Update: On May 2nd, the Board of Supervisors voted on the proposal to further expand Belmont Ridge Rd. and Northstar Blvd. past the four lanes planned to six lanes. Residents along both roads, spoke out against the proposed changes via email, the public hearing, and at a public input session on May 1st. The Board voted 8-1 to expand Northstar Blvd. but retain the current four lane plan for Belmont Ridge with a 150 foot right of way, siting the importance of providing freight access to Dulles Airport and connecting Loudoun and Prince William. Janet Clark, representative of the Blue Ridge District, was in favor of maintaining four lanes on both Belmont Ridge and Northstar. She voted in opposition to this compromise, siting it's impact on Northstar residents and the inconsistency of the proposal with Prince William's plans of only four lanes. You can can read more about the decision in the Leesburg Today or watch the Telecast, click item 6. CPAM 2012 - 0001 Northstar Blvd./Belmont Ridge Rd.
This highway will connect in the south to the Tri-County Parkway in Prince William which connects to I-95. Although the Board of Supervisors adamantly rejects the notion that this is a part of an Outer Beltway route, the plans discussed by VDOT in 1990, specifically option W-2, seem to indicate that it could be. Regardless of whether or not you believe this is the Outer Beltway plan revived, the impacts on the communities are undeniable; more traffic, more trucks, noise disturbances, air pollution, and an unsafe division through communities. The bottom line is this six-lane north-south highway on Belmont Ridge doesn't fix Loudoun residents' traffic problems or safety concerns on local roads, it only make them worse by inviting a new wave of sprawl and the increased traffic that comes with it.
The Board of Supervisors took public comment on April 10th, only two weeks after the Planning Commission introduced this possibility to the public and voted on May 2nd. Even with the short notice provided by the County, residents in the Ashburn community came out and made their voices heard. Residents were successful in preserving the plan of only four lanes for Belmont Ridge. Unfortunately, the Board did vote to approve the six laning of Northstar Blvd. leaving those current and future residents vulnerable to the impacts of future road expansions and Belmont Ridge vunerable to future attempts to expand the road to six lanes. The Board explained that the six-lane road was necessary for freight movement from I-95 to Dulles and better connecting Loudoun and Prince William. However, this provides little consolidation to those whose homes are affected.
Kirkpatrick Farms, Stone Ridge,
South Riding, Arcola, Brambleton,
Broadlands, Ashburn, Belmont,
River Creek, Lansdowne are just
a few of the potentially affected
What's going on?
The Board plans to expand all of Belmont Ridge Road and Northstar Blvd. south of Braddock Rd. to the Prince William County line from two to six lanes. The 2010 County Transportation Plan currently calls for Belmont Ridge Road to be expanded to four lanes and Northstar Blvd. to remain two. This proposed six lane corridor would be connected to the Tri-County Parkway in Prince William which would connect down to I-95 creating an Outer Beltway which will invite a new wave of sprawl. The community has fought this road for over 20 years because it threatens to open up large swaths of land to residential development, to exacerbate traffic problems on already congested east-west transportation corridors, negatively impacts nearby communities, and wastes valuable tax payer dollars on an unnecessary road expansion rather than on addressing east-west transportation issues.
In 2010 a local community group, Citizens for a Countywide Transportation Plan (CCTP), was concerned about the proposed revisions to the plan and commissioned a study to have an independent analysis of publicly available information by Smart Mobility. The resulting study revealed the flaws in the modeling. It also pointed to more and better solutions for handling congestion in Loudoun.
When the Countywide Transportation Plan, was last reviewed in 2010, Loudoun citizens made clear that roads through Loudoun neighborhoods should be limited to two or four lanes--for good reasons. VDOT's design standards for six-lane roads, including wider lanes and wide, clear shoulders, cue drivers to shoot through at highway speeds. Six-laning these roads would make it dangerous or impossible to cross the street in your own neighborhood.
The Board stated at last month's April 10th, 2012 hearing, that there is no funding for the road so it won't be expanded anytime soon and that the expansion would be similar to other six lane roads in Ashburn. However, we remain concerned about both of these statements.
