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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Question: Why does this 3.5 mile transportation project take 10 years to complete?

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?

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Board of Supervisors Meeting — September 20th

The Board of Supervisors will be receiving the Route 15 report on September 20, 2018.  Please come out and support the speakers by wearing red at this 5 PM meeting as they counter the special interest groups that have blocked the widening of Route 15 for decades.  In fact, the latest effort by these groups is to limit the widening of Route 15 by putting in roundabouts at two intersections.  The first roundabout will be at Whites Ferry Drive and Raspberry Falls Drive and the second roundabout will be at Montresor Road after realignment with Limestone School Road.  The special interest groups have recently been working behind the backs of the Route 15 Stakeholder Representatives by hiring an outside consultant who was pushing for these roundabouts in these 2 parts of the Route 15 Corridor and not for the widening of the road.

Roundabouts are not a solution to the safety and congestion on Route 15 due to volume of traffic at almost 3X of the road design and everyone in the community must stand up to the special interest groups NOW in order to make this road safe and congestion relief possible for all commuters, patrons of rural businesses, residents, families and school children.

Can we count on you to help make Route 15 safe?

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Who is the Catoctin Coalition?

Today we will continue to look at special interest groups opposing meaningful Route 15 improvements with a little bit of history about the Catoctin Coalition and its tangled dark web of partner organizations.

The Catoctin Coalition was founded sometime around 2001 for what appears to be the express purpose of blocking VDOT’s proposed improvements to Route 15 based on the VDOT 1998 Route 15 Safety Study North SegmentSee Washington Post letter to the editor from their founder here.

These self-proclaimed traffic experts believe they know better than VDOT engineers about what changes need to be made and have carried on their campaign against safety and congestion relief improvements every step of the way. The Catoctin Coalition is also a partner organization of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (source here). Please refer to our first special interest story for more information about JTHG. For the sake of brevity, we will just reinforce that they are ONLY concerned with protecting the history and rural nature of the corridor – NOT safety and congestion relief! Although they talk a good game about supposedly wanting improvements to Route 15, they care very little about capacity and safety on this road. They are willing to allow small improvements like roundabouts and “calming” that will cost a lot of money, not alleviate the gridlock, but achieve their true objective of avoiding future growth.

Is the Catoctin Coalition acting as a local front group for the JTHG, the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), and the Sierra Club? It operates under a different name but still uses all the same language and arguments. Publications from one group look exactly like publications from the others. There is a common narrative and they stick to it regardless of the facts. They are also all interconnected in both mission, leadership, and membership. See references here and here. Before they took their website down, the Catoctin Coalition even stated that donations to their cause should be sent to the PEC for disbursement to them (Source here). Was this a way to get around applying for official non-profit status and the lobbying limitations that comes with a 501(c)(3) non-profit? 

A close examination of membership as well as community knowledge of the people involved shows the same few people in positions of influence are involved in not only the groups listed above, but also other groups like Friends of Route 15 and the Lucketts Ruritans. One can only assume these multiple groups were formed in an attempt to make it appear that these few people have a more popular stance than they actually do. Don’t let the propaganda and hype fool you, despite their claims of being the voice of the wider community, these groups represent the views of less than 10% of the residents. These groups do NOT want Route 15 improved and are only grudgingly coming to the table with plans because they feel the momentum is turning against their do-nothing stance. For the better part of three decades, they have laid out a series of mutually exclusive demands for the corridor that make it impossible to achieve all of them.  The result – being to demand that Virginia and the County “study it until you get it right” – as was screamed by a protester, and known operative of these groups, at a BOS hearing on February 14, 2018.

One of our elected officials continues to play dumb when questioned about his own and the County’s relationship with these special interest groups. Note the following exchange between the Raspberry Falls HOA and Supervisor Geary Higgins. Full link with excerpt below:

Q: Does the county have a partnership with The Journey for Hallow Ground? Does that partnership have any impact on what road options are considered/approved?

A: Supervisor Higgins’ office will research and provide us with an answer.

Q: Did the Journey of Hallow Ground develop a corridor management plan that describes road improvement options for 15?

A: Supervisor Higgins’ office will research and provide us with an answer.

