*** Phase I Interim Improvement Underway ***
If you look at page 5 of the document titled “Phase I Improvements Signage and Pavement Marking Plan” you can see the details on what that intersection will look like. You may have even noticed that there were roadworks out there a few weeks earlier removing one of the barriers and putting in additional pavement to prepare for the marking. Essentially, this plan extends the merge area for travelers coming from King Street. Previously, they had a very short section to try to merge. Not an issue when the traffic was very slow moving, but at higher speeds, this was a very difficult and dangerous merge. The merge lane will extend most of the way to Tutt Lane, where the merge turns back into a turn lane. It would have already been marked and completed by now, but rain delays have slowed them down. They expect marking to be complete before the end of November!
It should be noted that the community of Little Springs was consulted as part of this process, and they are on board with it. Martha Polkey, the Catoctin Coalition representative, stated during the meeting that Little Springs had been left out of the process, accusing staff of not being inclusive. Fortunately, the Little Springs residents actually attended the meeting, and they stated that they had been consulted, that staff & VDOT had met with them several times, and that they were satisfied with the outcome, contradicting Martha.
*** Main project next steps ***
Topic then turned to the main project. There has been a lot of questions about the timeline of this project and why it takes so long. Some have even accused staff of delaying on purpose. Staff shared with us a presentation titled “Roadway Project Overview Presentation”, which you can find on the website referenced above.
This presentation includes a detailed step by step timeline of what it takes to get a project like this done. I have shared similar details in previous meeting notes, but this time staff shared the information in presentation format. We are currently in the “Procure Engineering Services” phase of the project which involves a lengthy RFP process.
They have officially hired a project manager, Mark Hoffman, to handle the project. He shared that they are about to begin aerial surveying, to be followed by field surveying. He expects survey data to be ready in 6 months, which should work out well, since that’s about how long it will take to work the RFP process for the Design procurement.
There are several other slides with details on the various steps, but to summarize, we are still looking at expected construction to begin Fiscal Year 23. The Fiscal year begins July 1, 2022. So, we could see dirt moving 4 years from now. It’s possible that will be accelerated, but not likely. It is more likely to slip to the right, depending on how well land acquisition goes. They have 2 full time lawyers dedicated to the land acquisition process.
This may seem like a long time, and many don’t understand why this takes so long. So, to provide an example of how this has shaped up in a similar project, the 2nd to last slide details the timeline for a section of the Belmont Ridge Widening project. The Design RFP was issued March 10 and then awarded Sep 17, 2014. 3 years later, September 2017, they began the Right-0f-way acquisition process. A year later, they are still negotiating with property owners. They are at the 4 year mark from the same point where we are today and they are not moving dirt. Several folks have accused staff of delaying, but this example shows that this timeline is par for the course unfortunately.
They also noted that the design itself was “in flux”. They have made recommendations to the board, and the board approved those recommendations. However, during the survey and design process, factors may pop up that require a change. For example, they are currently proposing a roundabout at Montressor after the re-alignment of Limestone School Rd with it. They fully expect that to not change. But, if, for example, there were factors that precluded the additional land acquisition needed for a roundabout (whether environmental, political, fiscal, or something else) they might end up with a light instead. That’s just an example to show that things can still change, and nothing is in stone.
So now that the project is underway, the stakeholder committee will no longer be engaged going forward. However, there will be community input sessions in the future once the design is close to completion. There are 30/60/90% marks in the design effort, and they will probably make that information available and seek public input at each stage. I will stay involved and provide updates as needed, but you can expect them to be every 4-6 months hopefully.
*** The northern section update ***
If you took place in the recent public survey regarding the sections north of Montressor Rd (and a potential Lucketts bypass), thank you! There is a document online titled “Public Input Summary Presentation”, which was presented to us at the Stakeholder meeting.
There were 1,043 unique participants in the survey and the preliminary findings are in! Only 12% of respondents were in favor of the “No Build” concept. Concept B had 70% of the vote!!! If you recall, Concept B was continued four laning and dividing up to and through a Lucketts bypass. 49% preferred the Western Bypass, with 26% preferring eastern. Interestingly enough, 5% said “both” as a write in, which means a full “beltway” around Lucketts. That probably won’t happen, but it was interesting.
I did mention in the meeting that some folks had made statements online that they’d rather see four-laning straight through Lucketts and just bulldoze the old buildings too close to the road, rather than lose land to a bypass. Some online even said that there is no point in preserving Lucketts. I brought it up in the meeting, but it was clear that most felt Lucketts needed preserving. I told the folks online that I would bring it up, I did, and it sounds like it’s not even a consideration at this point.
Keep in mind that this is a completely separate project from the section south of Montressor. There were MANY steps to getting to where we are now with the project in the southern section. Almost none of those steps has happened yet. However, I’ll try to recap what some of those steps were, and that need to happen for the northern section to become reality:
– more public input sessions will likely happen – amendment to the County Wide Transportation Plan to allow widening up to Lucketts along Route 15 needs to be proposed. – The Transportation committee needs to approve it – the Loudoun Board of Supervisors needs to approve it – Funding needs to be identified – Depending where the funding comes from, there will be more meetings and approvals with those entities (is it Federal funding, is it county funding, is it NVTA funding, does a bond need to be issued (if so, it will require a public vote during an election cycle)) – a draft plan needs to be proposed to the board and accepted
And that gets us to where we are today on the southern section between Battlefield and Montressor. As I recall, that took almost 18-24 months to accomplish, and we were fortunate to get NVTA funding lined up quickly. New NVTA funding is not going to be available for another six years since all the projects for NVTA funding have already been identified that far out now (it’s a six year cycle). So, you can expect that it will be at least two years before we get the northern section to be at the place where we are today with the southern section. And then another 4-6 years on top of that to get construction complete.
So, if we are looking at 2024 for a completion of the southern section, we are probably looking at 2030 for completion of the northern section… and that is a best case scenario. If it happens, then that actually works out well, as the traffic models from today (which could change in the future) indicate that in 2030 traffic from Montressor backs up to the light at White’s Ferry.
Anyways, as I said, the Stakeholder committee has been disbanded at this point, but I will continue to provide updates as they become available or needed.
Thank you for all your participation and support in this process!