At Edwards Ferry Road, Loudoun Supervisors Say Federal Dollars Might Not Be Worth It

Loudoun supervisors got a look last night at what the Town of Leesburg is planning for Edwards Ferry Road, and they had a warning: the use of federal money for the project might be pretty expensive.

Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) sounded the warning after noticing $2.7 million in federal funding in the projected $80–$101 million cost for an interchange at Edwards Ferry Road and the Leesburg Bypass. Volpe asked if the project would have a different cost without the federal money.

Board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said Volpe “hit the nail on the head” with her concerns. He cited a county project to widen Belmont Ridge Road and build an interchange at Rt. 7. He said federal requirements, such as additional environmental studies and mitigation, added a year to that project.

According to the latest report on the project, federal money is paying for $6.2 million of the $73.1 million cost. It is expected to be complete in winter or early spring of 2019.

“Not only did it delay the project a year, but construction costs went up because of that year, and the little bit of federal money, frankly, didn’t make it worth it to us,” Buona said. “You reach a point where the fraction of dollars from the federal government versus the overall project are so small that federalizing the project doesn’t make sense.”

As a rule of thumb, the county estimates every year of delay on a project inflates its cost by 4 percent. If that holds true on Edwards Ferry Road, and the project is delayed a year, those $2.7 million in federal funding could cost the town $3.2–$4 million.

But the project’s manager in Leesburg, Capital Projects Manager Tom Brandon, said the town doesn’t anticipate the kinds of problems the county had on Belmont Ridge Road at Edwards Ferry Road.

“That’s a different type of project,” Brandon said. “Although they’re both interchanges, this project is in a more urban area. It’s in an area that we have done a lot of work in this area before, and have gone through federal environmental regulations at this particular intersection area before.”

For that reason, he said, the town doesn’t think there will be any surprises in the environmental review around Edwards Ferry.

“We have done enough work in that area that we’re confident that there are no unidentified historic or archaeological resources that we might hit,” Brandon said. “We’ve done enough work out there as far as wetlands, endangered species—all of those things have been looked at before.”

He also pointed out that the town has so far only come up with about $5 million of the project’s $100 million cost. That means there will have to be plenty more sources of funding before work can start—possibly including more federal money.

“We will be applying for every source of funding that we can think of to get this project funded, and the federal government being a large source of funding, it’s very possible that some of the funding will have federal strings attached,” Brandon said.

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