Keep in mind that Loudoun County has a link to the JTHG on its website. Even if there is no “official” partnership, there is most definitely one in practice. As we’ve mentioned before, these special interest groups were all specifically invited to contribute to the 2017 Kimley Horn US Route 15 Congestion Report. Who wasn’t invited? HOA’s, citizens, and anyone who was actually in favor of real improvements. It was only after a large public uproar demanding change that the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee was formed.

So again we ask – Who actually represents the voice of the community?

FIX ROUTE 15 NOW AND NOT in 10 YEARS!!!

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Who Really Represents the Community?

One of the key refrains that we all hear from the various special interest groups trying to block Route 15 safety and congestion relief improvements is that they are representing the views of the community at large against the heavy-handed tactics of VDOT. They hold themselves up as the voice of the citizens against outside forces trying to ruin our road. Today we examine the accuracy of that statement. You can judge for yourself whether or not these groups are being given more influence by our County officials than they deserve.

We begin with a bit of data. Back in early May of 2018, in advance of the May 10th Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) public hearing and June 14, 2018 vote to grant funding for the Route 15 widening project, the County released a public survey link inviting comments with submission possible in-person at the NVTA meeting as well as via email and through the NVTA website. NVTA staff removed the anonymous comments in order to prevent “ballot stuffing”. What remains are 224 Route 15 related comments attributable to unique individuals. You can read them here:

NVTA Public Comments - Route 15 Project Comments_Clean

Here are the facts:

Out of 224 public comments, 196 comments or 87.5% were IN FAVOR of widening. Here is a selection of their statements:

“With only a single lane in both directions, this is a dangerous stretch of highway with multiple recent fatalities. The amount of time I have to allot for traffic every single day for a 4 mile stretch is seriously affecting our quality of life. I can’t even commit to certain school activities with my kids because of traffic logistics. Finally, my oldest child will be driving in 6 years – with 3 more to follow. Please help keep her safe – and every other Loudoun County resident safe – by addressing this problem now!”

“I am writing to request the NVTA fully fund widening of Rt 15 in Loudoun County. As a resident of Lucketts, Virginia, Rt 15 is our ONLY main artery outside of our neighborhoods. Widening would alleviate congestion which is a safety concern. With the increase in development in Frederick, MD, we have seen a large increase in commuter traffic (MD commuters who don’t pay taxes for Rt 15) and tractor trailers. Our elementary school is located very close to Rt 15 and the increase in traffic and congestion is dangerous for our children. Due to overcrowding in our elementary school, Loudoun County Public Schools will be bussing a class of our 5 & 6 year olds south on Rt 15 to attend another school. This 8 mile drive can take up to an hour due to congestion causing them to miss instruction. Our Middle School has to change their bell schedule to accommodate our students due to the congestion on Rt 15. They have clubs during the school day rather than after school so that our students can participate and not have to sit in hours of traffic to go 8 miles. This impacts students beyond our community and limits educational opportunities. Emergency Vehicles have difficulty getting through with congestion and the lack of shoulder in many sections of Rt 15. Our gravel side roads are seeing more traffic due to gps apps. There are days that both Rt 15 and Stumptown Road are backed up which means we are trapped. Our locally owned small businesses are negatively impacted by the congestion because it hinders access for their customers. Our entire lives are dictated by the traffic on Rt 15. To be ahead of traffic every day, I have to be past the Battlefield merge by 2:15 pm. My children get off the school bus at 2:50. Unless NVTA is willing to build another bridge at Rt 28, widening Rt 15 to Montresor is necessary for the residents along the corridor.”

“I would like to see full funding to the Rt 15 project in Northern VA. As I am writing this, there has been another dangerous accident on the road in our community. The traffic is unbearable and the road is dangerous. I put my family in danger every time I drive on this road. My small children are in danger when we go to the grocery store or even 2 miles to their elementary school. Rt 15 has become major transportation route for commuters from Maryland. They are now learning how to use our neighborhood streets to cut through to avoid traffic. It won’t be long before they are clogged up too. Please consider fully funding this important project. Our safety and the safety of our children is at stake”

“I hope your weeks are going well! I am writing as a concerned father of 3 daughters about the need to widen Route 15. In its current state, first responders (Paramedics, Fire/Rescue, Police) are unable to traverse the corridor in a timely fashion. If there was an urgent medical need in our Village Green neighborhood (~1,200 residents) it could take upward of 30 minutes for them to reach us. Secondly, there is a safety concern with continued accidents, fatal head-on collisions and road rage, which occurs as a byproduct of Route 15’s current state. When those instances happen, first responders are also hard pressed to reach the impacted people in a timely fashion. Our children that are attending Smarts Mill Middle School and Tuscarora High school sit on the bus up to 1 hour each way, 3 out of 5 days a week. The congestion also forces people to use their navigation systems to find alternate routes to traverse, which forces thousands of cars speeding through neighborhoods (a risk to our children’s safety) and through Loudoun’s historical areas (e.g. Waterford, etc.) each week. Lastly the severe traffic congestion impacts our home prices and our quality of life in Loudoun County. I urge you to seriously consider approving funds for the widening of Route 15 to help save lives and make it safe for our future generations.”

