Raspberry Falls HOA
Summary of April 7, 2017 Meeting
Between Geary Higgins, Supervisor, Catoctin District
and John Suttle, Director, Raspberry Falls Homeowners Association
On April 7, I met with Supervisor Geary Higgins and his chief of staff, Stacy Carey in their offices to discuss Route 15/VDOT issues. I provided them with a list of 36 questions from residents. I will summarize the supervisor’s comments and answers to questions he could address on the spot. He will provide answers to the remaining questions in the near future.
Regarding the Route 15 congestion problem, he said the problem has reached critical mass and it will finally be addressed, much as the water issue was. In the past, opponents to increasing road capacity were successful in stymying efforts to fix the problem, but there has simply been too much increase in traffic from a combination of increased development in the area and more commuter traffic transitioning through the corridor. A key next step in addressing the issue is the Kimley Horn & Associates Congestion Study, which will be presented to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on May 18. Supervisor Higgins said the meeting is open to the public. Following this meeting, there will be a series of community meetings where residents and other concerned parties can ask questions about and comment on possible options. Following this period of public dialogue, the board will decide how to best address the issue, create a formal project and include it in the County Transportation Plan. He said that while the CTP is a six-year plan, it is reviewed and amended on a yearly basis. As a reminder, the scope of work for Kimley Horn and Associates included:
* No build condition * Single-lane roundabout at intersection of Route 15 and White’s Ferry Rd * Single-lane roundabout with slip lanes and acceleration/deceleration lanes * Double-lane roundabout at intersection * Two, single-lane roundabouts, one north and one south of intersection with acceleration/deceleration lanes from side streets * Capacity option: Two, double-lane roundabouts north and south of intersection and widen Route 15 to two lanes each direction from Battlefield Pkwy. to White’s Ferry Road * Traffic signal option: Retain traffic signal and provide additional side-street turn lanes * An additional concept identified by Kimley-Horn
When asked how long this process would take from start to finish, Supervisor Higgins said it is difficult to estimate, but it likely would be at least two years. He did say that near-term safety improvements to the road could be made in the meantime.
The following are responses to residents’ questions:
Q: What is the process for addressing the Route 15 issue? Who makes the decisions and when will things happen?
A: See second paragraph above.
Q: When is VDOT going to repair Raspberry Drive and other state/county roads within the community, from hot-seam, edge maintenance and refreshed gravel. Is there a master-schedule or timeline set for when this is done for a community or area? Are we keeping/removing the second set of stop signs (by the eyebrow); as they were not part of the master plan?
A: Supervisor Higgins said it would be done this year. VDOT confirmed this with me, but only for Raspberry Drive. VDOT is working to get a schedule for the side streets.
Q: Are there any speed dampening humps or other speed control methods planned for Raspberry Drive?
A: Those speed control methods will be discussed as options during an upcoming Traffic Calming Study presentation scheduled for April 17. No decisions have been made.
Q: When will NO OUTLET signs be posted in the front of the community?
A: Mazen Dawoud from VDOT said four to six weeks from March 23, the day I made the request (John Suttle).
Q: Will VDOT also add additional signage further in (past the club house) to also show NO OUTLET?
A: No plans to do so.
Q: The timing of the light at 15 and Raspberry is very long in the AM. Trying to get out of the community can sometimes take 8-10 minutes; are there any plans to shorten the timing of this light to better accommodate RF?
A: No. Supervisor Higgins said the light was adjusted to make the wait time longer for cross traffic so North-South traffic can move uninterrupted for longer periods of time.
Q: Of course — the entire Route 15 traffic issue is a key concern. This includes that horrible yield at 15 Business N (where the blinking yellow light is) to merge onto 15 N. Perhaps make that entire quagmire into a circle too (it worked at Route 15 and Route 50)?
A: This area will be addressed as part of the Kimley Horn & Associates Congestion Study.
Q: Any plans to extend Swiftwater Drive? [heard that was to be a second outlet for RF]?
A: There are no plans to do so as Supervisor Higgins is unaware of any plans to develop the property adjacent to Swiftwater Drive.
Q: Why is the Southern end of The Town of Leesburg a transition zone? Why is there no transition zone on the north end of the town of Leesburg? When was the southern transition zone created for the southern end of town?
A: The area north of Leesburg was always designated rural and the designation has remained even after development to limit growth in the corridor. An area’s designation does not prevent road projects from happening. It is used to control development only, not road construction. Supervisor Higgins could not recall when various zones were created.
Q: What is the county’s definition of a transition zone?
A: Supervisor Higgins’ office will research and provide us with an answer.
Q: What is the county’s definition of a rural zone?
A: Supervisor Higgins’ office will research and provide us with an answer.
Q: Are areas ever rezoned to better represent the actual build out and population needs?
A: Yes, as part of the Comprehensive Plan that is being revised now.
Q: What is the criteria for a rural road?
A: Roads are designated as rural unless otherwise designated in the County Transportation Plan.
