There was also a “no build” option which leaves the road “as is” but obviously does not solve any problem.

More No-growth “Alternatives”

 

Also included in the study results that will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on July 18th is traffic calming “alternatives” proposed by the usual no-growth groups that are mostly responsible for the roadway existing as it does today. Why does Supervisor Geary Higgins continue to let these groups waste county and state official’s time with proposals that don’t come from Professional Civil Engineers, have no data to prove they will work, and are not supported by the area? Why did Higgins also limit the scope of the study to widen Route 15 up to Lucketts, but not beyond? The common response is that the bridge is 2 lanes so it doesn’t make sense. We have already debunked this response by pointing out that Virginians live all the way up to the state line and want safety and efficiency just as much as those to the South of Lucketts. Higgins is really just pandering to a minority so that he can play both sides and knows that Concept B is flawed. If those who live and commute through the area are going to be subjected to years of inconvenience during road construction, the outcome should be a corridor wide solution that alleviates traffic and improves safety north of Lucketts.

Please join us in demanding all of our elected and non-elected officials stop pandering to groups that are only interested in the status quo and are doing everything to block improvements to Route 15. Tell them to gather the courage to deliver on a real solution that will benefit everyone living in Virginia. Finally, question those running for Catoctin Supervisor on the details of the Route 15 road improvements they support.

What do you think? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Fix Route 15 Now!

Meeting agenda:
https://lfportal.loudoun.gov/…/07-18-19%20Business%20Meetin…
Route 15 Topic #6: https://lfportal.loudoun.gov/…/Item%2006%20Route%2015%20Saf…

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Guerrilla Warfare!

What do the people involved with Friends of Route 15 and its successor organizations have in mind
for those opposed to their radical agenda?

As we discussed in the last post, the no-growth special
interest groups have played a major role in local politics for decades and have
used that influence to prevent all meaningful improvements to the road. We’ll
write more on the current political landscape in future segments, but today we
want to finish with Friends of Route 15
by publishing the minutes of their meeting and calling out what they have in
store for anyone opposed to their agenda. Keep in mind that some of these
people are still active in the PEC, JTHG, the Lucketts Ruritans, the Catoctin
Coalition, the Catoctin Route 15 Alliance, and other groups with similar
missions.

Now let’s see what the juiciest takeaways from this meeting were. Here is a link to the meeting minutes document: http://fixroute15now.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/FOR-15-1986-Guerilla-Warfare.pdf

At the bottom of page 1 and top of page 2, Chairman Henry
Brown lays out six principle activities to be undertaken. Activity 6 is the
aforementioned historical designation. Activates 1, 3, and 4 are pretty
innocuous. However, activities 2 and 5 show the level of desperation and
lengths these people are willing to go to in order to achieve their goals.

#2 – “Submit ideas
for guerilla warfare against those interested in improving Route 15”

#5 – “Seek a
lawyer/lobbyist to act as guerilla warfare “Boss”

These statements mostly speak for themselves, but does this
sound like a community outreach group to you or does it seem like the behavior
of wannabe mafiosos willing to do just about anything in order to get their
way? Should disagreement over infrastructure policy involve hiring lawyers to
go after your opponents, their livelihoods, or their families? In a sick sort
of way, we guess this group was ahead of its time as this is similar to the
behavior we see from social media mobs today.

On a related note, we have noticed the comments on our page
attacking us for remaining anonymous. Now everyone knows why we are sticking
with that decision. Are these the people you want representing you when it
comes to Route 15? Should these groups be consulted by government officials
about how to improve the road when they have made it known that they are
against all meaningful improvements?

Contact your elected representatives and tell them to stand
up to these people and

FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!

Next up we will discuss how some members of the Route 15
Stakeholders Committee violated their oath and acted to subvert the outcome
through non-disclosure agreements and the formation of the shadow group Catoctin Route 15 Alliance.

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Shadow Groups Part 1

The concerned citizens here at Fix Route 15 Now have been holding some special documents in our back pocket, waiting for the right time to unveil them. In advance of the next BOS meeting, where once again improvements to Route 15 will be on the docket, it’s time to let the wider community see who is behind blocking said improvements and what these people really stand for, in their own words. Welcome to our multi-part series on the incestuous and radical relationships between various special interest groups, their members, and local government officials.

