Leesburg officials are concerned that a proposed access road on the south side of Route 7 west of town will funnel too much traffic into residential areas of Leesburg, Town Council member B.J. Webb told members of the Board of Supervisors' Transportation Committee on Tuesday.
Access roads on the north and south sides are part of a proposal to make Route 7 a limited-access highway between Leesburg and Route 9 to handle increased traffic from planned residential developments--including Shenstone Farm and Beacon Hill.
Shenstone, being built by Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers, calls for 130 houses, and Beacon Hill, being developed by Odyssey Development of McLean, is slated to have 240, meaning a large increase in the number of cars entering and leaving the highway.
"There are not supposed to be a lot of ins and outs on that road, and it becomes dangerous," said Supervisor Eleanore C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge). "We want make sure that, in the end, we come up with a safe solution."
County officials have proposed closing several intersections on that stretch of the highway--at Roxbury Hall, Fort Johnston, White Gate, Beechnut and Hidden Gap roads--and creating access roads instead. There would be a bridge at White Gate Road to allow access to Route 7.
The north-side access road would dead end west of Leesburg at Leeland Orchard Road. The south-side access road would end at Childrens Center Road.
"Access roads are necessary," said Webb, who also is Leesburg's vice mayor, "but [Childrens Center] was not designed as a major artery." The Leesburg Town Council last month issued a resolution saying that connection would create "unplanned and costly" effects on traffic.
Some residents of the area called for tunneling under Route 7 west of White Gate instead of building an overpass. County staff members said that although the underpass would be more appealing aesthetically, it would be more expensive to build and would require a longer disruption during construction.
"Route 7 needs to be limited-access for the safety of everyone who travels it," said Ann Gallus, who lives on Dry Mill Road. "Whether either of these plans is the right one, I don't know."
Representatives of the Leesburg Church of the Nazarene on Roxbury Hill Road said they favor limiting access but worry that it will be difficult for worshipers to find the church. "Under any of these proposed schemes, you will be able to see the church from Route 7, but it won't be obvious at all how to get there," church member Ronn Kling said.
County staff members said they have not tallied the number of accidents on that stretch of the bypass but they said the road is dangerous because cars slow down when they are turning off of Route 7 and cannot always accelerate quickly when entering the roadway from smaller side roads.
"There have been a lot of near-misses that haven't been reported," said Sanjeev Malhotra, Loudoun's transportation chief.
Another public hearing on the proposals has been scheduled for Oct. 12. Any recommendation by the Transportation Committee must be approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation and the full Board of Supervisors.