Residents are arguing whether the proposed Western Transportation Corridor will improve or worsen Loudoun County's traffic congestion.
At a public hearing last week, about 55 people tried to persuade the Board of Supervisors to either support or scrap the roadway. After the hearing, Mick Staton (R-Sugarland) said the public comments were based on a lot of misinformation. "There has been a lot of emotions running high on this," he said. "This is really about long-range planning."
Gerald James, who lives on scenic Route 15 in Lucketts, said the corridor is the "the only safety valve on paper" to prevent the roadway from some day being increased to a four-lane highway. Representing Citizens for the Western Transportation Corridor and New Potomac River Bridges, he presented a list of 700 people who support the corridor. It was the same list presented to the previous Board of Supervisors, which dropped the corridor because it ended at Route 7, and Maryland refused to build a bridge across the Potomac River to carry the traffic.
James said he was well aware of the reasons used to justify not having the corridor in "my backyard," because Route 15 is in his front yard. But a new highway is needed, he said, to deal with the high volume of vehicles, the rush hour traffic jams, the crashes and the difficult emergency access to Route 15.
Marcy Maher of Potomac Station testified that she objected to the corridor. She said three families in her community are contemplating moves because they are concerned their quality of life and neighborhoods "are about to be sacrificed for political agenda and gain."
Loudoun County residents have selected their homes because they don't want to live "inside the beltway," she said. She urged the supervisors to spend money on schools and public safety rather than build a highway "that benefits developers and satisfies promises made by politicians."
AFTERWARDS, STATON said public/private partnerships — not local money — would fund the corridor.
Many opponents wore round, red stickers with white lettering: "No Outer Beltway."
Kathryn Ciliberti, who lives in Ashburn and has been a long-time resident of Northern Virginia, said people who oppose the corridor complain it will ruin their quality of life. But she says it will improve her quality of life by alleviating the county's traffic congestion.
Loudoun should have learned from Fairfax County that stopping roads would not stop growth, she added.
Randy Atkins, who described himself as a long-time advocate of well-planned, smart economic growth, said current plans to improve and build roads are not going to accommodate the county's projected increase in traffic.
He said the corridor would alleviate some of the worst traffic congestion in the country and bypass protected historic areas. The corridor is the not the only answer to the region's transportation problems, but is an important part of the solution. "The Western Transportation Corridor is critically needed," he said.
Atkins is a member of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, the Washington Airports Task Force, and vice-chairman of the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.
Gigi Robinson of Leesburg said she objects to residents having to set aside property "for a road that will be, for all intents and purposes, a dead end." This is primarily because Maryland will not build a bridge.
"If, however, you are putting aside a swath of property to set up a road to further expand the developer's pickings of this county and dump the traffic on Route 7, you do not have my support," she said.
Andrea McGimsey of Ashburn said her commute to work is taking longer and longer. "Waxpool, a main thoroughfare in Ashburn, is a sea of cars," she said. "The interchanges on 28 will help traffic there, but will do nothing to fix the problem on our local neighborhood roads, the 'feeder roads.' And every day I see more and more houses going up."
SHE CITED a similar problem at Kirkpatrick Farm, a new development south of Route 50. She supported funding for solutions to those problems rather than the corridor.
McGimsey also expressed concern over the corridor's impact on drinking water, air quality and noise levels.
Anita Kayser, who also lives in Ashburn, said she supports the corridor as an answer to the county's traffic congestion. The highway would be an asset to the "many people like myself who end up spending too much time in my car that could be better spent with my family."
Barbara Wayne of Broad Run Farms said the corridor would add to the county's traffic problems and siphon off resources from transportation projects that would benefit the region. "We have an east-west traffic problem, and you want to apply a north-south solution that would only introduce more traffic," she said. "In my mind, that is a picture of gridlock."
The corridor would generate development and destroy open land, she said. It would create the need for more infrastructure and schools "while we, the taxpayers, foot the bill."