Out of 224 public comments, only 28 were AGAINST widening. Here is a selection of their statements:

“We are strongly opposing this project. We are hoping Leesburg can remain a small rural town, with its cute charm of downtown area, parks, and local businesses, and avoid becoming another DC satellite with highway cutting thru:((“

“No to 4 laning Rt 15 North which would negatively effect The Journey Through Hallowed Ground and create a more dangerous rd and even higher volume of traffic.”

“Not sure if I already submitted a comment here, but getting tired of Raspberry falls and other wealthy neighborhood development activists asking to lobby for Route 15 widening project. So here you go: My family is AGAINST this project. – There is no safety concerns with the current route. – There are plenty of other roads that are in much worse condition. – For Raspberry falls activists – it’s all about improving their commute, so that they can resell their houses at higher price.”

“I favor a solution that will minimize disruption and land loss for those of us who actually live along Route 15 and one which will help to discourage these out of state commuters, by making the use of Route 15 less attractive. Frequent traffic lights and/or stop signs and ideally, a toll at some point before the Point of Rocks bridge would be a better solution. Additionally, many of the local residents clamoring for widening the road are those who live in the Selma and Raspberry Falls developments. These communities are already at odds with the rural nature of the Lucketts region. The last thing our region needs or wants is the potential for new developments to spring up and demand additional widening of Route 15”

Conclusions

What we have here is nearly 90% of the public begging our elected representatives to widen the road in order to mitigate the Route 15 safety and congestion nightmare that affects our lives on a daily basis. The 10% opposed are either concerned with future development, don’t think there is a problem in the first place, or are upset that supposedly “wealthy” people in newer developments exist at all. They will try to deny this, but their comments prove otherwise. Don’t believe us, read it for yourselves.

Do you think this very vocal 10% is being favored by our elected representatives and allowed to delay progress by pretending to represent a more popular opinion than it really is? If so, GET INVOLVED. Let YOUR representatives know that you will not stand for further delay tactics by a tiny minority of citizens looking out for their own self interests.

Now, you may be asking yourself, who DO these special interest groups represent? Stay tuned, we have a series of articles exposing the views and tactics being used by the special interest groups, including related national organizations.

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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Half Truth’s and Continued Delay Tactics

Following up on our write up yesterday about Ian Lockwood, this afternoon we received a copy of a statement made by the leader of the Catoctin Coalition:

“Lockwood’s approach requires solid community outreach along the corridor, to ensure that his design reflects desires and vision of the community. We have asked that he be given time to do that community outreach for the North King Street area and the whole corridor.  It would take about 12 weeks. We have so far not gotten approval of Supervisors for that effort. While there is pressure on the county to “not delay” projects, such a small amount of time for a project that won’t begin construction for years seems like a minor concession, especially since the design that Lockwood will produce will be vastly less expensive than what the current plans will cost, and it will be truly citizen-driven, instead of what a group of stakeholders have concluded about the current effort. That process has been front-loaded, with adding capacity and limiting access being the primary goals from the beginning, and without following the well-laid-out procedure in the JTHG Corridor Management Plan. As the saying goes, for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

Sounds good right? Well here is the whole story. Contrary to what this group would have you believe, Mr. Lockwood is not a new player in this game. The Catoctin Coalition was founded in 2001 to block VDOT’s suggested improvements for the road at that time, which included “widening of the road and adding wide, paved shoulders”. As part of this first battle, they brought in Mr. Lockwood. See the link below from 2004 (a letter to the editor “Catoctin Coalition’s Roots” by Gladys Lewis. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2004/02/22/loudoun-letters-to-the-editor/c7d9b82b-74d2-4841-9e3a-cd4ab587ea1d/?utm_term=.12539e1d42e9.

