Safety tweaks begin at site of fatal Loudoun Co. crash

The intersection of Watson Road and Evergreen Mills Road was the site of the crash that killed Erin Kaplan, of Ashburn. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

WASHINGTON — Two weeks after a fatal crash at a dangerous intersection near Leesburg, Virginia, short-term safety improvements are underway as transportation, government and neighborhood groups seek a permanent solution.

Erin Kaplan, 39, of Ashburn was killed Sept. 8 in a wreck on Evergreen Mills Road, when a food truck ran a stop sign and crashed into Kaplan’s vehicle. Her two daughters and a son were hospitalized, and four others were injured.

The food truck was traveling on winding Watson Road, which approaches Evergreen Mills quickly after a blind turn, on a downward hill.

Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Ellen Kamilakis said the agency has been clearing vegetation since the crash to improve line of sight at the intersection, which is unlit.

Kamilakis said a warning flasher on Evergreen Mills Road will warn drivers as they approach Watson Road, where cars are often stopped waiting to turn onto Watson. Kamilakis also said the flasher “is under design and will be constructed in the near future.”

Loudoun County Supervisor Tony Buffington, of the Blue Ridge District, said he asked VDOT a year ago to “implement near term to solutions to improve safety at the intersection.”

“That being the case, I’m thankful for VDOT’s assistance and I’m hopeful that the warning flashers will, in fact, result in increased safety of the intersection,” he said in an email.

Buffington has also suggested rumble strips on Watson Road and mandatory headlight use in the area.

Kamilakis said in recent months VDOT has added short strips of paint on the shoulders of Evergreen Mills Road, approaching Watson, as well as a stop bar on Watson, to remind drivers they need to stop before turning onto Evergreen Mills.

Shortly before the crash, Kamilakis said a “Stop Ahead” sign on Watson Road had been replaced with a larger sign and reinstalled closer to the intersection.

Buffington said he had been able to receive partial funding “for the addition of a new intersection improvement and road straightening project for Evergreen Mills Road from Watson Road to Reservoir Road.” That project was not scheduled to begin until at least fiscal year 2023.

In the wake of the crash, Buffington said he will seek acceleration of the funding.

A spokeswoman for Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Plowman said the investigation into the crash continues.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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