Loudoun Scales Back Six-Year Road Plan

By Kameel Stanley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 13, 2008

Several of Loudoun County's high-priority road projects are caught in the crossfire of the General Assembly's battle over transportation funding.

County officials have been forced to scale back their six-year road building plan to reflect a 44 percent drop in projected state transportation spending. For Loudoun, the decrease in projected state funding totals more than $16 million for the six-year period.

The revised plan, if approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, will reduce funding for improvements to Belmont Ridge Road, Route 287 and the South King Street Trail, as well as engineering and surveying countywide. Funding will be eliminated for construction on Edwards Ferry Road, Waxpool Road and Creamer Lane and for preliminary engineering for improvements to Lincoln Road.

"It's a fraction of what we need," Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said of the new plan. "We're moving forward with what funding we have."

State officials revised their spending projections in April because of a slowing economy and the collapse of the transportation funding package the General Assembly approved last year. A special legislative session to address the problem ended in failure Thursday, as Democrats and Republicans could not agree on a new revenue source.

On the advice of county staff members, the Loudoun board's Transportation and Land Use Committee last month voted, 3-0, to recommend the smaller six-year plan.

"There's the hope that more funding will present itself," said Art Smith, the county transportation department's senior coordinator for planning and development. "There's no guarantee."

Waters, a member of the transportation committee, said the adjustments to the Belmont Ridge and Edwards Ferry road projects are giving her the most heartburn.

Under the original six-year plan, Belmont Ridge Road was to have been widened to four lanes from Route 7 to the Dulles Greenway.

Studies have shown that 16,000 vehicles a day use Belmont Ridge on average; that number is expected to increase to 26,000 by 2032.

The funding reduction for that project, $2.25 million over six years, means the road will remain two lanes wide and only a portion from Gloucester Parkway to Portsmouth Boulevard will be upgraded. That segment of the road intersects with the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, a situation that has proved to be dangerous for trail users and drivers, Waters said. The revised plan still contains enough money to eliminate that hazard by building a bridge over the trail.

"I'm disappointed we won't be getting four lanes, but at least with the two lanes we're getting rid of the intersection," Waters said.

Some projects, such as the improvements to Edwards Ferry and Waxpool roads and Creamer Lane, will move forward until the time comes for construction. Funding for design work was left in.

But funding for miscellaneous countywide services provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation, including traffic studies and enhanced maintenance, was deleted for the last three years of the six-year period. County officials said they hope money will be restored before any services are affected.

Supervisor Sally Kurtz, (D-Catoctin) said it takes too long to get any transportation project through the pipeline.

"The chronic lack of money, it's like a snowball," she said. "We stay behind."

Waters said the county will be able to revisit its plan should Virginia come up with more money.

"Based on the situation with Richmond, I'm not optimistic," she said. "It doesn't look like it's going to be a rosy picture with the state fulfilling its mission on transportation."

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