'Total and Utter Gridlock'

'Total and Utter Gridlock'

On the day that the Loudoun County Planning Commission was meeting for the second time to work on the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPAM) for the Route 50 corridor, the nonprofit group Campaign for Loudoun’s Future held a press conference to discuss what it believes is the biggest issue in development: the traffic.

The organization opposes a CPAM that it says would allow 28,000 homes to be built in the Upper Broad Run and Upper Foley areas of eastern Loudoun. The area is currently zoned as a transition area, allowing only 4,500 housing units to be built by right.

“Based on the current densities the transportation network is broken, it is nothing but congestion,” Ed Gorski, land-use officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council, said. “Adding 24,000 units is not going to fix the problem.”

THE AREA that concerns Campaign for Loudoun’s Future and many citizens is not included in the areas of the Route 50 corridor currently being addressed by the Planning Commission. The area, known in the CPAM as segment four, was separated out at the Board of Supervisors' Oct. 18, 2005, meeting.

According to the minutes of that meeting, Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) made a motion, which later included amendments from Supervisors Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) and Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), which made the Arcola area plan amendment a first priority of the Planning Commission. The motion delayed the decision on the transition area until the Arcola area CPAM was complete.

“The continued review of the Transition Area Plan amendments currently being addressed by the Planning Commission is to be placed on hold pending the completion of the plan amendment efforts related to the Route 50 Task Force recommendations,” the minutes stated.

However, Staton said in a phone interview, that did not stop the consideration of the transition area CPAM, only delayed it. The Planning Commission is expected to discuss the transition area CPAM at its work session Monday, May 8.

WHENEVER THE DECISION on the Upper Broad Run and Upper Foley areas is made, Campaign for Loudoun’s Future is very clear on where it stands.

“We need to stop work on this major plan,” Andrea McGimsey, director of the Campaign for Loudoun’s Future, said. “The county staff reports on traffic impact have not been released yet and I am extremely worried about traffic.”

Aldie resident Tobin Seven said it takes him 15 minutes to go less than a mile from his home to Gilbert’s Corner and at least an hour to make it to Reston, where he works.

“We love living out there,” the 11-year resident said, “but my wife has to wait until 10 o’clock to just go to the post office. There’s something wrong with that.”

Stephen Nichols, a retired police sergeant from Austin, Texas, who moved to Aldie two months ago, said one of the major concerns when it comes to traffic problems is allowing emergency vehicles access.

“Once you get construction in there, fire, police and EMTs can’t get through,” he said. “There has to be somewhere for the cars to go to make room for the emergency vehicles, not just a gravel drop off.”

According to the CPAM impact chart presented at the press conference, levels of service for major thoroughfares in the county, such as Route 50, Route 606 and Route 659 are already at low levels. If development continues as planned, the chart, which was created by county staff, shows that under the proposed CPAM service levels will fall to an F rating, with an F- in some areas, by 2020.

“An F rating is total and utter gridlock,” Gorski said. “How do you get worse than total and utter gridlock?”

THOSE PRESENT AT the press conference expressed their displeasure with the board and the view that development will help the county in the long run.

“If development really fixed [our problems] then our roads would be getting better and our taxes would be going down,” McGimsey said.

Instead, she said, development is causing road problems and skyrocketing tax bills.

While Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) has stated that he plans to make developers pay for the new road system, Campaign for Loudoun’s Future does not believe developers will fix the real problems.

“Developers will pay for nothing but what the countywide transportation plan calls for,” Gorski said, “and I think it’s been shown that the current plan doesn’t work.”

Steve Hines, a member of Families for Dulles South, a grassroots citizens group, said he believes that road improvements by developers are “self-serving,” only helping the areas where the developer is building, creating even more traffic problems on outer roads.

“Traffic is just the symptom, development is the problem,” he said. “I believe that we have an obligation to say it is time to slow this operation down.”

WHILE NO ONE mapped out a clear alternative to developer-proffered road improvements, McGimsey said that there are many real-life examples of the ineptitude of the current development. She cited bus stops on Waxpool Road, which has no bus service planned and a bike path along Waxpool Road that stops abruptly at Verizon and goes nowhere else.

“The section of Claiborne Parkway that is opening up is great, we need it, but that’s north/south,” she said. “We need to start talking about how we are going to build up the east/west roads.”

McGimsey went on to say that the tax money should be focused on the problems of roads that run east and west because the Potomac River and Dulles Airport provide physical barriers to north and south travel.

“We have to take the physical barriers into account,” she said. “People who live near those barriers are eventually going to have to travel on the east/west roads to get to where they need to go.”