Dear Homeowners and Residents,

Background
In May, Elaine Borakove (our HOA President) and Dave Goodrum, Route 15 Liaison for RF HOA, met with Loudoun representatives to discuss the status of the Route 15 widening project. In June they sent out a briefing to the RF Residents via email and Facebook for the community to review. They followed that briefing up with an open ended survey simply asking residents what additional questions/concerns they had after having read the briefing. If you have not read the briefing, you can find it here, as many of the questions sent in were answered in the briefing itself.

At the July HOA board meeting Dave walked through the briefing for the community via Zoom, and also presented the survey results and had an open Q&A at the end.

Here are those summarized results and Q&A:

Survey Feedback and Interview with the Loudoun Project Manager
There were 35 total responses from 33 households.

The #1 question/concern was about timing, with roughly 75% of respondents citing that issue. The general consensus from the community was, “Why will construction not start until the beginning of 2024, and can we speed anything up?” If you did not read the briefing, the expected timetable and milestones were presented, which noted that the long pole in the tent was land acquisition, which they estimated could take up to 2 years. There were other questions about doing work in parallel, such as utility work, construction bids, etc.

Here is the official response from the Loudoun Project Manager. (Going forward responses directly from the Loudoun PM will be in quotes and begin with the letters PM, and questions from the community will begin with RF.

PM: ”We understand the concern with project timing. To the extent practicable, activities will be performed in parallel. In general, land acquisition begins when the design is approximately 75% complete. The design needs to reach a level of completeness where acquisition and easement areas are known and will not be changing. The land acquisition phase includes pre-acquisition activities such as obtaining title reports, developing plats and having them reviewed by the appropriate regulatory agency (in this case the Loudoun County Department of Building & Development). Given the size of the project and the number of properties involved, our schedule assumes land acquisition may require the County’s use of eminent domain. This process requires a Public Hearing and action by the Board of Supervisors that have stipulated timeframes and notice requirements.

“Utility relocation activities are performed by the utility providers in coordination with the County. Utility relocation cannot start until all land and easements necessary for the utility relocation are acquired. As much as we try our best to coordinate with the utility providers as early as possible, the County cannot control the utility providers’ schedules and resources allocated to the work. On our most recent roadway construction projects, utility relocation has been a lengthy process after work is released to the utility providers. Due to the County’s inability to control the utility providers’ schedules, the County typically waits until utility relocation is nearing completion before bidding projects for construction. On multiple past projects, the County has paid significant contractor demobilization and remobilization costs when utility relocation was not substantially complete when construction contracts were awarded and contractors were given notice to begin construction.

“In summary, we feel the proposed schedule is realistic and includes reasonable contingencies give the risks associated with land acquisition and utility relocation. “

RF: The second most common concern was around congestion during construction, with 7 respondents citing this is a general concern:
PM: “The project’s sequence of construction and maintenance of traffic has not been substantially developed at this time. Therefore, I can provide some general thoughts to the items below, but can’t provide many definitive answers.”

RF: How would lane closures be handled?
PM: “VDOT does not allow lane closures during rush hour except in exceptional circumstances. The roadway will be designed so two lanes of traffic can be maintained at all times (that may require the installation of temporary pavement for lane shifts or shifting of traffic to newly constructed roadway). There may be occasional lane closures during off peak hours when the active roadway is being transitioned.”

RF: Will they do construction mainly at night to avoid rush hour?
PM: ”We anticipate construction occurring mainly during the day parallel to the active roadway. The construction zone will likely be separated from the active roadway using concrete or other barriers.”

RF: Will White’s Ferry continue to operate during construction?
PM: “Since White’s Ferry is private, the County has no control over its operation.”

RF: Several asked for some form of live camera feed and live web updates with lane closure times during construction so that we could plan our commutes and errands around lane closures, or particularly bad traffic days.
PM: “Currently there is no plan for a live camera feed.”

RF: Which lanes would get widened first (southbound or northbound)?
PM: “Sequence of construction has not been developed. To some extent, the contractor who wins the bid has some discretion on how he constructs the road.”

RF: Another asked about the traffic signal cycle optimization post construction. How would it be done?
PM: “Any post construction signal optimization would have to be coordinated with VDOT who will ultimately operate and maintain the signal.”

