The Leesburg Town Council approved spending $50,000 to start the design of a traffic signal at the intersection of Battlefield Parkway and Plaza Street NE Tuesday, a move that had been in the works for several months but sped through after a Loudoun County Public School bus was involved in a crash late last month.
Nearby is Tuscarora High School, which has hundreds of new drivers passing through the intersection, which currently sports only a stop sign on Plaza Street.
The town already received $200,000 in funds from the Board of Supervisors’ gas tax allocation, and is spending the entirety of that allocation on the traffic light, estimated at a total cost of $357,000. The other $150,000 is expected to come from the board’s FY2014 Capital Improvements Plan. The amount was in the budget presented to the board last week, which is scheduled to be approved in April.
The intersection, which is in the Exeter community, has been the key concern for Councilman Marty Martinez—an Exeter resident—for some time, and Martinez publicly stated the need for the light again after the accident.
“[The accident] is indicative of the intersection. With more inexperienced students and drivers trying to use Plaza Street as an alternative to the bypass, this intersection is going to get worse,” Martinez said in a statement issued Feb. 5. “I am grateful that no students were injured but what about the next accident? We need a traffic signal for public safety.”
Tuesday night, residents spoke in support of the signal, including Evan MacBeth, who recommended building a traffic circle at the intersection, and Standing Residential Traffic Committee member Sandy Grossman.
“The idea of an effort to try to address this is very appreciated by the residents of Exeter,” Grossman said. “As far as the residents are concerned, the sooner the better.”
At the county’s Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee meeting Tuesday, questions were raised over the projected cost of the light, which struck some supervisors as high.
Renee LaFollette, Leesburg’s director of capital projects, said in an email that the estimate “includes the design, potential land acquisition, potential utility relocations, and construction that includes connecting the signal to the one at Battlefield and the bypass for signal coordination.”
Once the design process, which Town Manager John Wells said should take approximately 30 days, is complete and the requisite land acquired, the project will be competitively bid.
“The Town’s Capital Improvements Policies and Procedures requires that once we establish an estimate for a project that the cost is escalated by 6 percent or the ENR price index, to the anticipated mid-point of the construction schedule,” LaFollette said “With that, using the $300,000 cost of the Battlefield at Tavistock signal, the estimate in 2014 would be approximately $357,000.”
The project was initiated before the board’s CIP is approved because council members want the light to be installed by September, when Tuscarora resumes classes. If the $150,000 is approved, the $50,000 will be reimbursed to the town. If not, the town could be on the hook for the entire $150,000, Wells said.