Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd has renewed a proposal to extend Route 28 through Broad Run Farms across the Potomac River to Maryland to solve Loudoun County's transportation woes.
At a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and the Leesburg Town Council last week, she said the Route 28 alternative would be more viable than the proposed Western Transportation Corridor with one contingency. Route 28 traffic would have to bypass Maryland's acreage that has been preserved for agriculture.
Umstattd said Maryland and Montgomery County, Md., officials have opposed building a bridge at the end of the proposed corridor, because traffic would cut through that acreage. "They have held fast 30 to 40 years," she said. "Until they would agree to a river crossing, we're just talking to ourselves."
SUPERVISORS ARE CONSIDERING whether to build the corridor, which would run 17 miles in Loudoun County along the Dominion Virginia Power lines. The previous board abandoned the idea, but the new board has resurrected it. The corridor would run through the new neighborhoods of Potomac Station, Northlake, Spring Lakes and River Creek.
A state traffic study report released last week indicated a number of Virginia and Maryland commuters drive in a horseshoe pattern leaving their state and re-entering it daily. It has prompted further discussion about the need for another bridge between the Point of Rocks and the American Legion Bridge.
Umstattd said fewer houses would have to be destroyed if the road went through Broad Run Farms instead of the newer neighborhoods. "I think it's worth looking at another (bridge) crossing," she said. "I remember following this issue in 1989. That was one of the key proposals at that time. You would be aiming that traffic where it wants to go."
The extension, however, would go through the Galilee United Methodist Church, which is in the process of doubling its size. Umstattd said there might be a way to build the road around the church.
The Rev. Wayne Snead said he cannot speak for his congregation of 700 but he personally opposes the extension.
Art Smith, principal transportation planner for the Office of Transportation Services, said some people are saying a Route 28 extension is not "looking so bad."
Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) said an independent, regional study is needed before any decisions are made regarding a Route 28 extension or a corridor.
She said she believes another reason Maryland is holding back is the corridor would provide direct access to Dulles Airport. That would put Washington Dulles International Airport at a competitive advantage over Baltimore/Washington International Airport for freight transportation, she said.
Kurtz said she opposes building the corridor without first obtaining regional support. "I'm having difficulty with saying Western Transportation Corridor," she said. "This is the metropolitan outer beltway western bypass interstate. I cannot even fathom that Loudoun County would want a tractor trailer truck interstate splitting the county in half."
COUNCILMAN BOB ZOLDOS said extending Route 28 would alleviate the commuter traffic but not all of the county's transportation needs. "Building a 'tech way' does not replace the need for a western transportation corridor," he said. "There are different demands."
Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) opposed the Route 28 alternative. "I object to making the Western Transportation Corridor an Eastern Transportation Corridor," he said.
Mick Staton (R-Sugarland) said regional support must be gained to win his support for the corridor. He reviewed compromises to keep the Western Transportation Corridor option alive. He asked the county planning staff if the width of the proposed corridor could be reduced to impact fewer houses.
Ann Goode, program manager for the Planning Department, said the corridor could be reduced from 4,000 feet to 1,500. "We recommend 1,500 is something you might want to consider," he said. "It is not magic. It is simply a recommendation."
Staton suggested developing four lanes with a 202 feet right of way instead of 450 feet with option to expand to six lanes or to include mass transit.
He also asked if it was possible to shift the power lines to one side to reduce the number of houses that would have to be destroyed to make room for the corridor. Under the current proposal, building the roadway to the left or right of the power lines impacts more houses than if it were built down the middle. The cost of moving the power lines is $32.2 million to $46.8 million, and burying them is not technologically feasible, according to planning officials.
IN ADDITION, Staton asked whether the board could consider extending other corridors north of Route 7, such as Route 28, Loudoun County Parkway or Route 659. Goode said the Board of Supervisors probably would have to re-advertise the proposal to amend the Comprehensive Plan if it were to pursue those alternatives.
Staton warned against abandoning the Western Transportation Corridor. "What happens when there has to be a second bridge? How many homes would have to be destroyed? How many lives would have to be disrupted? How many communities would have to be disrupted? What do we say to them then?"
He said he is not singling out one alignment, such as the corridor. "I see this as an option," he said.
Councilman David Schmidt said options are needed. "Future generations will be forced to deal with it," he said.
The Board of Supervisors is slated to vote on whether to proceed with the Western Transportation Plan at its June 1 meeting. The Planning Commission has recommended integrating commuter or metro rail into the planning and design of the corridor.