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Appendix: Case Study Profiles

9. Loudoun County, Virginia - Route 50 Scenic Byway Rural Traffic Calming

Funding Sources and Amounts: $40 million (design and construction);

$500,000 (initial visioning and outreach)

Years: 1994–present

FHWA funding of $35 million, including funding from initial Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) demonstration of $13 million. State funding of $5 million including initial local match of $2.8 million. $500,000 of private funds raised by Route 50 Coalition.

Agencies/Organizations Involved: Route 50

Corridor Coalition, Commonwealth Transportation Board, Loudoun and Fauquier counties, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia Department of Historic Resources (SHPO), Virginia Outdoor Foundation, Piedmont Environmental Council.

Geographic Area: 20-mile stretch of U.S. 50 from Paris, VA, in Fauquier County to Lenah, VA, in Loudoun County.

Problem to Be Addressed

The Route 50 Corridor Coalition was formed by local citizens who were concerned about a possible widening and bypass project for Route 50 in Loudoun and Fauquier counties.

Objectives of Project

The primary focus of the community-led effort was to develop a common vision among local residents, businesses, elected leaders, and other interests for the Route 50 corridor. Key to this is defining a solution that would accommodate commuter traffic through Route 50 while maintaining the character of the
town and village centers along the corridor.

Summary of Project

This project is an example of a corridor visioning process that led to successful implementation of traffic calming measures on a State rural highway. The project is recognized as a leading example of context-sensitive design of a highway that functions as main streets of rural villages. The resultant plan was adopted by the counties and the town of Middleburg, and elements of the plan were subsequently incorporated into local comprehensive plans.

Type of Funding Used for Project / Plan

Population Served and Modes Served

Fauquier and Loudoun County area residents; vehicular and pedestrian/bicycling.

Project Details

Protecting a Corridor's Historic Character

Route 50, also known as the John Mosby Highway, is an important corridor, tracing its history from being a Native American path, to being a trade route between Alexandria and Georgetown, to being an important roadway during the Civil War where significant battles occurred. The towns and villages along Route 50 have grown to become thriving communities, with agriculture as its main industry. The area is also known for its abundant natural resources typical of the Virginia Piedmont. However, as suburban growth beyond the Route 50 corridor continues, the roadway has experienced increased commuter pressure from traffic going to and from Washington, DC.

In 1994, VDOT brought forth an idea to widen Route 50 in Loudoun and Fauquier counties, and to build a bypass around the towns of Middleburg and Aldie. Although a widening project was not likely to advance because of funding constraints, discussions of the widening and future right-of-way purchase concerned the citizens and community leaders.

They knew the community was at a critical juncture for defining what the roadway's role could be for the community and for the region. Most residents disagreed about the widening project because of its impact on the corridor's character and potential to invite suburbanization, but recognized there was a need to address the safety and congestion problems brought by increased traffic.

Route 50 Corridor Coalition

In 1995, the Route 50 Corridor Coalition was formed as a partnership of five existing local nonprofit groups. The coalition was led by a 15-member Steering Committee, and the Piedmont Environmental Council dedicated staff time and became its fiscal sponsor.

The coalition's main goals were to develop a corridor-wide vision that would facilitate preservation and enhancement of Route 50 and the John Mosby

Heritage Area's unique natural and historic resources and community character. The vision will take into consideration a long-range view of transportation and land use, and will provide alternatives on how to address Route 50's traffic issues that accommodate the needs of and increase the safety for multiple users for the roadway.

Visioning Effort

In 1995–1996, the Route 50 Corridor Coalition initiated community workshops resulting in a final vision statement and community goal to move forward with a traffic calming plan. The effort was successful, as significant numbers of attendees participated in the visioning and planning workshops. The plan was guided by the following design principles for the roadway:

The preliminary traffic calming plan was developed in a highly participatory approach with a series of town-hall style as well as hands-on charrette workshops, each focusing on a segment of Route 50. During the charrettes, more than 300 community members engaged in the conceptual design of various traffic calming elements. In 1996 the traffic calming plan was completed for the towns of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville.

Challenges

  • The initial tension/controversy in the coalition's opposition to VDOT's widening proposal proved to be a challenge for the collaborative process between VDOT and the community. The visioning became primarily an effort of the community and the local municipalities, without significant active participation by VDOT.
  • As this was also the first time that the department had applied traffic calming to a State- roadway, and at this scale, there were some challenges and learning opportunities as the vision plan concepts went through detailed design and project development (i.e. design exception processes, cost challenges, drainage issues). The implementation proved to be more complex and time- and resource-intensive than originally anticipated.
    • A number of the traffic calming and design tools used for the project were not used widely in conventional transportation projects and proved challenging during design development. Challenges on constructability of some initial concepts were recognized and would have benefited from a higher level of expertise.
    • A number of design concepts were not allowed by existing VDOT design standards. These had to go through the design exception process for approval.
    • The original visioning effort did not account for some unanticipated issues that created cost and schedule complications later, such as drainage and tree relocation needs.
  • Throughout the 15-year period since Route 50's initial visioning effort, there were various transitions in VDOT's project management and project team. A few community and project team members observed that this proved to be a challenge as the later project team members would understandably not have the same level of history and knowledge of the corridor vision. This translated to some challenges in ensuring that the original concepts and vision were fully implemented.