Q: Do these different zoning categories have different options for road improvements?
A: No. VDOT has their own standards for constructing roads.
Q: Does the county have a partnership with The Journey for Hollow Ground? Does that partnership have any impact on what road options are considered/approved?
A: Supervisor Higgins’ office will research and provide us with an answer.
Q: Did the Journey of Hollow Ground develop a corridor management plan that describes road improvement options for 15?
A: Supervisor Higgins’ office will research and provide us with an answer.
Q: Who are the other stakeholders outside of the residents that will have an opinion on preferred road improvement options?
The Journey Through Hollow Ground?
Northern Virginia Park Authority?
The Balls Bluff Battlefield Historic Area?
Morven Park?
Piedmont Environmental Council?
A: Supervisor Higgins said these groups would have opinions and that while they need to be heard, they would not have as much sway as actual stakeholders, such as residents, homeowners’ associations and villages. He didn’t see Northern Virginia Park Authority as having an interest, but said the list should include the Catoctin Coalition.
Q: Why does the current transportation plan allow for four lanes only up to Tutt Lane?
A: Unknown. That needs to change.
Q: What changes would be needed to extend one or two lanes just through White’s Ferry?
A: A project that called for that option would have to be included in the County Transportation Plan.
Q: What changes does he feel are needed to the current Loudoun County Transportation plan?
A: Supervisor Higgins is waiting for the Kimley Horn & Associates Study to better inform his opinion.
Q: Can this corridor be broken up into different sections based on population?
A: Unsure of what is meant by question. Zoning?
Q: Has there been an evaluation on how the schools within close proximity to Battlefield and Route 15 have impacted the congestion of Battlefield and 15? School population, # of buses, schedule/after school activities/ student drivers and employees.
Francis Hazel Reid opened 2002-2003
Smarts Mill Middle School opened 2002-2003
Tuscarora opened 2010-2011
There are also 2 additional elementary schools within 1 mile of route 15 and Battlefield.
Leesburg Elementary
Balls Bluff Elementary
There are currently 700+ homes between Battlefield and Selma Estates, over 1,300 students that live north of Battlefield and 22 school buses that go north of Battlefield to bus the students to school. Lucketts students attend Tuscarora High School and Smarts Mill Middle School.
A: The school board will be involved in reviewing options to address the issue.
Q: Does Geary feel the current “rural road policies are adequate to protect the safety” in areas with much higher demand on the road as we have seen major increases year over year?
A: The County Transportation Plan governs roads. The plan is being changed now to address growth.
Q: Are road improvements limited to what is in the current Loudoun County Transportation Plan & Loudoun County comprehensive plan?
A: Yes, but things can be added as necessary.
Q: I have read the 1998 Corridor Study that was on Geary Higgins website that called for numerous safety improvements in this corridor in 1998. At that time there were very few completed subdivisions and the three schools located at the edge of town were not constructed until 2003 and the high school was completed 2010-2011. Were traffic studies completed when these schools were built?
A: Yes, but probably by the school board or VDOT.
Q: How many businesses were active in 1998? and today?
A: Economic Development would have the answer to that.
Q: How many homes have been constructed in this corridor from 1999+?
A: Supervisor Higgins’ office will find out by checking building permits.
Q: How many daily commuter trips are from out of state drivers?
A: Unknown
Q: How many students live North of Battlefield?
A: Supervisor Higgins office will check with the school system.
Q: How many buses are needed north of Battlefield to take students to school?
A: Supervisor Higgins office will check with the school system.
Q: Does the current Loudoun County Transportation Plan/comprehensive plan allow for an additional north-bound lane or allow for the expansion from two lanes to four lanes from Battlefield through White’s Ferry Road?
A: No, but we’re working to change that.
Q: Is it true the current Loudoun County Transportation plan allows for the expansion of four lanes only up to Tutt Lane?
A: Yes, but that will change to go beyond there. It just may not be four lanes.
Q: Are the congestion and safety improvements for the Route 15 corridor north of the town limits limited to roundabouts, spot improvements, turn lanes, guard rails and other safety improvements?
A: There will be some widening done in spots too.
Q: Why is it difficult to get funding for this project when there are safety and congestion studies that date back to the early 1990’s?
A: There have been safety improvements with more coming.
Q: Why are newer roads in eastern Loudoun a greater priority when this road is a major north south commuter route with a long history?
A: They are not. A solution was at hand years ago (2003), with funding behind it, and residents at the time pulled the plug.
Q: Will the motion that was passed by Ron Meyer at the National capital region transportation planning board meeting last week provide an opportunity for major improvements and funding for thus corridor? They will be looking for 6-10 projects, policies or programs that can revamp the D.C. Region’s transportation system by June for TPB approval in July. Projects that will be considered will need to be ready to use the funds to relieve congestion and enable long term economic growth.
A: Supervisor Higgins said he makes sure the road is on every list he can find. He said the project must be clearly defined to be successful, which is why the Kimley-Horn study is an important step moving forward.