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?

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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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