Rte. 340 Is a Better Way

I would like to take the opportunity to expand upon and clarify a position touched upon in an interview with me that appeared in an Aug. 15 Loudoun Extra article on Hillsboro and Route 9 traffic ("Traffic Overtakes a Rural Haven.")

Clearly, any objective analysis of the pending plan to reconstruct Route 9 from Charles Town, W. Va., to the Virginia border as a four-lane superhighway (complete with a towering bridge spanning the Shenandoah River to Keyes Gap) to connect to the two-lane Route 9 that twists through Hillsboro on its 12-mile stretch to Route 7 should incite alarm. The conservatively estimated price tag of $100 million, most of it federal tax dollars, makes this a matter of concern for all taxpayers who want to see our limited tax dollars applied in the most cost-effective, efficient and solution-oriented manner, regardless of state of residence.

I firmly believe that the short- and long-term solution to the crushing commuter traffic on Route 9 is not a $100 million half-measure still a decade distant -- fraught with a disastrously expensive set of consequences -- but rather the channeling of the bulk of commuter traffic originating in West Virginia to an upgraded Route 340. As so much of the new development is occurring around Charles Town (and farther west), Route 340 is the most natural commuter corridor and is already four lanes with limited access most of the way to its intersection with Route 7. Cost for improvements to Route 340 to accommodate high-speed commuter traffic -- a West Virginia "autobahn" -- would likely be just a fraction of that $100 million for the short Route 9 segment and certainly could be completed much sooner.

The remaining two segments of the West Virginia Route 9 improvement project funnel directly into the existing Route 340 and thus are unaffected. And, needless to add, this creative solution would not dump thousands of frustrated commuters (an estimated 20,000-plus in 2012) onto an unimproved, slow-moving two-lane Virginia Route 9 for the remaining 12-mile leg to Route 7.

Indeed, I believe this is the common-sense alternative that demands a hearing. As the recent Washington Post series on regional development vividly illustrated, intense residential growth is inevitable in the Charles Town area and west, with upward of 90 percent of new households likely to be employed in and commuting to Virginia or the District. It is time to grasp the reality of the existing and rapidly widening commuter river and its requirement for an unimpeded flow. The 20th-century Route 9 solution desperately needs a creative revamping for the 21st-century reality.

Roger L. Vance

Mayor, Town of Hillsboro

A Missed Opportunity

This is in reference to the Aug. 15 Loudoun Extra article ["Traffic Overtakes a Rural Haven"] where Mayor Roger Vance wants to reclaim the Town of Hillsboro from the onslaught of traffic on Route 9.

Having to use traffic-overloaded Route 15 north of Leesburg on a regular basis and trying for years to get the county Board of Supervisors to come up with a reasonable plan to ameliorate the safety and capacity problems on this road, I can relate to the Hillsboro problem with Route 9.

However, it is difficult to muster much sympathy for the residents of Hillsboro because, over the years when the Virginia Department of Transportation or others came forth to resolve the problem by suggesting a bypass be built around Hillsboro, the citizens rose up against it. As a consequence, the recently adopted county master plan states there will be no capacity improvements to Routes 9, 15 or 50 for the next 20 years.

The town of Hillsboro brought the present situation on themselves when they went along with the policy promoted by the county board, Piedmont Environmental Council and their own supervisor who espoused the view that the solution to the traffic problems in their town was to slow traffic down, keep the road substandard to discourage people from moving out to the country or using it as an out-of-state commuter route.

The slow-growth philosophy is that if the county stalls long enough and does not indicate where roads, bypasses, etc. are needed in the future to get around places like Hillsboro, Lucketts and Middleburg, the optimum routes for such roads will get built up with housing, parks, etc. As a consequence, it will be almost impossible to find clear paths around such communities. This is fine for no-growth advocates but leaves citizens in towns like Hillsboro with no relief in sight.

It is unfortunate that the residents of Hillsboro bought into this philosophy because now that it has dawned on them that the traffic load on Route 9 is overwhelming the town, they are at square one for coming up with a plan to reroute the traffic. The solution should have been placed on the books years ago as urged by VDOT and other transportation specialists.

Welcome to the realities of living in western Loudoun under the present county road plan. The rural road picture isn't very attractive and is getting worse every day.

Andrew F. Pitas

Leesburg

Push for Bypass Now

Your excellent article about Hillsboro and Route 9 traffic congestion shows the results of poor transportation planning and how Loudoun County has been in denial about growth beyond its own borders. I agree with Mayor Roger Vance that his town needs to institute immediate measures such as sidewalks and lights, but Hillsboro should not have to wait "20 years for another highway to be built," as Vance said in your article. He also said a bypass was "too far away to solve what is an immediate problem."

It should only take six years to build a new highway, if there is political will to finance it and withstand the opposition from NIMBYs and ideologues who think "smart growth" is going to miraculously make auto travel and growth in West Virginia disappear.

I would advise Hillsboro to seek the support of Loudoun County and the Commonwealth of Virginia to plan for a bypass road now. It will be difficult to find right of way because of the hilly terrain around Hillsboro and opposition, as well as funding to build it. But failing to act now will mean Hillsboro will face what we in the U.S. Route 15 corridor have faced for years.

Historic U.S. 15, founded in the 1700s as the Carolina Road, faces the threat of widening and increased traffic deaths and injuries because ofthe failure of Govs. Mark Warner and Robert Ehrlich to support the construction of a western bypass. And, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors seems to have been scared off by NIMBYs in getting the right of way for this highway back into the Loudoun Comprehensive Plan.

The reality is that more people are moving north and west of Loudoun, and this means rustic roads like Route 9 and 15 will become the main means of accessing employment and shopping -- even if Loudoun becomes more of a jobs center.

So, folks in Hillsboro should not sell short the idea of a bypass. Failure to plan for future growth will only sentence Hillsboro and other quaint towns in Loudoun to more traffic, pollution and accidents.

Ken Reid

Leesburg