Plans to widen US 15 from Leesburg to Maryland line nears vote in Loudoun County

Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors will vote next month on plans to widen U.S. Route 15, north of Leesburg, Virginia, with the hope of improving safety and reducing congestion on the two-lane commuter route.

Route 15 north of Leesburg is a picturesque drive through rural Loudoun County, passing vineyards, produce stands, recently built subdivisions and the tiny village of Lucketts.

Stretching from New York to South Carolina, Route 15 through northern Loudoun County is also a congested, often-dangerous commuter route from Maryland and West Virginia, which has become overwhelmed by growing traffic volume that is predicted to increase in coming decades.

After years of research and debate, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on June 21 on amending its 2019 Countywide Transportation Plan, which looks at planned land use and development through 2040 in the quickly growing county.

While the Board had previously approved widening Route 15 from Battlefield Parkway, north of historic Leesburg to Montressor Road to a four-lane roadway with a median, turn lanes and shoulders, the most recent version would expand the four-lane road to just south of the town of Lucketts, with the goal of improving safety and Route 15’s ability to handle increased traffic volume.

A bypass road would be built around the town of Lucketts — a historic hamlet, known for antique stores, and its traffic light at the intersection of Route 15, Lucketts Road and Stumptown Road.

North of Lucketts, a two-lane median-divided roadway with turn lanes and shoulders would extend to St. Clair Lane. The northernmost stretch of Route 15 in Loudoun County would get shoulder improvements to where it connects to a two-lane bridge over the Potomac River into Frederick County, Maryland.

Roundabouts would be built, and intersections realigned, to eliminate the danger of vehicles entering or exiting Route 15 from tiny side streets.

One key question still unanswered is whether the bypass around Lucketts would run to the east or west of Route 15. The western bypass would affect the JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary; the eastern bypass would be near Lucketts Elementary School and cut through protected wetland and stream conservation easement areas.

Board Chair Phyllis Randall asked county staff members to provide further analysis of both the western and eastern options before the scheduled June 21 vote.

Supervisor Michael Turner, of the Ashburn District, questioned the cost and effectiveness of the project: “We’re being asked to vote yes on this project with no detailed budget, no detailed timeline, no assurance of where the funding is going to come to pay for this.”

Leesburg District Supervisor Kristen Umstattd said the county has undertaken major interchange projects along Route 7.

“This is truly about saving lives,” Umstattd said. “We have lost far too many lives on Route 15 because previous boards did not take action.”

Others predicted the widening project would just push commuter congestion farther north, since there are no plans to widen the two-lane Point of Rocks bridge, which was built in 1937, carrying traffic over the Potomac River between Loudoun County and Frederick County, Maryland.

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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