It's a gorgeous road, through some beautiful land, but it is carrying far beyond its capacity.
She noted that capacity for two-lane rural roads is 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles per day. Four and six-lane roads have higher capacity, although higher speeds will attract trips from other routes. In 2005, Rt. 15 between Point and Rocks to Leesburg was estimated at 20,000 vehicles per day. That traffic volume is expected to double by 2030.And that's dangerous.
- Lorna Parkins in Leesburg Today
Three of these bridges along Rt. 15 north of Leesburg that intersect the tributaries of the Potomac River were rehabbed in 1994 and are already considered functionally obsolete, according to VDOT's statistics.And we've seen what can happen when obsolete bridges are forced to carry more traffic than they were designed for. The "not in my back yard" policies of residents of both Virginia's and Maryland's Potomac shores have stymied the efforts to build another Potomac crossing between the American Legion Bridge and the Point-of-Rocks bridge.
- Leesburg Today
For example, a 2001 report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which generally opposes development, found that an additional bridge would have no significant impact on traffic crossing the American Legion bridge from Virginia to Maryland. But in 2001, MCI (in Loudoun) had not yet declared bankruptcy, and AOL (in Loudoun) had not started laying-off hundreds of employees. There is no doubt in my mind that some of our neighbors started commuting to Maryland for their jobs. Furthermore, the report assumes that there would be "heavy rail" on the American Legion Bridge by 2020! Given how difficult it has been to get rail to Dulles, rail over the American Legion bridge is a pipe dream. And finally, a part of Loudoun's traffic problem is not commuter traffic, but longer, regional trip traffic. It's people looking to cross the Potomac, but avoid the Beltway, on their way from points south to points north.
The fact, borne out by our own experiences, is that traffic to and from the Point-of-Rocks bridge has been increasing, every day. The backup of traffic to the light at Fort Evans Road on Friday afternoons is a testament to that. The statements of our our neighbors in Lucketts are a testament to that:
Residents living along Rt. 15 told of their frustrations over not being able to get out of their driveways for long periods and "taking our lives in our hands just trying to cross the street," as one resident put it. - Leesburg TodayIn the next few years, the completion of Battlefield Parkway will only serve to move traffic, in four-lanes, more quickly onto the two-lane stretch of U.S. 15 north between Leesburg and Point-of-Rocks.
Options for additional crossings have been discussed for decades. The Western Transportation Corridor became a political lightning rod when it was proposed, killed, revived and killed. (Incidentally, I fully support Andrea McGimsey's election to the Board of Supervisors.) Perhaps it is up for another revival?
Although Montgomery County, MD, leaders have adamantly refused to consider a bridge crossing, Kurtz noted that since 2001, Maryland's four-lane limited access Rt. 370 now lines up with Rt. 28. "There is room to connect to 28, and that would take care of Dulles," whose businesses interests want a northern route, she [Supervisor Kurtz] said. - Leesburg TodayA bridge over the Potomac north from Rt. 28 appears to make sense. Looking at a map, sticking a bridge over the Potomac at Rt. 28 would knock out what looks (to me) like one development in Virginia, and one development in Maryland. Most of the alternatives involve adding bigger, longer roads in a lot more of the county.
Of course, the development which would be inconvenienced by this proposed bridge is Broad Run Farms. This development is one of the most established (and probably politically sensitive) in Loudoun.
These kinds of development questions are the essence of the smart growth dilemma. Putting a Potomac Bridge at Rt. 28 would reduce traffic, congestion and development from Lucketts down 15, over 7 to the intersection of Rt. 28 and 7, at a cost of one development in Sterling. In doing so, we would reduce the load on a series of bridges already at risk of obsolescence and degradation, and minimize the miles travelled across our roads. This, in turn, will reduce the growth of maintenance and repair costs of 15 and 7. Maintaining Broad Run Farms at it is forces growth onto 15 and 7, because the traffic has to go somewhere.
The question is whether Loudoun can really accomplish "smart" growth, or if we are simply opposed to "any" growth.
Because the growth is going to come, whether we like it or not, and if we don't manage it, it's going to come with consequences none of us want.
(At the request of a couple friends, I have changed the image I originally used with this entry. If you want to see the original picture, click here.)