This information really brings to light the constant delay tactics used by these groups to stop anything from being done to Route 15. Mr. Lockwood has had 14 years to come up with a plan. He didn’t. The Catoctin Coalition had the last 15 months to bring him in again during the Route 15 Stakeholder process. They chose not to do so. Instead they waited until the true “citizen-driven” plan went against their wishes. Then Supervisor Higgins generously gave them a month to get their alternative proposal in. They did nothing. Now they want another 3 months to supposedly accomplish what they couldn’t get done in 14+ years. And these groups wonder why the community is screaming NO MORE DELAYS?

On top of all this, let’s not forget that given the information we laid out in a past column: http://fixroute15now.com/day-4-we-need-a-30-year-solution/, Mr. Lockwood’s approach of single lane roundabouts, no widening, and traffic calming, as espoused by the Catoctin Coalition, requires more than community outreach. It requires the denial of reality and the refusal to accept math. Single-lane roundabouts fail when volume exceeds 25,000 vehicles per day while two-lane roads fail at 18,000 vehicles per day. The 2017 traffic count for Route 15 between Battlefield Parkway up through Montresor Road is 26,000 vehicles per day. The northern half of the corridor will be at that level before any project is complete.  So, once again, here we have a special interest group advocating for a failed roundabout “solution” by their own “hired roundabout gun” – again!

 

FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!

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Ian Lockwood “Roundabout Gun (and cartoonist) for Hire”

We residents that live along the dangerous and unsafe Route 15 corridor must drive at our own peril every day.  Our children must ride a school bus on this dangerous and unsafe road for several hours during each school week. We residents, and in particular we parents of these school children, took some measure of comfort that after the horrific loss of life in 2017 the County Supervisors would actually address this treacherous and unsafe road.  Hence, public input forums were conducted, surveys were distributed, residents both supportive and in opposition were invited to participate, and a Route 15 Stakeholder Committee was established.

Reasonableness and civility were to be upheld during this stakeholder committee process as signatories of the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee Charter, where amongst other conditions the stakeholders were all to work toward the success of the project. A copy of the Charter can be found: https://www.loudoun.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/7429

The process was reasonable and civil until the opposition groups, who are self-proclaimed traffic safety advocates, decided to obstruct and further delay the safety improvements and congestion relief measures by securing a “hired roundabout gun”.

The playbook of the opposition groups is simple; it is called deception, delay and denial.  The opposition groups have deceptively professed over the past 3 decades that they have tirelessly advocated for Route 15 safety improvements.  Just look at the recent deaths and accidents along Route 15 resulting from the lack of paved shoulders and centerline median strips that the opposition groups have opposed from being implemented.  The opposition groups have successfully delayed safety improvements through their ability to attack and conjure up half-truths about any group or individuals who disagree with their approach, tactics and objectives – just look at the recent draconian JTHG letter and e-mail from John Adams.   The opposition groups have denied their duplicity in blocking meaningful safety improvements and congestion relief actions – just look at their recent efforts to delay the process by 3 months in order to raise money to fund a non-resident, Ian Lockwood, whose expertise is in urban planning of city spaces (see bio at http://www.tooledesign.com/company/staff-directory/ian-lockwood  –  NOT high volume rural and suburban highways.  One of his well-known projects was turning the city center of West Palm Beach, FL into a pedestrian friendly area. He also made the drive on Route 50 through Aldie and Middleburg prettier. Route 50 is often hailed as the example for Route 15, but as we wrote extensively last week, this is an apples and oranges comparison given the differences in volume.  Keep in mind that when you hear the term “traffic calming” in regard to Route 15, the ultimate objective is to make/keep the road so horribly congested and/or dangerous that people are discouraged from using it. This is known as avoiding “induced traffic”.

Geary Higgins gave the special interest groups until August 31st to provide recommendations from Ian Lockwood. (read it here)  Have you seen Ian Lockwood’s recommendations?  Geary, where are they?

You be the judge of whether the opposition groups have been deceptive, delaying and denying of safety and congestion relief improvements based on their actions based on the evidence presented.  Who is fighting to protect our families and school children?

Tell Supervisor Geary Higgins to FIX ROUTE 15 NOW and NOT in 10 YEARS!

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Do You Know Who Owns the Point of Rocks Bridge?

Do you know who owns the Point of Rocks Bridge?

