Letter: Gladys S. Lewis, Lucketts

Editor:  I’ve just read the article in Loudoun Now (“Route 15 Four-Lane Plans Draw Protest”), and wanted to correct some of the statistics Supervisor Geary Higgins presents.

He states that “Rt. 50 then had about 6,000 or 7,000 cars a day, today it’s about 8,000 or 9,000 a day in that area.”

In fact, Rt. 50 west of the Rt. 15/Rt. 50 intersection (Gilbert’s Corner) “then”—in the 1990s—had 15,000 vehicles per day in Aldie, and 11,000 per day in Middleburg (according to VDOT’s traffic volumes archives). VDOT claimed “then” that in 20 years it would have 30,000 vehicles per day—and that is why VDOT told citizens they must add bypasses around Aldie, Middleburg, and Paris (what they didn’t tell citizens was that they actually secretly planned multi-lane parallel highways both north and south of the existing roadway, which a VDOT employee leaked). Citizens didn’t buy VDOT’s public line, and called in Ian Lockwood to design a traffic calming plan.

What are the traffic volumes on Rt. 50 about 20 years later, after Lockwood’s design is on the ground? In Aldie, there are now 18,000, and in Middleburg there are 9,700, say VDOT’s latest (2017) records. Why? Either because VDOT’s projections were wrong, or because the road was never widened. Citizens chose a traffic calming design that preserved their communities and chose local small business and agricultural prosperity over the encouragement of more sprawl development.

Rt. 15’s volumes today are 26,000 in north Leesburg at the bypass split (largely due to the construction of 500 new homes just north of Leesburg at Raspberry Falls, Selma Estates, and Big Spring). After the Lucketts Road intersection, where occupants of 300 more homes at Village Green peel off, the volume is down to 19,000. Roundabouts have been built by VDOT—in Virginia—that serve many more cars than currently use or are projected to use Rt. 15.

Once again, VDOT and Loudoun County claim that there will be 37,000 vehicles per day on Rt. 15 north of Leesburg in 2040, and that is why we absolutely must four-lane the road. Indeed, past traffic engineers hired by the county predicted that, if Rt. 15 were four-laned, traffic congestion would be just as bad in four to five years as it is today only on four lanes instead of two; widening the road attracts traffic.

It would mean the end of the rural and small business economy that prospers because of this National Scenic Byway’s heritage tourism and agricultural vitality. Scenic byways are attractive, yes, but their reason for existing is the economic vitality they bring to a region. For the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area in Loudoun, that adds up to $703 million in heritage tourism alone. Farming (including vineyards, equine operations, farm markets, direct-marketing producers) brings in millions more.

The $87 million that it will cost to four-lane 3.5 miles of Rt. 15 up to Montresor Road—pushing the congestion out of Leesburg to points north, and encouraging more drivers to choose Rt. 15—is just the tip of the iceberg of the costs the county and its citizens will pay in the future with this monumental decision.

In September, the Board of Supervisors’ vote on the widening of Rt. 15 will be making a much more fundamental choice about the future of Loudoun County.

Pay attention.

Gladys S. Lewis, Lucketts


6 thoughts on “Letter: Gladys S. Lewis, Lucketts

  • 2018-08-10 at 12:38 pm

    Ms. Lewis, a very active member in the Piedmont Environmental Council(PEC) which has fought any and all improvements to 15 for the better part of 30 years, is part of a small group of people who seem to think that the status quo of death and massive delays on this road is acceptable. These groups, PEC, JTHG, Ruritans, Friends of 15, Catoctin Coalition, etc, will be the first to say that they have “been actively working towards a solution for 30 years” yet next to nothing has been done in that time. Out of their efforts, we have gotten a lower speed limit and “mumble” strips on the lines. No shoulders, no capacity increase, nothing to improve the quality of life for everyone that uses this corridor. Claiming that improving infrastructure and expediting access will destroy nearly a billion dollars of “heritage tourism”, whatever that is, or that vineyards and farms will no longer be able to operate if 150 feet of land is taken next to the current road, is a dubious claim at best.

    The real issue here is that the region as a whole is overwhelmingly behind the 4-lane improvement but a handful of special interest groups, whose memberships are extremely interconnected, are doing everything they can to slow down or stop the process.

    Folks, if you think the road as it is today is acceptable, continue to buy into what these groups are spouting and do nothing. If you’re sick of the delays and deaths, make your opinion known to our elected officials and demand that they expedite the improvement process.

    • 2018-08-21 at 12:05 pm

      As Ms. Lewis points out, the problem isn’t that the County has “done nothing.” By planning for and allowing all those new residential developments along Rte 15, the County guaranteed we would have a severe traffic congestion problem. Predictably, we now have pressure to widen the roads to accommodate the new houses. But, this would only provide temporary relief. Wider highways will just encourage developers to convert more farms into subdivisions, which will generate more traffic and, before you know it, we’ll have the same amount of congestion on a much larger scale. In the meantime, we’ll be destroying more of the rural area that makes all of us want to live here.

      It’s time we make a decision as to whether we want to keep some rural areas in Loudoun County or we want to make it into one giant subdivision. Converting our few remaining scenic byways into new versions of I-66 will only accomplish the latter.

      In his comments on previous letters to Loudoun Now (https://www.loudounnow.com/2018/06/08/letter-emily-houston-paeonian-springs-2/#comment-5824), Mr. Locke stated that the County should ensure that the stock of houses in our rural areas does not outgrow the available infrastructure. I could not agree more with him on that.

  • 2018-08-10 at 5:59 pm

    “The real issue here is that the region as a whole is overwhelmingly behind the 4-lane improvement but a handful of special interest groups, whose memberships are extremely interconnected, are doing everything they can to slow down or stop the process.”

    Whatever Dude. How about,

    Many Loudoun residents recognize that building a 4 lane road that will terminate at a 2 lane road with a bridge is an expensive exercise in futility?

    Many long time residents remember all the same arguments for widening RT 50 that are bing trotted out to widen RT 15? (I would encourage anyone who hasn’t driven the section of RT 50 between Lenah and Paris to do so. Traffic circles and other traffic calming measures have worked wonders, both in moving traffic and slowing down commuter traffic.

    The improvements to RT 50 greatly improved the quality of life of the communities for which the road passed through. The same could happen for RT 15- all you have to do is disregard the folks who think the only way to ‘improve’ a road is to make it wide and fast. Because no one ever gets killed on 4 lane highways and VDOT knows best.

  • 2018-08-14 at 7:29 pm

    The community, which wants the widening and the Lucketts Bypass , should be aware of the fact that if the right bigwigs and rich types in the PEC get to Gov. Northam, he and the Commonwealth Transportation Board, could nix this thing The CTB member to keep an eye out for is Scott Kasparowicz, who has been doing the bidding of the anti highway types and the PEC for a long time.

    • 2018-08-21 at 12:26 pm

      The attempts here to portray the building of highways through people’s farms and backyards as a grassroots revolt against “the rich” is, um, pretty rich. Somebody made a heck of a lot of money building all those subdivisions in the rural countryside. Why don’t we talk about those “special interests?”

      It is just possible that those of us who are relatively poor may also value Loudoun’s farms, rural beauty, and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

  • 2018-08-16 at 1:20 pm

    It has been a while, but then I saw this one, and who could resist. Ken Reid can cry wolf all he wants, but the only real wolf that exists, is Ken Reid. During his four years on the Board of Supervisors, he did more to stop the necessary road improvements to Route 15 North, than anyone else alive, simply by doing nothing during his entire four years on the Board. Few have accomplished the art of doing nothing, better then Ken Reid.

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