Compromise and regional cooperation are key to keeping the proposed Western Transportation Corridor moving forward, officials say.
Representatives of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and the Leesburg Town Council met last week to discuss the corridor, and another joint meeting is set for Thursday night, May 13.
The board is considering whether to build the roadway, which would run 17 miles in Loudoun County along the Dominion Virginia Power lines. It would be a limited access roadway, with interchanges at Routes 50, 267 and 7. The previous Board of Supervisors abandoned the proposal, but the new board resurrected it.
"I think there is a good possibility for compromise," said Mick Staton (R-Sugarland), who attended the joint meeting.
He said he would introduce a motion to make approval contingent upon regional cooperation among Loudoun County; Montgomery County, Md., and Maryland government officials to build a bridge connecting the two counties. Maryland has opposed the bridge.
Staton remained undaunted. "The doors are always open to negotiation," he said. "Maryland officials said the inter-county connector would never be built, and now it's their number one transportation priority."
He said the current proposal, to have the corridor end on Route 7 in Loudoun, is not acceptable, he added.
Bob Zoldos, a council member who also attended the meeting, said the Town Council would not support the roadway if it ends on Route 7. "There needs to be a bridge crossing somewhere," he said. "This is not a Leesburg-Loudoun County issue. This is a regional issue.
"Bickering across the river doesn't resolve anything."
THE TRAFFIC CONGESTION on Route 15, which connects the two states, is near a standstill daily between 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Zoldos called the route "an ad hoc beltway."
"We need to come up with a solution that is effective but does not do harm to those people who already live here in Leesburg and Loudoun County," he said. "If you don't reserve a right of way somewhere, we'll have houses and buildings everywhere and you'll be unable to have a road."
Staton shared that concern. "If we haven't protected that corridor, the costs, the social impact to communities, the costs would be staggering," he said.
Staton said his goal is to put the proposed roadway back into the county's Comprehensive Plan to prevent development from occurring across the corridor. "We can prevent homes from being built there," he said. "If we complete the environmental impact study and determine it is not the best one, we have lost nothing."
HUNDREDS OF HOUSES, however, might be destroyed under the proposed alignment that follows the power lines. The alignment's exact location and design has not been specified yet. Depending on the number of feet needed for the right of way, as many as 398 houses would have to be demolished, according to a report by the Department of Planning, the Office of Transportation Services and the Office of Mapping and Geographic Information.
If the corridor were built west of the power line and needed 200 feet of right of way, 21 houses would be impacted. To the east, 12 would be destroyed. If the power lines were moved or buried and the road was built down the center, only one house would be in the way.
Should the right of way be 450 feet wide, 105 houses would be affected west of the power line, 146 to the east, and 22 down the middle. If the right of way were 450 feet wide with another 300-foot buffer, 280 houses would be destroyed on the west, 398 on the east and 252 in the middle.
The cost of moving or buying the power lines would be $31.2 million to $46.8 million, the report said. The costs would be even higher to acquire land or easements to move the power lines in another place.
Building the corridor would not siphon money needed for other transportation projects, the report said. Because of the high cost of building a corridor, financing would have to be through more innovative techniques, such as tolls, the report said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York had proposed building a tunnel rather than a bridge under the Potomac River. The report said the cost would be about three times that of building a bridge and would extend considerably further than a bridge.