The answer may shock you.  It also raises potential questions about the competency of our elected officials, County Staff and the consultants who are leading the Route 15 process.  The letter below is courtesy of a submission to feedback@fixroute15now.com.  Please continue to share your feedback with us (and the Fix Route 15 Now community).

Fix Route 15 Now!

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August 31, 2018

Loudoun County

Supervisor Geary Higgins

P.O. Box 7000

Mailstop #01

Leesburg, VA 20177-7000

 

Supervisor Higgins:

I am writing to you regarding certain facts and characterizations of the Point of Rocks Bridge as it pertains to the Route 15 Stakeholder Group that you oversee.  I recently learned the following about the Point of Rocks Bridge:

Ownership– The bridge is jointly owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Maryland (“each an undivided one-half interest”).

Maintenance– The maintenance cost of the bridge is shared equally between the Commonwealth of Virginia and State of Maryland (“each shall pay one-half of the cost of repair, operation and maintenance”).

Tolls– Tolls are prohibited except for covering the initial acquisition cost of the bridge (“shall be free of tolls”).

Below is a text version of the 1929 agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and State of Maryland covering the acquisition, ownership, maintenance and tolls related to the Point of Rocks Bridge.  I have also attached the original agreement.

I have observed multiple Route 15 Stakeholder meetings, Board of Supervisor meetings and public hearings.  During these meetings and hearings, I continue to hear people (including one or more Supervisors) suggest putting a toll on the Virginia side of the bridge to discourage Marylanders from coming to Virginia.  I have also heard people say the bridge belongs to Maryland or that Maryland would do nothing with their bridge.  Did you know that all of these statements are false or misleading?  Did you, County Staff, or Kimley-Horn know who owns the bridge, bears the financial responsibility for maintaining the bridge or that there is a prohibition against tolls?  Did you find amusement in the fact that Stakeholder Committee members and others wasted time discussing these questions?  It would have been helpful if the record was set straight.

I expect that the facts outlined above regarding the Point of Rocks Bridge to be included in the Safety and Operations Study to be presented to the Board of Supervisors in September.

Below is the text from a 1929 Agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and State of Maryland to acquire and maintain the bridges at Point of Rocks and Brunswick, Maryland.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

THIS AGREEMENT, made as of this 22nd, day of July 1929, by and between the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, acting by and through the State Highway Commission, of the first part, hereinafter called “Commonwealth”, and the STATE of MARYLAND, acting by and through the State Roads Commission, of the second part, hereinafter called “State”, and the BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LOUDOUN COUNTY, Virginia, hereinafter called “County”, of the third part, the Commonwealth and County acting pursuant to authority vested by an Act of the General Assembly of Virginia of 1928, Chapter 516, page 1358, and the State pursuant to authority vested by Act of the General Assembly of Maryland of 1929, Chapter 542.

WITNESSETH:

The parties hereto do hereby covenant and agree as follows:

(1)  The Commonwealth and the State do hereby covenant and agree, each with the other, to purchase and acquire prior to December 31, 1929, the interstate highway bridge and approaches , over the Potomac River near Point of Rocks, Maryland, connecting Virginia State Highway Route Two (now known as Route 32), with the Maryland State Highway System, each to pay one-half of the purchase price thereof, the said purchase price not to exceed the sum of One Hundred Thousand ($100,000) Dollars, and each to pay one-half of all necessary expenses hereafter incurred in the purchase of the said property.  Title to said bridge and approaches shall be vested jointly in the Commonwealth of Virginia and State of Maryland, in each an undivided one-half interest.

(2)  The State and County do hereby covenant and agree, each with the other to purchase and acquire prior to December 31, 1929, the interstate highway bridge and approaches, over the Potomac River, at Brunswick, Maryland, connecting County highway Number Nine with the Maryland State Highway System, a price not to exceed $100,000, and payable as hereafter provided, and each to pay one-half of all necessary expenses hereinafter incurred in the purchase of said property. Title to said bridge and approaches shall be vested jointly in the State of Maryland and the Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County, in each an individual one-half interest.

(3)  The Commonwealth, State and County, covenant, and agree that pursuant to arrangements as to details of collection, accounting and disbursements to be made by the State Highway Commission and the State Roads Commission of Maryland, tolls shall be charged for use of each of said bridges and approaches at the same rate of toll in effect March 28, 1928, and that the tolls so collected shall be applied, after the payment of the costs of collection, on the purchase price of the bridge and approaches at Brunswick, Maryland, at a price not to exceed the sum of $100,000 and interest thereon, until such purchase price and interest thereon is fully paid, and that thereafter both of said bridges and approaches shall be free of tolls.

