Loudoun Co. Route 9 project aims to improve safety, commutes, retain rural feel

Virginia Route 9 is a rural two-lane road winding through western Loudoun County, past vineyards, farms and through the tiny town of Hillsboro. It also carries more 17,000 commuters a day from Maryland and West Virginia.

On Tuesday, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will hear the findings and recommendations from the Route 9 Safety and Operational Study, which aims to determine which improvements should be pursued to improve safety and traffic flow between the West Virginia line and Virginia Route 7.

The study contains short-, mid- and long-term improvements for the corridor.

Currently, Route 9 — also known as Charles Town Pike — is a two-lane road from the West Virginia border to Route 7, except for a short stretch near a roundabout at the westbound Route 7 ramps. Turn lanes exist at some, though not all, major intersections along Route 9.

The county has held virtual public meetings and offered surveys to gauge community priorities: The agenda item concludes most respondents want some action taken to improve conditions on Route 9, and while safety was most often selected as a priority by respondents, “rural character” was ranked as the top priority more often.

Traffic backs up during morning and afternoon commutes. In the morning, bottlenecks happen most frequently at Hamilton Station Road and Harpers Ferry Road. In the afternoon, backups are most severe at Berlin Turnpike and Hamilton Station Road.

Last year, a multi-year project was completed to create roundabouts on either end of Hillsboro, which has improved traffic flow on Route 9, according to the Loudoun County staff study.

Recommended short-term improvements along the corridor include warning signs, flashing beacons, centerline rumble strips and several “Stop Here on Red” signs.

The staff report prioritizes mid-term improvements, to include east and west-bound turn lanes at Sweet Springs County Store, and eastbound right turn lane at Cider Mill Road and a westbound left turn lane at Purcellville Road. In addition, the staff recommends building law enforcement pull-off areas along Route 9.

Traffic forecast

The county report included a review of planned and programmed projects along the corridor, and used the Loudoun County Travel Demand Model to project traffic volumes over future decades.

According to the model, limited growth in population and employment is forecast along Route 9, however travel to and from West Virginia is expected to grow. But anticipated expansion of Virginia Route 7 is expected to handle more of the increased traffic than Route 9.

While Route 15 north of Leesburg will be widened — in some cases going from two lanes to four — that’s not the case along Route 9, according to the staff item: “Based on the modest increase in volumes and the feasibility of two-lane solutions that improved operations and safety, the (widening of Route 9) alternative was eliminated from further consideration.”

In the long term, while traffic signals would improve traffic at several intersections in the corridor, according to the study, 64% of respondents preferred solutions involving roundabouts, which are both safer and more expensive.

Here are the prioritized Route 9 long-term improvements:

If the board decides to move forward with any projects, they would need to be programmed in a future capital budget. Cost estimates for all of the long-term projects totals $155,910,000.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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