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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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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Has Supervisor Geary Higgins checked out?

Has Supervisor Geary Higgins checked out?  Geary is now all consumed by his race for Virginia’s 13th District Senate Seat.  Below are some questions for Geary:

Geary, why are there no project updates? 

Geary, why is there still NO project plan?  

Geary, where is the Safety and Operations Study for the northern corridor?  

Geary, why did you terminate the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee?  

Geary, what do you plan to do for Route 15 as a Virginia State Senator?

Remember, Geary said: “I do not want to widen Route 15 any more than I have to.”  Disappearing is one way to achieve this.  Does anyone know where Geary is?

Fix Route 15 Now!

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Moving Forward in 2019

Welcome to 2019 and the start of a promising new year!  Now that the holidays are behind us, we at FIX Route 15 Now plan on updating the community with where things stand with respect to actions or inactions on improving the Route 15 Corridor from the Town of Leesburg to the Point of Rocks Bridge.

We will take a deeper dive this year on timelines, funding and legislative issues and their impact on improving the Route 15 Corridor.  We plan to cover over the next few weeks, in summary format, several related topics affecting the safety improvements and congestion relief along Route 15 to include the following:

  • A review of what has been accomplished on Route 15 over the past 2 years.
  • When will the County release Kimley-Horn’s next report on Route 15 (north of Montresor Road)?
  • Is there any interest in continuing the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee?
  • When will the County send monthly progress updates on Route 15?
  • Whatever happened to the $110M VDOT SmartScale road funding request for Route 15 improvements (north of Montresor Road)?  What funds have been allocated in the County’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)?
  • What did the Loudoun elected officials do with the $100M surplus funds from last year?  Were any requests made for Route 15 corridor?
  • When will the Loudoun Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure (DTCI) put out the RFP for Route 15 engineering services to start road widening from Battlefield Parkway to Montresor Road?
  • What have our Loudoun County, State and Federal elected officials done to support Route 15 improvements?
  • Why you should be concerned about the safety improvements along Route 15?

Route 15 safety should be everyone’s concern, don’t you agree? Join the conversation on our Facebook page!

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Final Route 15 Stakeholders Committee Meeting

At the October 22, 2018 Route 15 Stakeholder Committee Meeting it was announced by Supervisor Geary Higgins that this would be the last Route 15 Stakeholder Committee meeting!  Mind you, not one piece of asphalt has been added to widen the Route 15 roadway.  It was announced that there may be a “task force” convened to oversee the Route 15 design.  It was not defined who or what expertise would be sought after.   Would this be a task force of “special interest no growthers”?  If so, than this process has been rigged with a pre-determined outcome!

Although some insight on what will occur in the next six months regarding surveying the 3.5 miles from Battlefield Parkway to Montresor Road, a project calendar still does not exist.

https://www.loudoun.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/8232

Does Geary Higgins have an intent to FIX Route 15 NOW?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In other news:

Several statements were made and questions raised by the stakeholders, most notably the representative from the Catoctin Coalition stated that Supervisor Higgins reneged on his promise made at the July 16, 2018 Route 15 Stakeholder Meeting that his office would send out mailings to those homeowners of the then upcoming “public input” session on September 26, 2018.  Supervisor Higgins disagreed, his chief of staff stated that mailings were sent out regarding the session.  The Catoctin Coalition representative wanted proof and asked for the zip code mailings which would be made available.

The Catoctin Coalition representative had earlier made the declarative statement that the Little Springs homeowners along the section of road north of the King Street merge and between Tutt Lane were not included in the design of the road enhancements and modifications.  Supervisor Higgins pointed out that was not the case and in fact the 1 homeowner affected by the design was in attendance and was satisfied with the impact around his property.

The Catoctin Coalition representative also asked if water testing would be conducted to make sure that sinkholes don’t form and private water wells are not contaminated and county staff said environmental concerns will be accounted for.

The Selma Estates representative asked if there was any analysis conducted between a roundabout and a traffic signal at the proposed realigned intersection of Montresor Road and Limestone School Road?  The answer from Mr. Joe Kroboth, the Director of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure was “NO, the consultants only analyzed a roundabout in their traffic analysis – NOT a traffic light.  The follow-up question by the stakeholder representative was “why was there not any comparative analysis between a roundabout and a traffic light?”  There was silence by the county staff, the consultants and Supervisor Higgins and his chief of staff, Ms. Carey.  It should be noted that the “special interest no growthers” have all along insisted on roundabouts at ALL intersections regardless of the traffic engineering fact that VDOT does not support 2 lane roundabouts and a single lane roundabout will fail at this section of the corridor because of the high volume.

The Selma Estates representative asked if there were any plans to include a new project for the safety improvements north of Montresor Road to include the Western (or Eastern) bypass around Lucketts in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget currently being developed to take effect on July 1st, 2018, the start of the new fiscal year.  After much consternation among staff, Supervisor Higgins agreed that this project would be included in the budget.

The Lucketts Business Collaborative representative enquired as to whether the design for the widening would take into account safe entry and exiting around the businesses located along Route 15.  Mr. Kroboth and county staff answered affirmatively that those safety considerations would be part of the design features so as to not bring any harm, bodily, economic or otherwise to those businesses along the corridor.