(4)  The Commonwealth and State covenant and agree, each with the other, that each shall pay one-half of the cost of repair, operation and maintenance of the bridge and approaches near Point of Rocks, Maryland, and that the details of repairs, operations and maintenance for each year shall be planned in advance by the State Highway Commission of Virginia and State Roads Commission of Maryland.

(5)  The State and the County covenant and agree, each with the other, that each shall pay one-half of the cost of repair, operation and maintenance of the bridge and approaches at Brunswick, Maryland, and that the details of repairs, operations and maintenance for each year shall be planned in advance by the County and the State Roads Commission of Maryland.

(6)  The Commonwealth, State and County, each covenants and agrees with the other that no effort will at any time be made by either of them, or any sub-division thereof, to levy, assess or collect any tax upon the interest or title of either of the others, or any political sub-division thereof, on either or said bridges and approaches.

IN WITHESS whereof the Commonwealth of Virginia has caused these present to be executed in its name and in its behalf by the State Highway Commission, the State of Maryland by its State Roads Commission and the County of Loudoun, Virginia, by its Board of Supervisors.

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

By /signed/

State Highway Commission

STATE OF MARYLAND

By /signed/

State Roads Commission

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Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) – Access, Influence & Money

Who is the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG)?

You may be wondering who is the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) Partnership?  What is their purpose?  Who do they represent?  Does the JTHG care about congestion or safety?  Let’s take a look. The JTHG is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that was formed in 2005.

https://www.hallowedground.org

Their website describes the JTHG as:

“The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is a non-profit, four-state partnership dedicated to preserving our American heritage in the region running from Gettysburg, PA through Maryland and Harpers Ferry, WV to Jefferson’s Monticello in Albemarle County, VA.” “Congress named the Journey Through Hallowed Ground a National Heritage Area in 2008 – the nation’s 38th — and the Secretary of Transportation designated the main thoroughfare running through it a National Scenic Byway in 2009 – the nation’s 99th.” The National Scenic Byway encompasses what was once known as the Old Carolina Road, which now includes Routes US 15, VA231, VA20 and VA53.”

Below is a link to JTHG’s Tax Exemption submission to Loudoun County (including Federal filings, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Financials, Statement of Justification and other supporting documents):

https://www.loudoun.gov/documentcenter/view/108787

Further, per JTHG’s Loudoun County Tax Exemption application (pg3 Item 12), JTHG represented that it is not “involved in carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation” emphasis added. Below is a link to the IRS (and excerpt) regarding the definition of lobbying as it pertains to non-profit 501 (c)(3) organizations:

https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/lobbying

 “An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.”

All of the children’s education programs, camps and tree planting activities appear to be a noble cause.  However, is road engineering and design part of JTHG’s mission?  Also, after reading the JTHG’s fundraising letter, cited later in this post below, ask yourself – Is the JTHG lobbying elected officials?

Route 15 Process

Let’s see how the JTHG is participating in the Route 15 process.

First, the JTHG is a member the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee.

Route 15 Stakeholder Committee Members:

https://www.loudoun.gov/DocumentCenter/View/129269

Route 15 Stakeholder Committee Charter:

https://www.loudoun.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/7429

Second, the JTHG has been given unfettered access to our elected representative. In fact, Supervisor Geary Higgins went out of his way to invite the JTHG for their input to the “Route 15 Congestion Report” that was eventually presented to the Board of Supervisors on May 18, 2017.

Supervisor Geary Higgins email to JTHG Bill Sellers 11-18-16

Third, the JTHG was selected as one of only three “stakeholders” in the Route 15 Congestion Report dated May 18, 2017 (see Pages 31 & 32).  Note there were no citizen stakeholders included in the report.

https://lfportal.loudoun.gov/LFPortalinternet/0/doc/218963/Electronic.aspx

A copy of Section 7 Stakeholder Input Summary:

Stakeholder Input Summary 5-18-17

Fourth, the JTHG had nothing to offer in the report regarding Route 15’s congestion or safety.  The JTHG was only concerned about removing berms along Route 15 in front of the Big Springs community.  Below is an excerpt from the report:

