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Councilman offers crossing alternative

Lauder asks panel to consider option that is less costly

By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Councilman Carson C. Lauder Jr. has an idea he would like the Planning Commission to consider as it reviews a rezoning request for more than 320 homes in the Happy Creek Road corridor.

David Vazzana, president of Front Royal Limited Partnership, has requested the rezoning of roughly 150 acres in the area of Happy Creek Road and Mary's Shady Lane from residential estate to a denser residential zoning to allow for 320 single-family homes, as opposed to 75 to 99 that could be built by right.

The town Planning Commission has scheduled a work session tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall. The panel is expected to vote on the request at its Sept. 16 meeting, recommending approval or denial to the Town Council.

One of the primary concerns regarding the rezoning is the effect it could have on the intersection of Happy Creek and Shenandoah Shores roads and the at-grade railroad crossing there with the possibility of an additional 4,000 vehicle trips per day.

Lauder would like for the commission and Front Royal Limited Partnership to consider a well-engineered, at-grade railroad crossing that would include a traffic signal coordinated by the Virginia Department of Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railroad.

"That would constantly control traffic flow and then when the train comes down the track, at various points, there should be some sensors to tie-in, to coordinate with the functioning VDOT signal," Lauder said Monday. "So that would hold traffic up until a train passes and then those signals will kick out being coordinated with the light and the light would continue to function and traffic flow smoothly."

Lauder cited as examples what the towns of Woodstock and Mt. Jackson have done with at-grade railroad crossings.

"If it's properly done, it's plenty of room there and it's very smooth," he said, noting the use of hard rubber or steel plates. "You can hardly tell you're going across the tracks. You need a state-of-the-art, well-engineered, wide, planned crossing. We don't need a separated crossing."

Lauder said there could be a lane dedicated for emergency vehicles.

Vazzana has said that Front Royal Limited Partnership would be willing to pay from $2 million to $3 million toward construction of a flyover at the intersection, as well as $500,000 in other improvements there.

Lauder said that "should be plenty of money to do the at-grade crossing that I'm talking about."

His idea should be on the table when the town is negotiating with Vazzana and Front Royal Limited Partnership, Lauder said.

"It certainly should be," Lauder said. "Why spend $8.5 million [for a flyover] when you can do it for a fraction of the cost and do something perhaps just as efficient."

Lauder said if his idea gains traction, he hopes that both VDOT and Norfolk Southern would be on board "for the betterment of the community."

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