The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors took the first step last week towards financing road construction with local funds and sanctioned the idea of setting up a Rte. 28 task force.
The board charged supervisors John Milton (D-Catoctin) and Betty Tatum (D-Guilford) to meet with county staff this week to outline a mission and membership for the task force and agreed to discuss the details at its next scheduled meeting. The board is expected to formally establish the task force Monday.
The move came after an hour of intense and sometimes angry discussion among the board's eight members on whether the county should seek enabling legislation from the Virginia General Assembly to allow local funds to be used for primary road construction. The county is not allowed to do so currently under state law.
Three weeks ago, board members met with state and local highway officials at a panel discussion organized by the Eastern Loudoun Business Association and were told there was little likelihood the state would be able to fund widening Rte. 28 to four lanes in the foreseeable future.
The road, which links Rte. 7 with Dulles International Airport, is targeted to become the county's industrial corridor, and planners are concerned landowners along the road will begin developing their sites, many at crucial intersections, which could preclude the option of ever expanding the road in the future.
But many of the supervisors were clearly unhappy about the idea of funding Rte. 28 or any other road improvements with county money.
"That's a function of the Virginia General Assembly," Supervisor Andrew R. Bird III said. "I will not take it on as a local responsibility."
Supervisor Frank Raflo (D-Leesburg) presented figures from the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation that showed the cost of road improvements needed today in Loudoun, including completing the Rte. 7 and Rte. 28 projects, four-laning Rte. 50 and correcting the worst of the secondary roads, already amount to $190 million.
"The roads are a state responsibility," Raflo said. "We must recognize there are other major areas of county responsibility, and with 10,000 new homes coming to Loudoun County in the next decade I have no intent of voting to add taxes to pay for roads."
Milton, who along with Tatum suggested creation of the Rte. 28 task force, argued that by funding road improvements on Rte. 28, the county would improve chances of attracting local industrial growth, thereby broadening the tax base.
"We have a moral obligation to keep the county in the farming business, and we've got the chance to put development in eastern Loudoun that will allow us to save our farm land," Milton said.