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!!!