Successes

  • Route 50's success story is remarkable for bringing various community members together to agree on and support one common corridor vision, and more importantly to get this vision implemented. This grassroots-led traffic calming project was able to energize community and municipal leaders, and later received dedicated Federal funding to be the first State traffic calming project for a rural highway.
  • Although the initial controversy and tension between VDOT and the community proved to be a challenge for a collaborative work process at the outset, a number of the department's engineers developed good relationships with the community leaders during the design development process. The project provided valuable lessons for VDOT staff and the consulting team related to community visioning, as well as innovative traffic calming approaches.
  • Although a few community members say the Route 50 traffic calming plan has not reached its full potential due to various funding, implementation, and design development challenges, the plan was able to address corridor-wide transportation needs (in this case commuter traffic needs and safety) with careful consideration of the livability needs of each community along the corridor. Through anecdotal accounts, the new roadway design has significantly altered the behavior of drivers along the Upperville and Gilbert's Corner routes. Fewer traffic backups are observed at the new roundabouts at Gilbert's Corner compared to their previous signalized conditions. (VDOT plans to conduct more formal studies to measure the effect of the traffic calming measures along the corridor.)

Securing the Funding and Implementation

The traffic calming plan was adopted by the Middleburg Town Council and Loudoun and Fauquier county boards of supervisors in 1997, which led to changes in VDOT's 6-year plan. In that same year, VDOT was recognized by the American Institute of Transportation Engineers with its President's Award for Excellence. In 1998 the coalition brought the Route 50 traffic calming plan to Senator John Warner and secured $13 million in congressional funding for the project to be a traffic calming demonstration project under TEA-21.

In 2000 a second round of planning and design began, with VDOT and the Route 50 Corridor Coalition working together and each participating in the Route 50 Traffic Calming Task Force. The task force is responsible for overseeing the traffic calming plan's implementation as it goes through project development, final design, and construction. The task force also oversaw the hiring of the consultant who conducted more detailed planning and design of the traffic calming features. A design memorandum was produced in 2003, followed by full construction design documents. Project construction began in 2007; various elements of the project are completed and some are still underway.

Project Timeline

1994: VDOT issued proposal to widen Route 50 and create a bypass around Middleburg.
1995: Route 50 Corridor Coalition was formed.
1995: Community visioning workshops were held and called for traffic calming plan.
1996: Traffic calming plan completed.
1997: Traffic calming plan was adopted by the Middleburg Town Council and Loudoun and Fauquier county boards of supervisors.
1998: Congress passed TEA-21, which included $13 million in demonstration project funding for the Route 50 traffic calming project.
1999: Route 50 Traffic Calming Task Force was established under the authority of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
2003: Virginia's Route 50 Traffic Calming Design Memorandum completed.
2007: Construction began.
2008: Upperville Traffic Calming Measures completed.
2009: Gilbert's Corner roundabouts completed.
2010: Aldie traffic calming project will be bid out in spring 2010.

Livability Principles Promoted by Project

Promotion Livability Principles
F Increase transportation choices
  Promote affordable housing
  Enhance economic competitiveness
F Support existing communities
  Coordinate Federal policies and leverage investment
F Value communities and neighborhoods

P: Partly Supports
F: Fully Supports

Perspectives on Implementing the Project and Its Impacts

Project Status

Applicability of Lessons Learned toOther Projects or Challenges

Roles of MPOs / DOTs and Policy / Plan Outcomes

Although the traffic calming plan enjoyed widespread community support, including support from local and county officials, VDOT initially was not open to the proposed traffic calming plan as an alternative to the widening project. Unfortunately, because of this initial conflict, VDOT was not actively engaged in the visioning process. This changed when, after the Congressional funding allocation was secured, the Commonwealth Transportation Board directed VDOT and the Route 50 Corridor Coalition to work together through the Route 50 Traffic Calming Task Force.

The Task Force was a way for VDOT and the Route 50 Corridor Coalition to work together; and although the ensuing process was not without challenges, the Task Force provided a venue for collaboration between the two entities. Due to the highly participatory nature of the visioning process, VDOT was also able to build on this, and continue a similar approach throughout the project development. For instance, an email listserve for residents, businesses, and other stakeholders in the corridor was developed that proved helpful in increasing information sharing and coordination. VDOT also maintains project blogs and other communication tools to inform the public of design and construction progress, proactively addressing potential issues and avoiding negative public comment or confusion.

For More Information

Sources and Other Resources:

Updated: 01/03/2014
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