Route 50 Traffic Calming
Loudoun and Faquier Counties, VA
This project is a national demonstration project, funded under TEA-21 and VDOT’s (Virginia Department of Transportation) Virginia Transportation Development Plan. The project is described as “Traffic Calming Measures for Route 50 in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties.” The portion of US Route 50 affected by this project (called the Route 50 Corridor in this case study) is 24 miles long and located approximately 45 miles west of Washington, D.C. in the VDOT Northern Virginia District. Route 50 is a rural highway, serving as a through route as well as the main street for several small towns. The area economy is based on tourism and agriculture, so the road serves farm vehicles, bicyclists and tourists as well as local businesses, schools, churches, residents and commuters. Route 50 is functionally classified as a Minor Arterial. Current funding for the project totals $16.25 million. The corridor of Route 50 under study begins in the village of Paris and continues through Upperville, Middleburg, Aldie and ends at Lenah.
The problems expressed by residents and business owners in the area are those of excessive speeds of motor vehicle traffic, aggressive driving along the corridor, poor and unsafe conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, and harm to historic buildings and noise due to high speed traffic, especially trucks. The intent of the project is to employ traffic calming measures that will require drivers to comply with posted speed limits within the towns and along the intervening roadway segments. The purpose is to reduce speeding and aggressive driving, enhance safety, and promote local business, scenic beauty and the historic nature of the area.
This project was federally funded for the purpose of being a demonstration project and a model for the rest of the country. Part of the importance of the project is the public process by which it was and is to be developed. The study of the project and the process, before, during and after implementation is to be shared with interested communities throughout the country.
Context Sensitive Factors
There are several interrelated sensitive features along the 24-mile US 50 traffic-calming corridor. Immediately west of Paris at Route 17, the project’s west terminus is Ashby’s Gap. Ashby’s Gap was a lookout post during the Civil War and is the current location of the Appalachian Trail (AT) crossing of US 50. The view to the east from the AT over the hamlet of Paris and Sky Meadows State Park is arguably one of Virginia’s most scenic.
In this area of Loudoun and Fauquier Counties the pastoral setting has been maintained since the fields were first cleared. This land use is maintained in the respective county comprehensive future land use plans and ensured through preservation easements and agreement between the property owners and the Virginia Outdoor Foundation (VOF).
As part of the Rural Policy Area of the Revised Countywide Transportation Plan (CTP) and General Plan, Route 50 can be seen as one of the many rural roads originally developed to serve the needs of a predominantly farm-based community. The General Plan states that, “Sensitivity to centuries-old stone walls, large trees, homes and outbuildings, scenic views and the Green infrastructure must be an essential element of road improvements if Loudoun County is to retain its rural character.” The goal of any rural road improvements should be to incorporate rural character features as well as safety. The CTP states that, “Residential growth will not be encouraged in the Rural Policy Area by additional road capacity.” The General Plan further identifies that, “There is strong citizen support for keeping Route 50…a two-lane road that is the subject of a ‘traffic calming’ initiative from Aldie in Loudoun County to Paris in Fauquier County.”
The proposed land use for the majority of the project areas encompasses the Southern Tier area of the Rural Policy area, which is planned for a base residential density of 1 dwelling unit per 50 acres. Residential development can occur at a density of 1 dwelling unit per 20 acres if clustered. By lowering the zoned density, the County is attempting to assure that additional pressure is not placed on the road’s capacity. The existing zoning is predominantly rural residential with a density of 1 dwelling unit per three acres.
The villages of Upperville and Aldie, and the Town of Middleburg each have historic districts that are on or eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places. Within each historic district area there are numerous architectural structures individually eligible for inclusion to the Register. US 50 bisects each of these districts and has played a prominent role in the development of the communities.
Each of the communities is also included as part of cavalry battlefields leading to the Battle of Gettysburg. Views and interpretive signs of the Civil War battlefield areas have been incorporated into the concept plans. Citizens have established The John Singleton Mosby Heritage Area to tell the story of these battles and of the cultural, economic and political history illustrated in this area.