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Near-term Rt. 15 Work Heads Back to Loudoun County Board

Published on: 11/15/2022

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The Board of Supervisors’ finance committee has endorsed a package of $14.9 million in near-term fixes to Rt. 15 north of Leesburg, signaling the chance for some improvement to the road’s congested and crash-prone conditions while people living the area wait on larger road projects still years away.

In July, the county board approved conceptual plans for Rt. 15 including new roundabouts, widening it to four lanes and building a bypass around the Village of Lucketts. Preliminary estimates put the cost of those projects around $300 million, and unless the board decides to delay or cancel other major infrastructure projects for years, that work on Rt. 15 is likely six or seven years from beginning. At the same meeting, the board also directed county staff members to come up options for road improvements that could be done before then.

Supervisors heard options for that in October, sending them to committee for discussion. The committee is sending those options back to the full board for approval. Some of those are spending county money on state responsibilities such as trimming back vegetation, new pavement markings and signs, and guardrail markers. The county could also build roadside rumble strips, paved shoulders, and turn lanes at Vanish Farmwoods Brewery and Farmer John’s Market.

County staff members have also raised possibilities for more law enforcement, including installing speed cameras at Lucketts Elementary School—which would require supervisors passing a new ordinance to permit them—and building law enforcement pull-off areas alongside the road.

County staff members also ranked those improvements comparing their costs to their benefits, using a state formula that estimates how many crashes they would prevent in the future and the costs of those crashes. Getting the state caught up on signs and pavement markings, at a cost of $1.1 million, ranked first, getting three times the return. Those were followed by paving shoulders on the southern part of the road, adding rumble strips, and building turn lanes at Black Hops Lanes. Paved shoulders on the northern part of the road and turn lanes at Farm John’s Market were slightly below break-even for cost-benefit.

And the pull-off areas for law enforcement are both the most expensive proposal and the one with the lowest cost-benefit ratio.

“Essentially, this is more of an enforcement area to enforce what’s out there, not necessarily directly related to motor vehicle safety other than to reduce speeds during the nonpeak hours,” Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure Acting Director Nancy Boyd said.

The state formula does not calculate a safety impact for trimming vegetation or new guardrail markers, and the county staff has not calculated the impact of speed cameras.

Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) balked and spending county money to supplement underfunded state responsibilities, pointing to the state’s half-billion-dollar budget surplus last year.

“I think that before we did that, we really should try to engage in high-level conversation with VDOT, and/or frankly some pressure from elected officials and others to get them to fund stuff that’s their responsibility,” he said. “I mean we’re talking about those three items are more than $3.5 million, and they are things that VDOT would do.”

The finance committee voted to send the list of improvements back to the full Board of Supervisors for discussion 3-0-2, with Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) absent.

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