Just a little Thursday afternoon traffic humor to enjoy on your drive home while you’re parked on Route 15.
On Wednesday November 28, 2018 the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) held a public meeting to discuss the future of Route 15. Part of this discussion involved public input on the potential for over $110 million dollars to be allocated to Route 15 improvements north of Montresor Road. Most of the public was unaware that this meeting was taking place due to Supervisor Higgins’s office making the outrageous decision to send out a general notice less than 24 hours beforehand. However, the no-growther groups that oppose improving Route 15 were informed much earlier, seem to have nothing better to do, and therefore were the main voices heard at the meeting despite public opinion polls showing more than 80% in favor of expanding the road. They argued at the meeting that residents were not involved and that the money is not needed which are complete lies. Only a few voices were able speak in favor of the funding, likely due to the late notice.
The lack of ability for normal citizens to show up to all these events due to family and work obligations is why we have elected officials to handle government business on our behalf. However, despite the overwhelming majority of his constituents demanding a realistic fix to this road, Supervisor Higgins did not even bother to show up to this meeting to speak on behalf of his district. On top of this, it has been six (6) months since funding was approved for widening Route 15 up to Montresor Road and Supervisor Higgins has STILL not submitted a project plan nor done anything to accelerate the project. It is in limbo until he gets off his rear end and actually does something other than talk. We find this to be a severe case of dereliction of duty and question why Supervisor Higgins does not just resign his position if he cannot do very basic steps to move projects forward or even bother to show up at meetings he feels are important enough to send public notices about. His continued delays with moving Route 15 forward are very purposeful and against the wishes of his constituency. If he cannot do his job, it is time for someone else to take over.
In addition, Supervisor Higgins failure to show up and advocate for funding of $110M for the widening and safety improvements from Montresor Road up to the Point of Rocks may send the wrong message to the Commonwealth Transportation Board Commissioners that this is NOT a priority since Supervisor Higgins was nowhere to be seen nor heard.
The CTB is taking public comments via email through December 13. Please take 5 minutes of your time and write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let them know that you support improvements to Route 15 and want these improvements to happen ASAP.
Also, Supervisor Higgins can be reached at email@example.com. Let him know how you feel about his continued dereliction of duty, lack of leadership, and failure to put forward a project plan while sitting on $79M in approved funding..
We’ll see if he bothers to read and answer your email.
FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!
On Friday, November 16, 2018. Loudoun County Chair Phyliss Randall will be conducting an all-day event billed as the Rural Summit at the Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg – the first rural summit since taking office January 1, 2016 with the new Board.
But this summit is not sitting well with the “Western” Supervisors Geary Higgins (Catoctin District) and Tony Buffington (Blue Ridge District).
“In the past two terms, my office in conjunction with the Blue Ridge office has sponsored three rural summits, and at each one of those summits we invited the chair or chairwoman to participate and speak at those rural summits,” Higgins said.
Higgins goes on to state that he was concerned that he and Buffington were invited to attend, but not participate. And, he pointed out, the person emceeing the event, Tia Walbridge, has declared she will run against Buffington in the 2019 election. NOTE: (After creation of this story, Ms. Walbridge announced her decision not to attend the event)
“It does appear, unfortunately, to have become a political event, and I think it’s unfortunate, because we’re missing a real opportunity where we could have made progress on some of these issues in western Loudoun County,” Buffington said.
The Rural Summit is also being organized using Randall’s office budget, which Higgins said may be an ethics violation.
So, what is actually happening here? Is it petty whining by the Western Supervisors, who have not held any rural summits this term? Will Supervisors Higgins and Buffington be taking some decisive action or are they merely going to continue to criticize others who are trying to get something done? How can they both criticize Chair Randall without putting forward an alternative proposal for the Rural Summit? Is this just another example of local resistance by two supervisors who are just not equipped to conduct county business in a timely manner because of the demands of their outside employment which is hindering their ability to represent their rural constituents?
It seems to us that maybe Chair Randall is tired of waiting for Supervisor Higgins to take action on the myriad of projects he seems to start but never follow up on. Whether you agree with the summit or not at least Randall is making an effort to do “something” for her constituents unlike Higgins who has let the Route 15 project drag on and on with no BEGINNING in sight. 5 months after funding approval and STILL no project plan from his office, yet he seems to have plenty of time to play political games with other supervisors who have been supportive of 15 improvements!