The Lucketts Business Collaborative representative was also recognized by Supervisor Higgins as a recent Loudoun County Winery award winner for his vineyard’s wine.  The roomful of folks enthusiastically applauded this recognition of distinction.  It should be noted that there was no free wine flowing in the goblets of the stakeholders to joyously share any of vineyard’s bounty….

Finally, results from the recent online survey regarding concepts for Route 15 north of Montresor road were presented. 70% of the 1,043 responses favored “Concept B” which continues the 4 lanes with medians further north of Montresor Road with a Lucketts bypass. Over and over again these surveys continue to show community support for what past roadway studies have shown to be proper solutions to Route 15’s safety and congestion issues: 4 lanes with medians and fully paved shoulders. Its clear that the no growth group’s claims that citizens want a “traffic calming” or “alternative solution” are not true. More details regarding the survey and public input can be found here: https://www.loudoun.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/8233

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How long SHOULD a roadway project take to complete in Loudoun County?

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?

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Again, We Ask Supervisor Higgins Why Will It Take 10 Years to Widen 3.5 Miles of Road?

It is shameful and downright incompetent that it will take 10 years to widen 3.5 Miles of Road from Battlefield Parkway to Montresor Road. Referencing our previous posts, the County has had the approved funding for the project since June 14, 2018, however, we are still waiting for the County to start the design and engineering phase of this project.

Let’s take a closer look on why the project is set up to fail:

First, Supervisor Geary Higgins neither reviewed the NVTA application back in December 2017, which shows a 10 year timeline, or bothered to show up to the NVTA public hearing on May 10, 2018 to support this project but Supervisors Buffington and Meyers showed up to support their 2 transportation projects. Public feedback and comments overwhelmingly supported the widening of the road to four lanes.

Second, is the County Staff fighting for the citizens of Loudoun County or are they fighting for the special interest groups? Why did Mr. Joseph Kroboth, Director of Loudoun County’s Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure submit a ten-year timeline? Here are links to the NVTA application and Mr. Kroboth’s communications with officials at the NVTA:

NVTA Application

NVTA emails - Route 15 Project

Third, after Supervisor Higgins was made aware of the 10-year timeline what did he do? You guessed it……. Absolutely Nothing!

Doesn’t it make you wonder why Supervisor Higgins did not review the application and project timeline?

Doesn’t it make you wonder why Supervisor Higgins did not bother to show up to request NVTA funding?

Doesn’t it make you wonder why Higgins did not stay on top of County staff who has been meeting repeatedly with the special interest groups about this project?

We need more action from our elected officials and County Staff and NOT excuses for inaction!

Fix Route 15 Now!

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Why Will it Take 10 Years to Widen 3.5 Miles of Route 15?

Yes, 10 years! There is no sense of urgency by Supervisor Higgins or County Staff.

This timeline to complete the first Phase of Route 15 improvements is unacceptable, especially when the Right of Way (ROW) already exists to do so.

Loudoun County secured $54M of funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) on June 14, 2018 to widen approximately 3.5 miles of Route 15 (from Battlefield Parkway to a point before, at or after Montresor Road).

Please see the FY 2018-2023 Six Year Program of the NVTA at the link below:

FY2018-2023-SYP-Project-List-Adopted-6.14.18-web-version.pdf

Combined with $26M of County funds, the total funding for the Phase I of the project will be $80M.

Sixty days later, and there is no action. To better understand the problem and lack of urgency below are some points to better understand why this project will take 10 years to complete:

  • The funding is secured, but the project has not started
  • The final concept design has not been presented to the Board of Supervisors (September 2018?)
  • The County was given control of the project by VDOT in December of 2017
  • No detailed project plan with activities, deliverables, accountable person(s) and dates exist
  • There are no County staff member(s) that are dedicated to this project on a full time basis
  • Special interests continue to demand further delays

All we hear from Supervisor Higgins is that everyone is “working hard”. There is a difference between “working hard” and “results”. County Staff and Geary Higgins have had close to a year to figure out how to accelerate the project.

Demand that Supervisors Geary Higgins, Kristen Umstattd and Phyllis Randall:

  1. Immediately start the project with the $3.5M that has been available since July 1, 2018 with legislative action at the September 20, 2018 Board meeting to form a dedicated project management team to accelerate the Route 15 project! This project will not start until Supervisors Higgins and Umstattd introduce this ACTION (which should have happened at the July 3, 2018 Board of Supervisors Meeting)!
  2. Request that this project be completed in the normal 3-year time-frame by streamlining the section 106 federal and state agency project review. Further, this process should happen in parallel with the engineering and design phase.
  3. Stand up to the special interest groups who are putting up barriers and delaying the design and construction of the Route 15 widening. We need safe roads for our families!

Write to:

Catoctin District Supervisor
Geary Higgins
geary.higgins@loudoun.gov

Leesburg District Supervisor
Kristen Umstattd
kristen.umstattd@loudoun.gov

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair
Phyllis J. Randall
phyllis.randall@loudoun.gov

Fix Route 15 Now!

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