First, a little history. For more than 30 years, various special interest groups, usually consisting of the same small group of people and their spouses and/or relatives, have been formed specifically to block improvements to Route 15. We talked about a few of them in previous posts:

However, we specifically left two of them out in anticipation of publishing this article at a later date. The first, ironically named Friends of Route 15, was the original no-growther group working against Route 15 improvements and was founded back in the mid-1980’s. This group’s members, many of whom are still alive and speaking out against improvements as part of the various other current groups mentioned above, held a meeting on June 25, 1986 and kept some very interesting minutes which we would now like to share with the community. The full document will be published with our next bombshell installment, but for your reading pleasure, here is a taste of what is in this juicy file.

How did the Route 15 corridor nearly become a Historical District against the will of local residents?

Friends of Route 15 was the first group to push for this bogus historical designation. They did this specifically to block any future improvements to the road. Ironically, in such a “historic” area, they limited their initial idea to the road itself and everything within 500 feet of it. We guess the history of the area must have all occurred within 500 feet of the current road. What an amazing coincidence. Out of this meeting, Mr. Powell Harrison was tasked with beginning the push for the historical designation. Mr. Harrison also happens to be the founder of the Piedmont Environmental Council. Once again, as we’ve shown in past posts, these groups are all interconnected in both membership and mission.

Fast forward two years. On December 29, 1988 a story written by Mr. Steve Bates appeared in the local paper entitled “Proposal for Historic District meets resistance in Loudoun”.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1988/12/29/proposal-for-historic-district-meets-resistance-in-loudoun/dcd1e49f-dcd0-4a50-8761-57b031580eb3/

The gist of the story is that the Friends of Route 15 group, against the will of most local landowners, pushed for this historic overlay designation behind the scenes and in secret. Only when it was about to be approved did local residents figure out what was happening and succeeded in achieving a last-minute block of the decision. Now, you may be asking yourself – how did such a proposal get past local government representatives without so much as a whimper of outreach until it was nearly too late? Well, it just so happens that the chairman of Friends of Route 15 was Mr. Henry Brown. Mr. Brown was married to former Catoctin District Representative Betsey Brown(D). Ms. Brown is quoted in the article as saying “there has been no request for the board to consider”. Now, this is definitely a politician’s response since she must have known that the organization she was a member of and that her husband was chairman of was working behind the scenes to do that very thing.

After this defeat the group shifted it’s focus to the much easier obtained “National Scenic Byway” designation and then later pushed for the “Limestone Overlay District” which together in the end achieved the similar result of blocking improvements. In addition, this group and its successors are also behind the “2-lane rural road” designation which further impedes safety improvements like widening and adding wide paved shoulders.

Keep an eye out for our next segment when we show what this group had planned for anyone who dared to speak out in favor of improvements to Route 15. Hint – It isn’t pretty.

FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!

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Dereliction of Duty – Supervisor Higgins sits on the Route 15 Safety and Operations Study (April 2019)

Geary Higgins has intentionally “sat on” the Route 15 Safety and Operations Study since it was finalized back in April.  He directed the Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure to NOT release the report until July 18th Board Meeting – which is coincidentally timed for AFTER the state senate primary on June 11th.


Supervisor Higgins is comfortable with “blood on his hands” by not releasing this report ASAP so that the Board of Supervisors could have taken decisive action to FIX Route 15 Now!
What are your thoughts (as you sit in Route 15 traffic this Memorial Day weekend)?  Does Geary Higgins deserve your vote in the June 11th state senate primary?

*** The Route 15 Safety and Operations Study was provided to Fix Route 15 Now via a FOIA request by a concerned citizen. Here is the report dated April 12, 2019.

http://fixroute15now.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Route15SOS_Report_041219.pdf

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Who Owns The Point of Rocks Bridge?

Supervisor Higgins has swallowed the bait – hook, line and sinker!
And the good supervisor washed it all down with the “Special Interest No Growther” Kool-Aid! Higgins believes that the Point of Rocks Bridge is owned by Maryland BECAUSE the “Special Interest No Growthers” have pedaled this false narrative so long that everyone just believed it to be the truth! But alas, once the average citizen takes a closer look at their deceitful story (and also the length of their noses), it becomes apparent that they have LIED YET AGAIN!

The Point of Rocks Bridge is jointly owned by Maryland and Virginia! Just take a look at the joint agreement signed July 22, 1929 that is in a separate post.

So that means that both the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia can seek federal highway funds to improve Route 15 AND the Point of Rocks Bridge. It is a shame that Supervisor Higgins did not do his homework to validate the many false narratives put forward by the “Special Interest No Growthers”.

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Higgins Has Abandoned Lucketts!

Word has leaked out about the Route 15 Safety and Operations Study. The conclusion is that there will not be any widening of Route 15 north of Montresor Road up to the Point of Rocks Bridge. This is over the objections of more than 80% of the survey respondents who stated 4-lane widening with shoulders plus a center-line median strip to prevent head-on collisions was their top priority and choice.