The Rural Summit will be addressing schools and transportation – in addition to the property rights of the farming community. Why are these two supervisors not dealing with these pressing issues on their own rather than casting stones at Chair Randall who has initiated this summit?
Make no mistake, the continued delay of the start of the Route 15 widening project is a calculated decision by Supervisor Higgins who believes that if he delays long enough the community will forget about the whole thing and he can blame outside forces for losing the NVTA money which will be reallocated to other projects if not utilized here. It seems other Supervisors have finally caught on to his game and are taking matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, only Supervisor Higgins can move Route 15 improvements forward by producing a project plan. We urge you to contact his office and demand that he do so immediately.
Infrastructure improvements require planning, budgeting, execution, timeliness, and leadership.
Planning is the process of spending limited financial resources over time based on priorities and with an eye to the future of our county. So far, the Route 15 widening project has had 18 months of planning and 20+ years of studies. Yet according to Supervisor Higgins, it is not yet time to ask County Staff to put together a project plan to move the work forward. He is still stuck in “community outreach” mode.
Budgeting is the process of allocating those limited resources towards projects that “leadership” views as a priority for our county. By continuing to drag his feet on moving the project forward, Supervisor Higgins is risking the NVTA reallocating funds currently designated to Route 15 towards other projects with more concrete plans and timelines. If our project is not moved forward, the money will find a project that IS ready. This has been part of the special interests’ game plan for years – prevent money being allocated by demanding continuous studies.
Executing is the process of aligning the plan and the budget to acquire, expand and enhance an infrastructure project. We have the money. We have approval from the Board of Supervisors. The only thing we don’t have at this point, is execution on the part of Supervisor Higgins to move the project on to the execution phase.
Timeliness is having a “sense of urgency” to address a rapidly deteriorating situation. We at FixRoute15Now.com do not expect to have bulldozers on the road just weeks after project green lighting. However, after NVTA funding was approved in June, a Supervisor with a sense of urgency would have been moving forward with creating a robust project plan in anticipation of the project being approved. Such a Supervisor would most certainly have such a plan ready at the next Stakeholders meeting on October 22. We shall see if Supervisor Higgins has such a sense of urgency or if he just wants to continue to talk while accomplishing nothing.
Leadership is having the courage to stand up for what is right and saying “NO MORE” to the special interest no growth groups who have blocked and delayed safety improvements along Route 15 for decades. Failing to protect our residents, families, and children by continuing to have “public input sessions” or by considering deferring this project back to the Transportation and Land Use Committee (TLUC), as Supervisor Higgins has recently suggested, is not “leadership” – it is just an excuse to avoid making hard decisions.
We urge anyone who desires Route 15 to be fixed to contact Supervisor Higgins and demand that he move this project forward. Demand that he instruct County Staff to create a project plan with an expedited timeline. NOT 10 YEARS!! Do not think that this project is a done deal or relax your vigilance. The special interests are not stopping their campaign, and neither should we. Keep in mind that by doing nothing and continuing to play public perception games rather than moving forward to design and execution, Supervisor Higgins is risking losing the funding for the project.
FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!
Delay, attack, mislead, malign, misinformation, block, deflection and denial. Those are the key components for the Special Interest No Growthers Obstructionist Playbook!
Special Interest “no growther” groups delay any meaningful road safety improvements by requesting more data and studies be conducted and insist on adherence to their own corridor management plan that advocates for “trees over peoples safety”.
Special Interest “no growther” groups attack individuals, and often the attack is of a personal nature, who are opposed to their position.
Special Interest “no growther” groups mislead the public by submitting one flowery article after another (and always lacking substance and fact) to the local newspapers about how the bucolic countryside will be “lost forever” while conveniently ignoring the horrendous loss of life and injuries.
Special Interest “no growther” groups make repeatedly false and maligning statements against all elected officials, organizations, and individuals in opposition to their point of view.
Special Interest “no growther” groups bombard elected and appointed officials with voluminous amounts of misinformation as a tactic to prevent any plans from taking shape to widen or add median strips and paved shoulders for safety.
Special Interest “no growther” groups block progress by scheduling repeated meetings with elected and government officials and managers and take up all of the “limited” speaking slots at public hearings to prevent voices with differing opinions from being heard.
