Construction on Route 9 Poses Inconvenience for Students and Staff

“Rethink9” sign posted on the Hillsboro Old Stone School building.

“Rethink9” sign posted on the Hillsboro Old Stone School building.

Written by Mia Cammarota, Ainsleigh Shipp, Robbie Showers, and Emma Tetreault

Route 9, a road that allows over 17,000 vehicles to commute daily, is going to be shut down for reconstruction that could take at least 12 months. This will not only affect traveling for West and Northern Virginia commuters, but also many of the staff and students’ Woodgrove.

The road passes through the old town of Hillsboro, which was established in the 1750’s, and is where the majority of construction will take place. Many of the houses in Hillsboro are close to, if not over, 200 years old. These historic houses tightly line Route 9, which has restricted sidewalks on either side of the road, limiting pedestrian use.

In explaining the new plans to help keep pedestrians safe, Mayor of Hillsboro Roger Vance says, “The road will remain two lanes and will implement traffic calming features such as raised and at-grade crosswalks, along with two roundabouts. We will be building a complete sidewalk system on both sides of the road and providing 55 safe, on-street parking spaces.”

Issues with the town water supply were also discovered. To save money and gain more funding, the project coordinators decided to combine both tasks into what is now called the “Rethink9 Project.” Although the project is in the works to benefit the residents of Hillsboro, it will inconvenience commuters who travel through this specific part of town on a daily basis. Because of this, many students and teachers who travel on this road to get to Woodgrove will have to be redirected.

Sophomore Delaney Lynham explains how the reconstruction will affect her daily route to school by saying, “This will change my bus route in the morning and in the afternoon. It will also take way longer to get to school and get home, adding about 15 minutes to the commute. We take 9 from Mountain Road in the morning, and in the afternoon we take 9 to get to Old Wheatland Road.”

Principal William Shipp addresses the rerouting affecting possible student tardiness saying, “Students may have to adjust departure times, but we want students to be safe so we will work with them depending on the circumstances.”

Making headway on the project in 2004, the plans were granted to the town of Hillsboro by the Federal Highway Administration. With the county’s help, Hillsboro hired a highly acclaimed traffic calming consultant, Ian Lockwood, who held town meetings to discuss the matter. The town started working with VDOT, and the plans went to design back in 2007. The final design check was sent five years later in 2012, and the plan was finally approved by VDOT the following year. After the plan was validated, the only step left was to gain the funding for the costly project.

Mayor Vance describes the most recent transactions to make the project a reality saying, “The town has been securing funding for construction of the project for nearly six years from a variety of sources. With funding from Loudoun County and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority secured in 2018, the project was moved through final design in the fall of 2018 and was fully approved by VDOT and Loudoun County in the summer of 2019. Bids for construction were opened in October and a contract will be awarded by the end of November.”

In addition to reworking the road, two roundabouts will also be added at the western and eastern entrances, where they will be replacing traffic lights. Round Hill has also recently redone their roads in order to speed up and control re-routed traffic. Those living alongside Route 9 will have to find ways to work around the construction.

Proposed plans for the upcoming construction to Route 9.

Woodgrove Teacher Christopher Looney, whose house tightly hugs the road in Hillsboro says, “There will be times where I can park normally, but there will be other times where I may need to park in a neighbor’s yard, across the street, or at another nearby location.  The town leaders and neighbors have been clear that they will work with individuals on figuring out their needs for parking and when they leave or return home.”

During the construction period, in accordance to the “Rethink 9 Plans,” Route 9 will be closed Monday through Friday except for a single lane to allow rush hour traffic through between the times of 4-9 a.m. The reconstruction will also accommodate weekend westbound traffic from 3 p.m. on Friday to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For the 60 non-consecutive days that occur over the project’s 14 month timeline, the highway will remain closed through Hillsboro all day. Out of the 17,000 commuters who cut through the town, about 10,000-11,000 of those cars will be rerouted daily during the construction time.