Va. 9 closure compromise will let traffic flow through Hillsboro

A compromise plan would keep Route 9 open through the tiny town of Hillsboro, Virginia, during morning rush hour, while renovation work is done. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

One of the major commuter routes in Loudoun County, Virginia, one which regularly carries thousands of commuters from three states, might have had to close for 11 months in a stretch that passed through the historic town of Hillsboro, population 86. But a compromise appears to have been found that will let the town conduct its renovation and allow the traffic to flow.

WTOP has learned the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Town of Hillsboro have developed a plan that would minimize the periods of time in which Virginia Route 9 would be completely closed over the 0.7-mile stretch through the town.

Mayor Roger Vance said the new plan calls for the closure of one lane of traffic through Hillsboro for about 14 months.

Every weekday, during morning rush hours, one lane of eastbound traffic will be open through Hillsboro for the approximately 17,000 daily commuters who use Route 9. In addition, local and regional detour routes will be options for drivers choosing to avoid the picturesque but slow ride through the town.

“Every day at 4 a.m. the road will be open to eastbound traffic through that peak rush period, [ending] at 9 a.m.,” Vance said. “Then the road will be entirely closed for rest of the day, allowing the contractor to have full access to the entire work zone, which is within the town limits.”

“After the morning, they’ll have unfettered access, so they can work an extended day, as much as they wish,” Vance said.

The westbound lane won’t be opened during the afternoon and evening rush. Vance said “extensive traffic counts and analysis” shows “the evening traffic is much more dispersed over time, and in its concentration.”

Neighboring Clarke County officials had expressed concern that closure of Route 9 would mean 10,000 extra vehicles daily would be diverted onto Va. 7 and U.S. 340.

“The detour that would take traffic west to Route 340, from that point on, is primarily all right turns,” said Vance. “That would mean less impact on intersections in Clarke County and beyond.”

Del. Dave LaRock, whose 33rd District includes portions of Clarke, Loudoun, and Frederick counties, said he is pleased with the new plan.

“The focus is on minimizing the impact on commuters, residents and businesses,” LaRock told WTOP. “Going forward, I will inform and engage the entire community, incorporate their input, and hope to find peace in the valley so we can complete this project.”

A new plan

This summer, the town decided it needed to develop a new pedestrian safety and traffic calming project after three bids from construction firms came in up to $10 million above project engineers’ cost estimates.

The original plan would have included the construction of two roundabouts and new sidewalks, and buried power lines. It would have kept one lane open, but taken three years to complete.

Earlier this month, Vance floated a different plan, one that would save money and reduce construction time to 11 months, but completely close Route 9 for the duration.

Vance said the latest plan would allow for 60 calendar days of complete closure of Route 9 to build critical components. The 60 days would not necessarily be consecutive, but dependent upon the contractors’ needs.

In addition, Vance said, the plan would include incentives to contractors who are able to avoid requiring the full closure for the allotted 60 days.

The plan would also provide for one lane of westbound traffic starting Fridays at 3 p.m. through Sunday evenings at 5 p.m., to assuage local businesses’ concerns and keep tourist traffic flowing.

“This way the heavy traffic going west to wineries and breweries will have that activity during the weekend, which is their biggest period of business,” Vance said. “So, we tried to accommodate both of those needs.”

After VDOT provides final approval of the technical team’s plan, likely within the next few weeks, Vance said the project would again be put out for bid.

Once construction begins, Vance said, the roundabouts at either end of the town will be the first priority, to help facilitate detour traffic during the remainder of the construction period.

Loudoun County and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority are contributing financially to the project, with the goal of smoothing commutes for drivers passing through the historic town.

VDOT has agreed to Loudoun Supervisor Tony Buffington’s request to accelerate regular maintenance and repaving of Route 719, which will be part of the local detour. Cider Mill Road, although not part of the detour, will likely receive additional cut-through traffic during construction.

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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