Special Interest “no growther” groups use deflection as a tactic to “talk around” any data and facts that are presented which shred their arguments.
And finally, special Interest “no growther” groups use denial as a tactic by masquerading around as collaborative participants while all along plotting behind the scenes to deny any and all meaningful safety solutions that involve the widening of Route 15.
Special Interest “no growther” groups do not care about the safety and lives of the residents and schoolchildren along the Route 15 corridor and Supervisor Geary Higgins has yet to announce a start date with a project plan to have 4-lane widening, centerline median strips and paved shoulders put in place to protect us.
Perhaps Supervisor Higgins has another agenda other than the safety of the residents and schoolchildren and that is why there is no start date for this project that already has all of the necessary funding approved.
Perhaps Supervisor Higgins is playing politics to start this project a year from now when he is up for re-election.
Our lives and our children’s lives should not be used as pawns in an election scheme and Supervisor Higgins should be ashamed of this tactic.
Supervisor Higgins Should Fix Route 15 Now!!!!!
Last night Supervisor Higgins sent out an email titled “Route 15 Improvements from Leesburg to Montresor Road Approved”. Higgins goes on to state “after many years of work, I am pleased to inform you that improvements are finally coming to Route 15.” This statement was in alignment with other words oft repeated by Supervisor Higgins to include “we are making tremendous progress…”, “improvements are coming….”, “there has never been any other project with this much community outreach in the history of the county…”.
What we have on display are mere words and NO progress other than stating the 3.5 mile widening from Battlefield Parkway up to Montresor Road will be completed within 10 years!
Supervisor Higgins has not disclosed when the project will begin nor has he been demanding county staff to produce a project plan with a start date!
The residents, families and school children are more deserving than mere words without any substance behind them and our elected officials must be held accountable! There needs to be accountability AND action from our elected officials.
Please attend tonight’s community open house about the Route 15 Safety and Operational Study scheduled for Wednesday, September 26, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Lucketts Community Center, 42361 Lucketts Road. Let YOUR representatives know how you feel about the current timeline!
FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!
Tonight the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approved by unanimous vote the staff recommendation to widen Route 15 from a 2 lane road to a 4 lane road. More details to follow on this historic precedent to finally address the treacherous unsafe conditions and horrendous congestion our fellow residents and school children have endured for decades.
None of this would have been possible without the massive support shown by the community at large. Thank you!!! Rest assured we will be here every step of the way through design and construction to continue providing hard hitting fact based reporting, holding our elected representatives accountable, and pushing for a speedy completion of this long overdue project.
FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!
What is County Staff recommending to the Board of Supervisors (BOS)?
Prior to the September 20th, 2018 Board of Supervisors Business Meeting, County staff put together a lengthy report that will be presented to the Board with their recommendations. That report can be found here in its entirety: https://lfportal.loudoun.gov/LFPortalinternet/0/edoc/302671/Item%2007%20Rt%2015%20Congestion%20Report%20Scope%20of%20Improvements.pdf. This report is the culmination of almost 2 years of direct effort, including the Kimley-Horn study from May of 2017 and the yearlong Route 15 Stakeholders Committee process. It is also the result of more than 20 years of studies as “Previous studies conducted in 1998, 2006, 2007, 2014 and 2016 by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Town of Leesburg were used for foundation information.”
The first and most important point in the report is the list of 5 Staff recommendation for Route 15:
- Staff recommends that the Board direct staff to design and construct the widening of Route 15 to a four-lane median divided roadway between Battlefield Parkway NE and Montresor Road (Route 661).
- Staff recommends that the Board direct staff to design and construct a realignment of the Route 15/North King Street intersection to become a continuous green T-intersection that is controlled by a traffic signal.
- Staff recommends that the Board direct staff to replace the existing traffic signal at Route 15/Whites Ferry Road/Raspberry Drive to accommodate four lanes of through traffic plus turn lanes.
- Staff recommends that the Board direct staff to design and construct a realignment of Limestone School Road (Route 661) to be aligned across from Montresor Road (Route 661) and design and construct a hybrid two-lane roundabout at the intersection.
- Staff recommends that the Route 15 improvements be designed to incorporate context sensitive design methodology and follow the Journey Through Hallowed Ground’s design guidelines where feasible.
