With the long project to make Rt.7 a limited access highway between Leesburg to Rt. 28 complete, the county now has plans for the thorniest part of the road: the four-mile section between Rt. 28 and the Fairfax County line.
While traffic has finally started moving—mostly—along the rest of Rt. 7 where interchanges have replaced stoplights, it grinds to a halt when it starts to hit that section of road, which features three interchanges along with 34 road connections and eight stoplights. A county analysis of crash data from along that stretch of road found a disproportionate number of rear-end crashes approaching stoplights. And pre-COVID traffic analysis found eastbound traffic takes on average 9.6 minutes to traverse the corridor during the morning rush hour, predicted to climb to 15.6 minutes by 2040. With traffic improvements, they hope to cut those 2040 projections down to almost a third, a projected 5.4 minutes of travel time.
County staff members have planned a series of long- and short-term construction projects, hoping to get traffic in that area moving better. In the near term, the county has budged $5.5 million for improvements at Potomac View Road, North Sterling Boulevard, Augusta Drive, Cedar Drive, and Lakeland Drive and Community Plaza, such as extending turn lanes, closing the median crossover at Cedar Drive, and rearranging intersection traffic.
But real changes will come in the long term, with initial estimates putting that price at almost $424 million in today’s dollars. Those projects won’t even begin for some time–they don’t yet appear in the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Program, and county leaders have not yet figured out how they will be funded. County staff members plan to seek state, regional and federal funding for that work.
The work includes a variety of plans, with some roads flying over Rt. 7and highway traffic getting lifted over local traffic in other places, and some roads getting new types of intersections, all aimed at letting Rt. 7 through traffic move without hitting stoplights. It also includes new bike and pedestrian feature, such as shared use paths paralleling Rt.7 on both sides, a pedestrian bridge at August Drive and Cedar Drive, and new crossings.
Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) said the work would be a “game-changer” on both sides of the county line.
“This is going to be awesome when it’s all said and done. Again, everybody, just keep in mind, it’s not going to be a short-term fix. This is going to be a long-term fix at least,” Saines said. “Don’t be thinking you’re going to see a lot of changes overnight, but this is at least getting stuff in the right direction where we’ve never been before in this corridor.”
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) pointed out that the county’s other major east-west corridor—which passes through some of the county’s biggest population centers—is still waiting for its turn.
“I will point out that there are nothing but traffic lights at every intersection on Rt. 50, and that the travel times here would be like Christmas morning,” he said.Supervisors set county staffers to work on those Rt. 7 plans by a unanimous vote Oct. 19. The county has website on the project with more information at loudoun.gov/route7corridorstudy.