The following text was sent out as an email alert on 05/9/18. Please read and take action! If you would like to sign up for PEC alerts, visit pecva.org/signup.
The County should consider adding a roundabout at White’s Ferry instead of widening Rt.15 all the way to Montresor Road.
Hello! Soon I will be writing to you about the Loudoun Comprehensive Plan (the draft plan was released Monday). But this week, I want to let you know about a critical transportation decision before the Board of Supervisors.
Put simply: there are congestion and safety issues on Route 15, just north of Leesburg. Loudoun County and VDOT are trying to figure out what to do about it. Initially, the County proposed 4-laning Rt.15 from Battlefield Parkway to White’s Ferry Road, but then expanded the proposal to widen an additional 1.5 miles north to Montresor Road. Project summary >>
We think that safety must come first. We also want a less congested road. However, the problem with widening is it prompts higher speeds and accidents, and actually attracts more commuter traffic.
That’s why we support putting a roundabout in place of a traffic light at the White’s Ferry intersection, and maintaining the road north of that at two lanes (with improved shoulders). A roundabout is much safer and would help traffic flow. It would also help preserve Rt.15 as a designated National Scenic Byway, which is a critical piece of our local tourism economy.
Ask them to adjust the current proposal. Let them know you prefer the use of a roundabout at the White’s Ferry intersection and maintaining as much of the road as a two lane rural scenic byway as possible.
A Better Alternative to Widening
There are a number of data-driven reasons it would make sense to adjust the proposal to include a roundabout at White’s Ferry (many listed on VDOT’s own website), and maintain the existing lanes with reinforced grass shoulders:
-Traffic flow: A signalized intersection stops traffic and adds to congestion. In many instances, roundabouts provide a 20-30% increase in capacity over traditional intersections. Cars also consume less fuel and create less pollution. And adding new lanes just invites more traffic, including longer distance Maryland commuters.
The roundabout at the Rt.15/ Rt.50 intersection in Loudoun has improved traffic flow and safety, while maintaining the rural character of the area.
-Safety: When the speed limit on Rt.15 was reduced to 45 mph, accidents went down. Safety improves with slower, steady speeds which are encouraged by roundabouts and other road design features. Roundabouts experience about half as many crashes and 70-90% fewer deaths and injuries, compared to traffic signals (no T-bone or head-on crashes).
-Cost: The current proposal is estimated to cost $81.1 million. Whereas a roundabout and better shoulders would cost considerably less.
In addition, the need to maintain what we’ve already built and meet the other needs across the county, exceeds the funding available. We need to spend the funding we do have wisely. A more cost-effective approach to Route 15 will free up funds for other projects.
-Environmental impact: Grading for road construction increases the threat of sediment pollution in the local groundwater supply. Additionally, there is at least one known sinkhole next to Rt.15 north of White’s Ferry and widening the road could increase the chance of collapse. The karst terrain in this part of Loudoun is particularly sensitive to land disturbance.
-Community and economic impact: Route 15 is at the heart of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, which includes historic sites like Rockland. Wineries, farms, and historic sites are part of a rural economy that depends on tourists attracted to this scenic rural two lane highway and gateway to the county.
The Board of Supervisors is holding a public hearing on Loudoun’s proposed projects for the Northern Virginia 6-year plan tonight, Wednesday, May 9 at 6:00pm. I’ll be there to speak on behalf of PEC and invite you to weigh in with the Board as well. We’ve created an editable form letter option to make it easier to send in comments.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Loudoun Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council
Visit our webpage on Loudoun Growth, Development & Transportation issues to read more articles from PEC field representative, Gem Bingol.