Too much land was planned for development as far back as the 1970s and 80s, meaning much of the development today — especially office/commercial — has been scattered and is wholly dependent on automobile access. Large arterial roads, instead of well-interconnected local streets, mean heavy traffic backups on the few arterials available. A number of developers have shifted to proposed mixed-use style projects which can offer transportation and convenience benefits, but the market may not be able to support as many as have been proposed.
Civic Activism for Smarter Growth
Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors has swung back and forth on the pace and scale of development, as the community and private sector debate the county’s future. The scale and pace of residential developments has outpaced the County’s ability to build the schools, roads, and other public infrastructure needed to support its growing population. The county needs to complete some 17 new schools by 2017 and school boundaries have to be shifted frequently.
Commuters seeking to move eastward to jobs face huge traffic bottlenecks, in part due to the “stopper” at the bottom of the funnel (aka Dulles Airport). Civic campaigns for more sustainable growth have included the Campaign for Loudoun’s Future and more recently, the Citizens for a County Transportation Plan. The latter group issued a report critiquing the recently updated county transportation plan and calling for a greater focus on local street connectivity, transit, pedestrian/bicycle facilities and intersection enhancements using roundabouts.
One of the longest-standing fights in Loudoun has been that over the proposed Outer Beltway (once known as the Western Transportation Corridor) running generally along the path of Route 659 (Gum Springs Road/Belmont Ridge Road) for the Loudoun portion. Originating at I-95 in Prince William and taking historic battlefield land at Manassas, the highway would cross into Loudoun and extend to Route 7.
For years, boosters have also proposed at least two bridge crossings into Montgomery County — one at Route 28 and another connecting to the extension of Route 659. Much of the push for the highway comes from those who propose to turn Dulles Airport into the East Coast’s largest air freight distribution center, despite the impact of thousands of trucks, hundreds of acres of distribution centers, and hundreds more cargo flights. The Outer Beltway would not address the need to improve east-west commuter routes and would in fact spark more development and more traffic that would feed into the existing east-west commuter routes.