RF: How long do you anticipate construction will last on Phase 1 south of White’s Ferry intersection?
PM: “A two year construction duration is anticipated.”

RF: Will there be a noise assessment done to determine impact to nearby homes?
PM: “Currently, a noise assessment is not planned.”

RF: Raspberry Entrance signage:  There were no specific questions, just a lot of concerns that it was not going to look as nice as it does now if you guys have to tear it down, rebuild it, or move it.
PM: “It is a little too early to determine if the entrance sign will be affected by construction. If it will be impacted, negotiation on how to deal with the impacts will be performed during the land acquisition phase.”

RF: There were a couple of questions/comments about whether this was going to actually be effective given that it was projected that traffic will still back up all the way to Raspberry during peak rush hour times from Montressor where it merges back to a single lane each direction. The general gist of these questions was really about when/if the road would be four laned further up past Montressor.
PM: “On July 18, 2019, the Board of Supervisors endorsed a planning concept for Route 15 improvements between Whites Ferry Road to the Maryland State Line. The approved planning concept included widening Route 15 to four lanes from Montresor Road to the Village of Luckett. The adopted fiscal year (FY) 2021 – FY 2026 Capital Improvement Program includes some funding for Route 15 improvements north of Montresor Road, including the roundabout at Spinks Ferry Road. The timing and full funding to widening Route 15 north of Montresor Road is currently proposed in a future fiscal year (beyond FY 2026).”

RF: One person also asked whether this project included a bike path and widening on White’s Ferry Rd itself down to the Ferry.
PM: “The County is designing a shared use path along White’s Ferry Road from Route 15 to the ferry landing. There are no plans to widen White’s Ferry Road.”
(note: This didn’t actually answer the question as to whether it was part of this widening project or if it was a separate project. I believe it is a separate project, as it is not shown in the 30% design.)

RF: I also wanted to follow up making sure the bike path extends all the way to the main entrance of Tuscarora HS, and not the bus entrance as shown in the current 30% design.
PM: “The shared use path will extend along King Street to the Tuscarora HS entrance.”

There were also 4 comments that our intersection should be a roundabout vs a light. There were also 4 comments thanking us for keeping the light. The roundabout vs light debate was addressed during the stakeholder phase in 2018 where it was determined that both performed equally well in this situation, and the overwhelming majority of the RF community preferred to keep the light (taken via an online survey). At that time, it was also raised as a concern that during peak rush hours, commuters from White’s Ferry and school buses would not be able to safely traverse a four lane roundabout to go south, which could cause extensive backups on that side of the intersection. The intersection will remain a light.

There was also a question about the environmental impact and general appearance of the 4 laning and the movement of the utilities. There is an ongoing environmental study to address these two questions and all work would fall under JTHG guidelines for appearances.
That person also was concerned about traffic induction as a result of the project. This was addressed in 2018 when the study projected a less than 2% induction from this project since the project does not go all the way to Point of Rocks. There are currently no plans to four lane to Point of Rocks or widen the bridge. The only funded plans are to widen to Lucketts.

HOA Board Meeting Q&A
At the HOA Board meeting there were a few action items that were discussed:

  1. Push for a noise assessment to be a part of this process.
  2. Push for a traffic camera feed and website announcements to be be a part of the construction bid.
  3. Once the design gets to 75% later this year, it will become more clear what will happen to our front signage… If it will be impacted, the HOA board may need to engage their lawyer to determine our rights and make sure we are part of the land acquisition negotiation, since the HOA does not own that land (we only have an easement). Once the design gets to 75% later this year, it will become more clear what will happen to our front signage… If it will be impacted, the HOA board may need to engage their lawyer to determine our rights and make sure we are part of the land acquisition negotiation, since the HOA does not own that land (we only have an easement).

If you submitted a question/concern and feel it was not addressed, please first review the briefing sent out to see if your question was answered in the briefing. If not, feel free to send David and Elaine a message and they will get back to you as soon as possible!  Elaine: President@raspberryfalls.org David:  dagoodru@outlook.com

Sincerely,
Raspberry Falls HOA Board of Directors