First, the state has a transportation fund called the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank which could be used to expand the road because it falls within a state priority area refered to as the "Northern Virginia North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance". This fund is designed to assist localities with "financing for present and future transportation needs". So even if Loudoun County does not have the funds for this road, the state might for what they see as a high priority.
Second, although there are a couple other six-lane roads in Ashburn, such as Waxpool Rd., the proponents of the Belmont Ridge expansion have clearly stated that this expansion is needed for better freight access to Dulles, as a more efficient connection from I-95, and as a commuter connection between Prince William and Loudoun. Other community roads have design speeds no faster than 50mph, Waxpool for example has a design speed of 40 mph through residential areas and 50 through commercial while the proposed ultimate six-lane expansion of Belmont Ridge Rd. has a design speed of 60 mph.
For more details on the proposal read the staff report from Loudoun County planning department.
Do we Need to Turn Belmont Ridge Rd Into A Highway?
Belmont Ridge Rd. has safety issues and some traffic issues that may warrant expansion to four lanes but there is little justification for expanding the road to six lanes, the equivalent of Rt. 7 or nearby Rt. 28. Below is a comparison of the 2010 traffic counts from VDOT on Belmont Ridge Rd. and Gum Springs Rd. (the closest north-south connection to where Northstar is planned).
Roads for Proposed Expansion to Six-Lanes
Belmont Ridge Rd. - 13,000 Daily Vehicle Trips (segment from the Greenway to Route 7)
Gum Spring Rd. - 8,200 Daily Vehicle Trips (segment from Prince William County line to Braddock Rd.)
Existing Roads with Six-Lanes Configuration Similar to
Belmont and Northstar Proposed Widths
Route 7 - 84,000 Daily Vehicle Trips (segment between Claiborne Parkway and Route 28)
Route 28 - 111,000 Daily Vehicle Trips (segment from Dulles Toll Road to Route 7)
These comparisons demonstrate that there is little pressure on these roads currently. So why does Loudoun County's model's indicate that there is a need for major expansion?
The Loudoun model is based on an outdated model created by the Transportation Planning Board. This model is not "industry accepted" for planning of multi modal transportation systems and does not reflect the County goals for compact, mixed use development, highly connected street networks, and reduced development in the transition area. The model is known to have serious flaws and falls short of federal guidelines. The Loudoun County model is modestly improved, but still falls short of federal guidelines used by the Federal Highway Administration, having nearly twice the deviation allowed.
The Loudoun model substantially increases traffic projections for major corridors, especially those in the rural and transition areas. The model substantially over estimates the circumferential traffic and includes excessive rates of commuting traffic from external locations such as Maryland to Fairfax commutes. These flaws in the model lead to the erroneous conclusions about needed road improvements on Belmont Ridge Rd. and Northstar Blvd.
Will this Expansion Help Ease Traffic?
No, it will likely encourage a new wave of sprawl that will encourage more traffic. Building a six-lane regional highway through Loudoun will hurt our neighborhoods and it won't help traffic because:
For more information about why this expansion will not ease traffic, check out our Myths and Facts page.
This project is a wasteful use of tax payer funds that will hurt the quality of life in our neighborhoods, encourage more unsustainable sprawling development, and further exacerbate our real east-west traffic problems.
Piedmont Environmental Council is urging the County to retain the recently adopted 2010 County Transportation Plan language keeping Belmont Ridge Rd. four lanes maximum and Northstar at two. We are recommending a "complete streets" approach which includes better planning for safety, alternative means of transportation, and buffering of adjacent communities.
Please contact the Board of Supervisors before May 2nd and attend the May 1st public input opportunity at 6pm at the Loudoun County Government Center.
For more information:
See Ashburn Patch Newspaper Article of the April 10th hearing
Check out the local community group, Citizens for a Countywide Transportation Plan
Check out the staff report from Loudoun County
Check out our 2011 Summer Piedmont View article about the Outer Beltway