By 2020 and on a smaller scale than the Beltway, the three highways near the Washington Dulles International Airport may be built out to form the Dulles Loop.
More triangular in shape than Route 495, a limited-access highway loop is a concept envisioned by a working group of Route 606 landowners and airport, utility, transportation and economic development officials organized in January by the Washington Airports Task Force (WATF).
Since then, the work group met four to five times to review the Dulles area and realized that a highway loop could connect Route 606, which runs in back of the airport to the west, Route 28 to the north and Route 50 to the south to encircle the 1,100-acre airport site.
Route 28 is planned to be widened and turned into a limited-access highway, while the south section of Route 606 will be integral to the Loudoun County Parkway paving and expansion project. Route 606 already connects Routes 28 and 50 and is planned to become an interchange with Route 28, one of 10 such planned interchanges included in the Route 28 widening project planned through a public-private partnership.
"When you look at the individual plans and put them together, a picture emerges where you need this triangular-shaped road," said Leo Schefer, WATF president. "It's clear if we are to optimize the use of the land, we need a loop."
LOUDOUN'S Revised Comprehensive Plan designates the Route 606 corridor for industrial and other uses that are compatible with the airport, a designation aligned with the airport's cargo and international markets. Seventeen percent of the airline industry's cargo potential comes from Dulles Airport, an industry that has led to the development of warehouse, distribution and mixed-use facilities along Route 606, Schefer said.
"Loudoun County is looking to see the land on either side of Route 606 developed for industrial uses, so they can get a strong commercial tax base along that corridor," he said.
As of now, Route 606 already serves as the West Dulles Loop, said Robert E. "Bob" Buchanan, principal at Maryland company Buchanan Partners, LLC, the developers of Dulles Trade Center 1-4 and of Lakeside at the Loudoun Tech Center, both in Loudoun.
"As development becomes more and more active out there, it better defines that area," Buchanan said. "If you say West Dulles Loop, it gives a heightened sense of awareness of where it is and its importance to the airport and to that part of Loudoun County, which has been planned as an industrial space to provide services for the airport and for county needs."
The airport, which opened in 1962, increased from two to 28 international markets and gained passengers over the years from 50 flights a day in 1982 to 800 flights a day in 2003.
"Dulles is now very definitely an international gateway," Schefer said, adding that as a gateway Dulles can become a major area for international trade. "Employers work in a world market. They locate where there is good air service. That's why there is so much growth in Dulles and the Route 28 corridor."
IN THE NEXT few months, WATF and the work group will brief county leaders and other Route 606 landowners on the vision, then encourage landowners, the county and involved agencies to begin the planning process to implement the vision.
"The key is to optimize land use to generate revenues ... for the county and to generate the synergy of the evolution of the airport and of Route 606," Schefer said. "The general belief was everybody working together with a timely plan will produce funding as well as planning solutions."
Robyn Bailey of the Department of Economic Development attended one of the work group meetings and plans to attend future meetings. "If the airport believes this can aide transportation to and from the airport, of course we would support it," said Sandy Denham, communications and special project coordinator for the Department of Economic Development, speaking on Bailey's behalf. "Anything that helps transportation around the airport is a good thing because the airport is the county's economic engine."
The WATF works with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority on air service development, improving ground access to the airport and supporting land use that is compatible with the airport.