Belmont Ridge Expansion to Six Lane Highway Instead of Four On April 10th, the Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing at 6pm to update the County Transportation Plan to further expand Belmont Ridge Rd. and Northstar Blvd. past the four lanes, shoulders, and safety improvements needed to a six lane highway similar in size to Rt. 7 or Rt. 28. This highway would connect in the south to the Tri-County Parkway in Prince William, and opens the door for the 50-mile Outer Beltway. A six-lane north-south highway on Belmont Ridge won't fix Loudoun residents' traffic problems. It will only make them worse, by inviting a new wave of sprawl and the increased traffic that comes with it. Loudoun County is fast-tracking the approval process on this road expansion. The Board of Supervisors is taking public comment, and possibly voting, on April 10th, only two weeks after the Planning Commission introduced this possibility to the public! Take Action Now and attend the hearing Tuesday at 6:00pm in the Loudoun Government Center, 1 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg. This proposal is the first item on the agenda, so get there a little early and sign up to speak at the desk in the front of the room. Kirkpatrick Farms, Stone Ridge, South Riding, Arcola, Brambleton, Broadlands, Ashburn, Belmont, River Creek, Lansdowne are just a few of the potentially affected communities. What's going on? The Board plans to expand all of Belmont Ridge Road and Northstar Blvd. south of Braddock Rd. to the Prince William County line from two to six lanes. The 2010 County Transportation Plan currently calls for Belmont Ridge Road to be expanded to four lanes and Northstar Blvd. to remain two. This proposed six lane corridor would be connected to the Tri-County Parkway in Prince William which would connect down to I-95 creating an Outer Beltway which will invite a new wave of sprawl. The community has fought this road for over 20 years because it threatens to open up large swaths of land to residential development, threatens to exacerbate traffic problems on already congested east-west transportation corridors, negatively impacts nearby communities, and wastes valuable tax payer dollars on an unnecessary road expansion rather than on addressing east-west transportation issues. In 2010 a local community group, Citizens for a Countywide Tranportation Plan (CCTP), was concerned about the proposed revisions to the plan and commissioned a study to have an independent analysis of publicly available information by Smart Mobility. The resulting study revealed the flaws in the modeling. It also pointed to more and better solutions for handling congestion in Loudoun. When the Countywide Transportation Plan, was last reviewed in 2010, Loudoun citizens made clear that roads through Loudoun neighborhoods should be limited to two or four lanes--for good reasons. VDOT's design standards for six-lane roads, including wider lanes and wide, clear shoulders, cue drivers to shoot through at highway speeds. Six-laning these roads would make it dangerous or impossible to cross the street in your own neighborhood. For more details on the proposal read the staff report from Loudoun County planning department. A six lane highway will be similar in scale to Rt. 7 and Rt. 28 Do we Need to Turn Belmont Ridge Rd Into A Highway? Belmont Ridge Rd. has safety issues and some traffic issues that may warrant expansion to four lanes but there is little justification for expanding the road to six lanes, the equivalent of Rt. 7 or nearby Rt. 28. Below is a comparison of the 2010 traffic counts from VDOT on Belmont Ridge Rd. and Gum Springs Rd. (the closest north-south connection to where Northstar is planned). Roads for Proposed Expansion to Six-Lanes Belmont Ridge Rd. - 13,000 Daily Vehicle Trips (segment from the Greenway to Route 7) Gum Spring Rd. - 8,200 Daily Vehicle Trips (segment from Prince William County line to Braddock Rd.) Existing Roads with Six-Lanes Configuration Similar to Belmont and Northstar Proposed Widths Route 7 - 84,000 Daily Vehicle Trips (segment between Claiborne Parkway and Route 28) Route 28 - 111,000 Daily Vehicle Trips (segment from Dulles Toll Road to Route 7) These comparisons demonstrate that there is little pressure on these roads currently. So why does Loudoun County's model's indicate that there is a need for major expansion? The Loudoun model is based on an outdated model created by the Transportation Planning Board. This model is not "industry accepted" for planning of multi modal transportation systems and does not reflect the County goals for compact, mixed use development, highly connected street networks, and reduced development in the transition area. The model is known to have serious flaws and falls short of federal guidelines. The Loudoun County model is modestly improved, but still falls short of federal guidelines used by the Federal Highway Administration, having nearly twice the deviation allowed. The Loudoun model substantially increases traffic projections for major corridors, especially those in the rural and transition areas. The model substantially over estimates the circumferential traffic and includes excessive rates of commuting traffic from external locations such as Maryland to Fairfax commutes. These flaws in the model lead to the erroneous conclusions about needed road improvements on Belmont Ridge Rd. and Northstar Blvd. Will this Expansion Help Ease Traffic? No, it will likely encourage a new wave of sprawl that will encourage more traffic. Building a six-lane regional highway through Loudoun will hurt our neighborhoods and it won't help traffic because: 1) The primary traffic problem in Loudoun involves east-west commuting and this north-south road will divert hundreds of millions of dollars of limited transportation funding, from improvements that address the real problem. 2) The highway will open up Loudoun County's semi-rural "Transition Zone" and Prince William County's "Rural Crescent" to vastly increased development, adding tens of thousands of cars to already crowded east-west commuter roads. 3) Many justify the highway by saying that it would provide better southern tractor-trailer access to Dulles Airport, helping to create a major freight hub. But instead of using Rt 28 at the airport's doorstep, thousands more trucks on this roadway would have to join existing east/west traffic to get to the airport, 4+ miles to the east. For more information about why this expansion will not ease traffic, check out our Myths and Facts page. Conclusion: This project is a wasteful use of tax payer funds that will hurt the quality of life in our neighborhoods, encourage more unsustainable sprawling development, and further exacerbate our real east-west traffic problems. Piedmont Environmental Council is urging the County to retain the recently adopted 2010 County Transportation Plan language keeping Belmont Ridge Rd. four lanes maximum and Northstar at two. We are recommending a "complete streets" approach which includes better planning for safety, altenative means of transportation, and buffering of adjacent communities. Please contact the Board of Supervisors before April 10th and attend the April 10th public hearing at 6pm at the Loudoun County Government Center.