Right before Supervisor Geary Higgins cancelled the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee, and at it’s last meeting on October 22, 2018, a question was asked of Higgins by one of the stakeholder representatives: “at what point does safety take priority? We all like our rural land and development opportunities, but at what level is safety prioritized?”

Higgins response was, “safety is the top priority, followed by congestion mitigation. The county is also trying to apply both safety and congestion relief in a context sensitive manner. They may not be in direct conflict but need to be coordinated.”

Knowingly allowing the special interest “no growthers” to meet with County staff with their plan and design to plant over 600 plant trees, which are intended to block the Route 15 widening, shoulders and medians between Montresor Road up to the Point of Rocks Bridge is unconscionable and feckless leadership!

Supervisor Geary M. Higgins should resign immediately for malfeasance and so should any other supervisor who knowingly allowed this tree planting plan and design to quietly go forward and be approved by the County staff!

Fix Route 15 Now!

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Playing Politics With Our Lives is NOT Leadership its Reprehensible!

Why has Supervisor Geary Higgins forsaken us by playing politics with our lives? 

Answer – Geary Higgins is all about politics and not constituent services.

Why will it take 10 years to widen Route 15 to Montresor Road?

Answer – Geary Higgins has gone on record stating that he “does not want to widen Route 15 any more than he has to.”

Why is there no project plan?

Answer – Geary Higgins has no experience managing (let alone advocating) capital projects for his district, unlike other supervisors.

Why is Supervisor Higgins sitting on the Safety and Operations Study north of Montresor Road?

Answer – Geary Higgins never cared about the safety of Lucketts residents (or anyone else in the northern corridor) and does not want to see anything improved beyond Montresor Road which won’t happen for 10 years!

Here are the facts:

  • Supervisor Higgins CANCELLED the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee last October BEFORE the final Route 15 Safety and Operations Study was completed.
  • Supervisor Higgins FAILED to show up for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) public hearing on May 10, 2018 to ask for funding safety improvements along Route 15.  NVTA DID award Loudoun County $54M which IS at RISK because there is still NO project plan after almost a year of funding just sitting there un-used!
  • Supervisor Higgins FAILED to show up for the VDOT SmartScale public hearing on November 28, 2018 to support the $110M for funding requested for safety improvements along Route 15.  VDOT ultimately denied Loudoun this funding which NOW means Loudoun residents will have to fund the improvements north of Montresor Road up to Point of Rocks Bridge with COUNTY funds and NOT Virginia State funds.
  • Supervisor Higgins FAILED to push staff for a project plan even though the full funding of $79M to widen Route 15 has been in place since July 1, 2018.
  • Supervisor Higgins has FAILED to challenge the 10-year timeline to widen 3.5 miles of Route 15 between Battlefield Parkway and Montresor Road.
  • Supervisor Higgins has INSISTED on “roundabouts” when study after study has shown that “roundabouts” FAIL on roads with high volumes of one-way directional traffic similar to Route 15.
  • Supervisor Higgins also FAILED to make Route 15 widening and safety improvements a PRIORITY in the FY 2020 Adopted Budget earlier this month even after the VDOT SmartScale funding of $110M was denied by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) in January.
  • Supervisor Kristen Umstattd has gone on record stating that Route 15 must be widened up to the Point of Rocks Bridge because of the need for safety improvements and congestion relief.
  • Supervisor Ron Meyer has gone on record stating that Route 15 must be widened up to the Point of Rocks Bridge because of the volume of traffic and the many accidents and loss of life on this road.
  • Supervisor Matt Letourneau has gone on record stating Route 15 is suffering from ‘paralysis by analysis’ and needs to be widened asap and not studied further.
  • Vice Chairman Ralph Buona has stated safety of our citizens is THE number one priority of any board member and NOTHING else matters and therefore we need to move forward on the safety improvements and congestion relief for Route 15!

Perhaps Geary Higgins is more interested in running his campaign for the Virginia State Senate than providing the project plan and driving an accelerated timeline to widen Route 15 up to Montresor Road or worrying about the rest of the Catoctin District north of Montresor Road and issuing the Safety and Operations Study.

Why don’t you email and ask Geary yourself at geary.higgins@loudoun.gov why there is STILL no project plan and why it will take 10 years to widen 3.5 miles of Route 15? Maybe he won’t respond to your questions at all…..

The above FACTS represent SHAMEFUL, FECKLESS Leadership!

Fix Route 15 Now!


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