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VDOT Retains Two Loudoun Roadway Projects

Two of Loudoun's proposed road improvement projects are back in the state's Six-Year Program, as approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board last week.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) returned the Route 7/15 Leesburg Bypass and the Route 15 safety improvement projects to the transportation funding program, along with eight roadway projects in Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties. The projects had been removed from the tentative draft released last month.

"We're committed to having a six-year plan the public can bank on," said Joan Morris, VDOT spokesperson. "In other words, if the project is in the six-year plan for construction, work is going to begin within the next six years on the project. In prior years up to this year, there were simply too many projects in the plan."

At the urging of Gov. Mark Warner, VDOT reduced last year's Six-Year Program by 28 percent to update project cost estimates that had been too low and to accommodate a decline in federal and state revenues. The final program allots $7.3 billion to fund 1,157 transportation projects statewide during the next six fiscal years, $2.8 billion less than the program approved in December 2001. Northern Virginia's share of the funding is $2.1 billion, a $472,000 reduction from last year.

The updated program adds funding for a development phase to plan and design projects that do not have money available for construction work.

"What these cuts are is simply having the numbers relate closer to the truth. We would have never had these projects in the first place," said Supervisor Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run).

THE PROGRAM, which is for fiscal years 2002-08, retains most of the projects proposed for Loudoun but does not return a few projects to the list, including widening a two-lane segment of Route 15, said Farid Bigdeli, VDOT's assistant district engineer and transportation manager for Loudoun. "Overall, Loudoun County projects were kept in tact," he said.

One of the projects VDOT retained provides funding for preliminary engineering to widen the Route 7/15 Bypass from four to six lanes and to add a flyover at Sycolin Road.

"Putting that back in the plan was the right thing to do," said Supervisor Mark Herring (D-Leesburg). "Heavy traffic turns left onto Sycolin Road. It's very dangerous. There's a lot of traffic at that intersection, and it was one of the things that prevents the bypass from functioning as a bypass."

The second county project VDOT returned to the project list provides for safety improvements along a 4.4-mile section on Route 15 from Lucketts Road to the Maryland state line.

"The truth is those improvements are needed now," Herring said. "I applaud the governor's efforts to bring realistic accounting to VDOT's six-year plan, but overall, I predict congestion is going to get worse throughout Northern Virginia. I don't see it getting better."

Harris agreed. "In terms of interconnected small systems in Loudoun County, we're way behind," he said. "It affects Loudoun County in economic growth because without transportation infrastructure, eventually businesses, tourists and folks will decide to go elsewhere."

Funding for the Six-Year Program begins July 1.