How did Staff come to these conclusions? First, widening of the road –
“Widening Route 15: Staff recommends expanding Route 15 from two undivided lanes to four lanes median divided, with appropriate shoulders, between Battlefield Parkway and Montresor Road because it will reduce congestion and increase safety on that portion of the road. When the Report was published on May 18, 2017, VDOT reported the 2015 annual average daily traffic (AADT) volume for Route 15 north of the Town of Leesburg was 24,000 vehicles per day. The traffic volume has increased to 26,000 AADT in the 2017, which has further deteriorated conditions. According to the Planning and Preliminary Engineering Applications Guide to the Highway Capacity Manual 10, a two-lane rural, level highway is at capacity when the AADT reaches 16,880. The traffic volume on Route 15 north of Leesburg is over capacity; the only solution to this problem is to add capacity which means the road needs to be widened.”
This conclusion is in line with everything that we at FixRoute15NOW have published so far, and we applaud County Staff for coming to this decision.
Second, keeping the Whites Ferry Road & Raspberry Drive intersection as a traffic signal instead of changing it to a roundabout. You can read the entire lengthy roundabout response on page 12 of the report but here are the highlights:
- Traffic volume would require a 2-lane roundabout
- A traffic signal is better for large commercial and emergency vehicles
- The diameter of such a large roundabout would require additional right-of-way acquisition
- The steady stream of traffic exiting the roundabout would make access difficult for points north of White’s Ferry Road
- A signalized intersection is safer for bicyclists and pedestrians
Again, we applaud County Staff for coming to this recommendation.
You may be asking yourself, what about the single-lane roundabouts and traffic calming “solutions” touted by the special interest groups? County staff specifically addressed them:
“Traffic Calming Alternative Proposed by Some Stakeholder Committee Members: On behalf of the JTHG, the Catoctin Coalition, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and the Southern Environmental Law Center, a letter was sent to the Chair of the Board (Attachment 3) expressing support for roundabouts and traffic calming on Route 15 north of Leesburg. This group is opposed to widening Route 15 and desires a roundabout to be constructed at Whites Ferry Road/Raspberry Drive. Traffic modeling performed for the Report considered an interim alternative of a single lane roundabout at Whites Ferry Road without any widening of Route 15. This alternative fails in the projected 2020 PM peak period due to extensive queuing on northbound Route 15 which impacts the other intersections that were evaluated in the Report (Route 15 intersections at Whites Ferry Road, Tutt Lane and North King Street, and North King Street intersections of Smarts Mill Middle School and Dry Hollow Road/Tuscarora High School) causing all of them to operate at LOS F. Due to its poor performance, a single-lane roundabout is not recommended at the Whites Ferry Road/Raspberry Drive intersection.”
It is important to note that the Staff report is 136 pages long. Of those 136 pages, 116 pages consist of input by the special interest groups pushing their roundabout and calming initiative. In fact, since Mr. Ian Lockwood did not actually do a real study of the road, in yet another effort at deception and delay, the special interest groups combined several old presentations he has given to other groups over the years into a massive and irrelevant spam file that has nothing to do with the treacherous and congested Route 15 north of Leesburg. Thankfully, County staff saw through these tactics.
What can you do?
Although the proposed solutions do not please everyone 100% – for example, we still feel that a signalized intersection at Montresor Road would be more effective than a roundabout for the same reasons that the roundabout isn’t effective at Whites Ferry Road & Raspberry Drive – the time has come to move on from endless debate and study and get something meaningful accomplished. Even though county staff have made mostly correct recommendations, the possibility remains that the BOS could choose to proceed with an alternative path. The no-growth special interests will be out in force at the Board meeting on Thursday evening trying to convince them that the public is against widening despite all evidence to the contrary. Here is what we ask:
- Come to the meeting if you possibly can. Wear a red shirt or other clothing to show your support!
- Sign up to speak. Public input is slated to start at 6:30 pm. You can sign up to speak at the meeting (must be there at or before 6:30 pm), or you can call 703-777-0200 before Noon of the day of the Business Meeting (September 20th, 2018) ahead of time to request to speak.
- Write an email to the board showing your support for widening Route 15 to make it safe and provide congestion relief. Their emails are below:
Most importantly, let the board know that you support the Staff recommendations and demand that the project be completed within a compressed timeline, NOT 10 YEARS!
FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!
