Where Rubber Meets the Road

Where Rubber Meets the Road

Voters to decide county's involvement in road design and construction along Route 7.

As the Board of Supervisors have made decisions about the zoning of the Rural Policy Area and the approval of several Comprehensive Plan amendments, residents have spoken out about transportation issues throughout the county. They have talked about the amount of time they sit in traffic and their frustration with the inability of the General Assembly to put together a comprehensive transportation plan for Northern Virginia. Now, for the first time, citizens will have the opportunity to make a decision about the county's role in fixing traffic problems along Route 7.

Nov. 7, voters will vote on two separate bond questions regarding road improvements, interchange construction and project design.

THE FIRST QUESTION asks if the county should issue a $38,000,000 bond for the construction of a Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway interchange and Russell Branch Parkway from the Loudoun County Parkway to Richfield Way.

The second question focuses on the cost of designing six different road improvement projects for a total of $13,300,000.

Those projects include an interchange at Route 50 and Loudoun County Parkway, the widening of Route 50 from Poland Road (Route 742) to the Fairfax County line, an interchange at Route 7 and Belmont Ridge Road, and the four laning of Belmont Ridge Road from Gloucester Parkway to the Dulles Greenway. Project design for an interchange at Route 7 and Route 690 (Hillsboro Road), which will help with traffic for the new western Loudoun high school, and a Sycolin Road overpass over the Route 15/Route 7 bypass are also included in the question.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Route 7 saw an average of 61,000 daily car trips between Ashburn Road and Route 28 in 2004. Belmont Ridge Road, south of Route 7, had an average of 11,000 daily car trips that same year.

THE BOARD voted in June to create the Route 7 bond package, which developed into the current bond questions, because it believed it was time for the county to take decisive action about the county's road issues.

"People don't want talk anymore; they want to see some action," Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said in June. "Unless someone is growing money trees to pay for these things, we have to take this on and we have to deliver the solutions and we have to be part of the solution."

Since June, Waters has only continued to believe that the county needs to step up and do what the state is not doing for the county's citizens.

SUPERVISORS HAVE been split over whether the county should get into the road business, with some saying something has to be done and others believing Richmond should provide funding for road construction.

"I believe it is the state's responsibility to build the infrastructure with the taxes that [Loudoun] citizens pay," Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) said.

Tulloch voted for the creating a project design bond, but voted against creating a road construction bond because he said the county needed to know what a project would cost before it moved forward. Tulloch said he is concerned about the double taxation of citizens for the construction projects.

"We already pay taxes to the state for roads and I don't agree with also using local taxes," he said.

It is important, however, Tulloch said, for the county to have designs ready to submit to VDOT when the state finds money for projects.

"If we take a more proactive role in getting these decisions done, then we would have a [stronger position with the state]," he said.

IN JUNE, some Supervisors were concerned with only funding the design of projects because the designs do not provide anything tangible to the county.

"We are new, we haven't done this before. If you are new, you want to start out with one project and get your feet under you and prove that you can do it," Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) said.

Assistant County Administrator Terrie L. Laycock also told the board that if they moved forward with designing the road projects that the county's designs would not be qualified for federal funding.

"If you don't have funds to build them, you might want to think about how many you really want to get designed because there is not a really long shelf life for these designs," she said.

While, as development continues in the area, the county could receive proffer money for portions of some of the projects, many Supervisors wanted to take the issue to the voters this November to begin road improvements as soon as possible.

"These are high priority projects," Waters said. "We need to be prepared to go and do it until these proffer funds are recognized by the county."