Herring Pushes for Rt. 7 Progress
Task Force and funding request target congestion
Business and community leaders have elected the planned Belmont Ridge interchange as the top priority in their analysis of the Rt. 7 corridor and Sen. Mark Herring (D-33), who established the group, has requested a portion of recently discovered state transportation funding to move forward.
Improving traffic along Rt. 7 has long been a goal in Loudoun County, and often a frustrating one.
While progress has been made in recent years to the segment from Rt. 28 to Leesburg–where three interchanges have been constructed and even more lights have been removed, improving the flow of traffic–east of Rt. 28 has proved more troublesome.
The recent improvements along the segment of Rt. 7 west of Rt. 28 made the Belmont Ridge interchange an easy choice to complete one stretch of the highway.
"It was pretty clear to the group that Rt. 659 needs to be a priority," said Adam Zuckerman, a spokesman Herring. "That's one that clearly we've got to look at first."
Developers have built Rt. 7 interchanges at River Creek and Claiborne parkways, while Loudoun constructed the interchange at Loudoun County Parkway. Miller & Smith, the developer of One Loudoun has committed to build the Ashburn Village Boulevard interchange before it can develop its project at the southwest corner of Rt. 7 and Loudoun County Parkway.
Once complete, those improvements will leave just one traffic signal along the corridor between Rt. 28 and the Town of Leesburg.
The county has designed a series of improvements to intersections along Rt. 7 east of Rt. 28, including changes to the timing of traffic signals, but existing development has left the county with limited options for expanding capacity.
"Those are pretty hairy. You're not going to be able to take those lights out," Zuckerman said. "You need to take a different approach."
Those eastern improvement plans came following a study requested by former Sugarland Run Supervisor Mick Station (R). Zuckerman said Herring hopes the task force can build on those improvements.
For now, the task force has focused on the western portion of Rt. 7, placing the highest priority on the Belmont Ridge interchange, followed by a planned overpass along the Leesburg Bypass at Sycolin.
"The completion of these two projects will make great strides toward the completion of Route 7 as a limited access highway and improve traffic flow on one of the region's most critical transportation corridors," Herring stated in a letter to Sec. of Transportation Sean Connaughton, formerly the chairman of Prince William County.
The task forced has eyed about $1 billion that a recent audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation's coffers found, of which $800 million to $900 million is available for construction and maintenance.
Herring formed the 15-member Rt. 7 task force under the model of the public-private partnership that has constructed multiple new interchanges along Rt. 28 in Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
Loudoun County has about $3 million in proffer money to put toward the Belmont Ridge interchange. The construction estimate for the interchange calls for an additional $55 million. The existing intersection consistently lands on the county's top five accident-prone locations, averaging 70 accidents per year.
Completion of the Sycolin flyover would require an additional $20 million.
In total, Herring seeks $75 million or 8.3 percent to 9.4 percent of the newly found state money.