County Board Approves Widening, Other Improvements on Route 15 North of Leesburg

County Board Approves Widening, Other Improvements on Route 15 North of Leesburg

In a unanimous vote, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors agreed Thursday (Sept. 20) with staff recommendations to widen Route 15 and make other traffic improvements north of Leesburg.

The widening will take place between Battlefield Parkway and Montresor Road. The board has been looking at Route 15 safety and traffic flow options for several years, going back as far as 1998. A Route 15 Congestion Report, covering the portion of the road from Battlefield Parkway to Whites Ferry Road/Raspberry Drive was completed and presented in May 2017.

Open houses for the public to view and give opinions on that report were held in March. Residents were also asked to complete an online survey.

Thursday’s action and the improvements approved were the result of that process.

Actions approved include:

  • Widening Route 15 to a four-lane divided road from Battlefield Parkway and Montresor Road.
  • A new intersection at North King Street, making it a “T-intersection” with a traffic light.
  • Realignment of Limestone School Road (Route 661) so its intersection with Route 15 is across from Montresor Road (also Route 661) so it becomes a single intersection with Route 15.
  • Design and construction of  a hybrid two-lane roundabout at the new Route 15/Limestone School-Montressor intersection.
  • Making these improvements are designed to incorporate context-sensitive design methodology and follow the Journey Through Hallowed Ground’s design guidelines where feasible.
Several supervisors, and Chair-at-Large Phyllis Randall, said they were voting in favor staff recommendations over concerns with some of the specific language because those issues can be addressed during the design and construction phase. In particular, there was concern about language calling for a two-lane roundabout at the Limstone/Montressor intersection.
Just before the vote, Randall directed staff to continue to get public feedback as the design process unfolds.

The widening plan has faced support and opposition. Among the groups opposing the plan and/or offering alternatives were Journey Through Hallowed Ground, Coalition for Smarter Growth, The Piedmont Environmental Council, Catoctin Coalition, Southern Environmental Law Center.

That group, citing a study by Smart Mobility titled, “Route 15 North of Leesburg, A Closer Look at the Effects of Windening,” made the following points:

  •  The county’s traffic evaluation fails to adequately capture just how significantly widening would induce new travel along Route 15. Widening would add traffic and simply shifts existing bottlenecks along the corridor to the north.
  • A widening approach, beginning with the initial phase before the Board of Supervisors for a vote on Thursday, will create pressure toward a wasteful and repetitive cycle of successive and expensive widening projects that result in Route 15 becoming a larger and more dangerous highway primarily designed for regional travelers, while the historic character of the corridor is destroyed, local access is limited, but congestion remains.
  • Traffic will not grow nearly as much along Route 15 – and particularly along the congested portions – if the highway is not widened.

Some of those groups were also involved in the opposition to a convenience store and gas station on Route 15 near Point of Rocks, Maryland. The board gave conditional approval in July of that application, but not until the original proposal of a 5,600-square-foot convenience store with 24 refueling stations was scaled back to six gas pumps with two dispensers each under a canopy, and a seventh outside the canopy with diesel and farm fuels.

The action Thursday by the board was applauded by Eric C. Johnson, government relations manager for the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce.

“The Loudoun Chamber has long advocated for widening and traffic mitigation along Route 15 to improve the flow for residents and businesses operating in the region,” Johnson said. “The importance of good infrastructure to attracting and retaining business can hardly be overstated, and the Loudoun Chamber is grateful the board of supervisors took action … on Route 15. The daily gridlock on Route 15, as well as other roads in the region are a deterrence to business development and a drain on the quality of life for those that live in the area.”

An open house is scheduled Sept. 26 at the Lucketts Community Center to view and discuss proposals for the remainder of Route 15 North of Leesburg.

Members of the public are invited to view material and maps associated with the study and provide comments on the concepts that have been prepared for the Route 15 corridor between Whites Ferry Road and the Maryland State line.

Joseph Dill