Question: How long does a roadway project take to complete in Loudoun County?
Answer: Well there appears to be 2 answers to that question. The first answer is if you have an elected official with no sense of urgency, in this case Supervisor Geary Higgins, who made, in rather condescending terms, the following statement to a constituent which was recently forwarded to us:
“I think it is important to understand that infrastructure projects in Loudoun are a function of legislative action by the county board as a whole. Once that legislative action occurs, then it is the responsibility of the county staff to run and manage the project. Individual Supervisors do not hire consultants, instruct staff or run these projects. However, I along with my staff have been very involved with the Route 15 project, more than at any other time in the county’s history. Additionally, the process of wide-reaching community engagement, that has been used for the Route 15 project, has never happened in Loudoun before and was developed by my office.”
Higgins further goes on to state, “My understanding is that 20 years is the norm for transportation planning and that jurisdictions use 20-year time blocks for planning and forecasting purposes. When we met with Maryland officials they used the same 20-year time blocks. As for your continued misrepresentation of the 10-year timeline, you know that number is a worst case scenario and we are working to reduce the timeline.”
The second answer to the question of how long does a roadway project take to complete in Loudoun County was delivered in a report titled “Capital Project Procurement and Process”. https://lfportal.loudoun.gov/LFPortalinternet/0/edoc/201806/FGOEDC%20Item%2012%20Capital%20Project%20and%20Process.pdf. Mr. Joseph Kroboth, Director of the Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure (DTCI) provided this report on June 14, 2016 to the Board of Supervisors Financial/Government Operations and Economic Development Committee. In the report is the following statement on pg. 12 regarding roadway project timelines:
“Overall, depending on the various issues associated with a roadway project, including the size and complexity, the entire project delivery from the point of appropriation in the CIP for a design-bid-build project can take from 36 months (3 years) to 86 months (7.2 years) to complete with full project closeout to follow.” And yet Higgins allowed the County Transportation staff to submit a funding request application of $54M to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) with a 10 year timeline for a 3.5 mile roadway project without even reviewing it for quality assurance AND reasonableness for timely completion!!!
So the answer from Supervisor Higgins is basically “I create the legislation and rely on the staff to do their job.” What Supervisor Higgins has failed (yet again) to realize is that as an elected official he has an “OVERSIGHT” responsibility to his constituents to make sure they receive services in a timely manner. The 10 YEAR project timeline created by the Loudoun County transportation staff for a 3.5 mile road is not just unacceptable – it is OUTRAGEOUS! For Supervisor Higgins now to make the excuse to blame staff for the timeline and not declare it as unacceptable and wrong is REPREHENSIBLE and he should RECTIFY IT IMMEDIATELY!
Supervisory Higgins, where is the new CORRECTED timeline, urgency and leadership to Fix Route 15 Now?
Question: Why does this 3.5 mile transportation project take 10 years to complete?
Answer: We were misled that there would be a multi-year design, engineering and environmental phase needed, including conducting an extensive and burdensome environmental process under NEPA/Section 106. The fact of matter is that this 3.5 mile project is neither required to conduct an extensive and burdensome environmental process under Federal law nor should the design, engineering and environmental phase take longer than a year. Below are some important points to note:
- The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) funding application (submitted in December 2017) contained the 10-year timeline to complete, including a 3+ year period for design, engineering and environmental work.
- Extensive presentations were made and discussions occurred during Route 15 Stakeholder Committee Meetings around the NEPA/Section 106 process: https://www.loudoun.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/7549
- The Board package for this week’s meeting on Thursday September 20th (Item 7, Route 15 – Congestion Report Improvements) states the following under Environmental and Historic Resources:
“The Route 15 corridor contains karst features, notably limestone rock outcroppings and sink holes; streams and springs. Additionally, there are several historic sites along the corridor, including the Ball’s Bluff Battlefield. The Route 15 widening project is funded with Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and local funds which do not require a formal environmental review such as a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) study, National Historic Preservation Act Section 106, or State Environmental Review Process (SERP). Although not mandated based on the funding sources, the County will work to minimize or avoid impacts on historical, cultural and archeological resources as practically feasible throughout the design and construction phases of the project. Wetlands, floodplains and historical assets will be inventoried, researched and categorized.”
Supervisory Higgins, where is the new timeline, urgency and leadership to Fix Route 15 Now?