JOURNEY THROUGH HALLOWED GROUND (JTHG)

Given the US Route 15 corridor designation as a national scenic byway, a meeting was held on December 13, 2016 with Bill Sellers, the President and CEO of the JTHG Partnership. The JTHG encouraged Loudoun County to utilize the design guidelines contained in their adopted Corridor Management Plan (available online at https://www.hallowedground.org/Partner-Resources/National-Scenic-Byway/Corridor- Management-Plan). Some of the key elements are:

  • Maintain the rural character of the roadway
  • Incorporate the Living Legacy Tree Planting Project
  • Follow the rural design elements in the Corridor Management Plan
  • Review screening and buffering conditions

JTHG acknowledged that the residential developments along the corridor have changed the roadway design with the addition of large mounds placed by the Big Springs homeowner’s association, shown in the photo below, and it no longer resumes the historic character intended for this scenic byway. Therefore, JTHG views this project as an opportunity to make improvements.

Fifth, the JTHG representatives to the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee rarely participate.  Why?  Could it be that they feel they have an inside track on influencing the outcome outside of the public process? They had every opportunity to participate, but now want to obstruct the process in the 11th hour by advocating for a solution that they know won’t work, won’t last, and is a big waste of money.

Sixth, the JTHG enjoys the benefit of Loudoun County promoting and displaying a link to its website on the County’s web page.

Fund Raising

The JTHG is now raising funds.  They seek to raise $20,000 to engage a designer to present an alternative plan.  The JTHG seeks to influence and persuade Loudoun County’s elected officials and decision makers. The JTHG’s fundraising letter “to persuade Loudoun County Officials”:

JTHG Letter 8-21-18

http://fixroute15now.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/JTHG-Letter-8-21-18.pdf

https://www.gofundme.com/route-15-coalition

Below is an excerpt from their Go Fund Me Page:

Route 15 Coalition – JTHG NSB

“Help save one of the most beautiful sections of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, Route 15, in one of the most historically rich sections of the National Heritage Area, from a critical and urgent threat.

The Loudoun County government has been studying alternatives for the future of Route 15 from Leesburg to the Potomac River, and while they’ve said they want to preserve the historic and rural character of the road, new county documents show their intent is a four-lane divided expressway, which will attract more traffic.

Making this 2-lane rural highway a divided highway “with access limited to key intersections” will at least triple the road width, obliterating historic crossroads communities and historic structures, and sharply curtail access to the local small businesses, and heritage tourism on which the economic development of a National Heritage Area depends. It also threatens the viability of large working farms on either side of the roadway.

There is a better, cheaper, and more effective way to address current congestion and safety issues on the road—by using the award-winning model of the Route 50 Traffic Calming Project in Loudoun. We have engaged the designer of that successful project to provide an alternative design vision for Route 15—but we need your help to achieve it. We need to raise $20,000 to get this alternative in front of local and state officials. Can you help us save this irreplaceable part of United States history?”

Are the JTHG’s “persuasion activities” of “Loudoun County officials” prohibited by the IRS?

https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/exemption-requirements-section-501c3-organizations

“The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.  The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.”

Ethics in Loudoun County

Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (Leesburg District) and co-chair of the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee is a trustee of the JTHG.

https://www.hallowedground.org/About-Us/Leadership-Board/Kristen-C.-Umstattd

Considering that the JTHG’s role has drastically changed from being a member of the Route 15 Stakeholder Committee to now working outside the process, this is a clear conflict of interest whether real or perceived.  Kristen Umstattd should remove herself as a Trustee of the JTHG.  Ethics do matter in Loudoun County. A copy of the Loudoun County’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct for the Board of Supervisors can be found:

BOS Current Code of Ethics 2016

 

Asks of Loudoun County:

  1. Return the Route 15 process to the citizens, not special interest groups
  2. All Supervisors to publicly publish and provide a calendar of their meetings with the JTHG since January 1, 2016 (including who they met with)
  3. Supervisor Umstattd to step down as Trustee of the JTHG
  4. Loudoun County to remove the JTHG link on the Loudoun County web page
  5. The BOS direct the Loudoun County attorney to review the JTHG’s tax exempt status with the County
  6. The BOS abide by the Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct signed on January 21, 2016
  7. Grant no special favors or privileges to any individual or entity based on any outside influence or personal relationships
  8. FIX ROUTE 15 NOW!!!
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