The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors yesterday approved a plan to limit access to a section of Route 7 west of Leesburg because of concern that planned residential developments will increase traffic and create a safety risk.
The plan calls for parallel access roads on each of the north and south sides of Route 7 between the Leesburg town limits and Route 9 to handle traffic from the planned Shenstone Farm and Beacon Hill developments. Under the access plan, several intersections in the area would be closed.
Shenstone Farm, being built by Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers, calls for 130 houses. Beacon Hill, being developed by Odyssey Development, of McLean, is slated to have 240 houses.
County officials said the stretch of Route 7 is dangerous because cars slow down when they are turning off the highway and cannot always accelerate quickly when entering the roadway from small side roads. The risks will increase as more cars enter and exit the highway to access the planned developments.
"Our biggest concern is safety," said Supervisor David G. McWatters (R-Broad Run). "That stretch of Route 7 is one of the most dangerous areas because of limited lines of sight and speeding. Some citizens can't even get out of their communities."
Eight supervisors present at yesterday's meeting voted in favor of the plan; Steven D. Whitener (R-Sugarland Run) was absent.
Robert Kimble, who lives on Beechnut Road, said there have been four accidents on the stretch of Route 7 near his house over the last two months.
Kimble said he and his neighbors regularly spend as long as five minutes waiting to get onto the highway and worry that the wait will become much longer when new residents move into the planned subdivisions.
"If you have to wait 10 minutes . . . people will begin to take risks because they are impatient," Kimble said.
The plan calls for closing several intersections--at Roxbury Hall, Fort Johnston, Beechnut and Hidden Gap roads--and adding an overpass at White Gate Road to provide north-south access to Route 7. The north-side access road will end west of Leesburg at Leeland Orchard Road.
Supervisors approved the plan without picking a place to end the south-side access road. The issue will be revisited after a study is completed on the impact of several options on traffic patterns in Leesburg.
County staff initially had recommended that the access road connect with Children's Center Road in Leesburg. But after town officials expressed concern that the road would funnel too many cars into a residential neighborhood, the Virginia Department of Transportation agreed to study the impact of the proposal on town roadways.
The VDOT study, which is expected to be completed in six months, also considers the impact if the access road is connected to Dry Mill Road, both Dry Mill and Children's Center, or simply dead-ends.
Sanjeev Malhotra, chief of the county's transportation division, said now that the project has been approved, staff will work to determine how much the changes will cost. "This is only a concept, and it is subject to design and engineering details," Malhotra said.
The board yesterday also signed off on a six-year plan for transportation projects on the county's smaller roadways. All eight supervisors at the meeting voted in favor of the plan.
The plan, with more than 60 projects, is divided into two categories--one for improvements to paved roads and the other for roads slated to be paved.
The improvements will be paid for through a combination of federal and state funds, county staff said. A total of $6 million has been set aside for the improvements next year, with an estimated $43 million over the course of six years.
"We're giving VDOT a priority list, and we have to wait for them to have the money and the personnel to go forward," said Supervisor Eleanore C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge).
Memory Porter, Loudoun's liaison with the state legislature, said preliminary design work already has started on many of the projects, and she expects about 30 of them will be completed during the next six years.
At the top of Loudoun's list of requested improvements is Snickersville Turnpike, where crews will widen sections of the road and improve drainage. The plan also calls for building a permanent bridge on Shelburne Glebe Road near Leesburg to replace a temporary one, widening a 0.3-mile section of Waxpool Road near Panorama Parkway from two lanes to four, and making improvements to Marshall and Pendleton streets in Middleburg.
In addition, the plan requests paving of sections of about 20 roads, including a one-mile portion of Braddock Road and a 2.73-mile stretch of Lime Kiln Road.
Because paving of some of the gravel roads likely won't happen for several years, the county also is asking VDOT to use "Road Bind"--a treatment that helps cut down on dust--in the interim.