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Replacement process for Gooney Creek span moves along with public hearing May 17 at Skyline
By Ben Orcutt -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A replacement for the 75-year-old Gooney Creek bridge on U.S. 340 south in Warren County is getting closer to a reality.
A public hearing for the design phase of the new two-lane bridge is scheduled May 17 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Skyline High School, said Ed Carter, program manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation's Edinburg residency.
"It is an approved project, but what will happen is we're in the design phase now and that design will be presented at the public hearing, and then all the citizens' comments will be taken into consideration at that time, and then a final design will be based on those comments," Carter said.
The current bridge needs to be replaced, Carter said. The Federal Highway Administration uses a formula that ranges from 100 for a bridge in excellent condition to 1 for very poor, he said.
"The sufficiency rating on this bridge is at 18.5," he said. " It's not going to collapse tomorrow. I don't want to give that impression, but the funds needed to be allocated and the planning and the design needs to be done so we can move forward with replacing it."
The limits of the project are 0.855 of a mile south of Va. 605, Poor House Road, and 0.33 of a mile north of Poor House Road.
"Of course, the bridge is somewhere in those limits," Carter said, which includes approaches.
The project is federally funded, with an estimated cost of $13.3 million, Carter said. The width of the new bridge will be 44 feet, with two 12-foot travel lanes and two 10-foot shoulders.
"We would anticipate construction beginning sometime within three months after the job is bid, and we would anticipate it running through the fall of 2014," Carter said. "The finalized design plans, we don't know how much tweaking we would do as a result of public hearing comments and things of that nature, but right now based on what we have, that's our best guess."
So far, VDOT has received no negative feedback from the public, Carter said.
"As of yet, we have not, but then I don't think they've had a real opportunity to see what the plan is and how it might impact [them]," he said. "That's what the purpose of the public hearing is, to present the plan, explain what we're trying to do and then let them give us feedback on whether they think it impacts them and how it impacts them and so forth. We're required by code to have this public hearing so the public has an opportunity for input."
Bentonville resident Jim Guy, president of Scenic Project 340 Inc., said his group is on board with the VDOT project at this point.
"They approached us when they first started looking at the replacement of it and we appreciated that," Guy said. "We had hoped that [they] would have approached more stakeholders and done more of a contact-sensitive solution type of thing, that is get up and get more stakeholders involved before they did a design."
But, Guy said what he knows of the design plan looks good and compares favorably with bridges VDOT has replaced at Overall, Rileyville and the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.
"And what we've seen as far as design it looks like they're taking everything into consideration as far as the topography and the need for safety, and we have asked that it be the same features as the Overall bridge and the North Fork bridge, and I believe that's what it's going to be," Guy said. "Yeah, it appears that they're doing everything. ... We had also asked that they ensure that they look at the safety features for Poor House Road while they're doing that."
Guy said the area where the bridge is located was significant during the Civil War.
"That was a stop off for, I believe, Jackson's troops from the Battle of Front Royal," Guy said.
South River Supervisor Linda P. Glavis said her constituents appear to be pleased with the project.
"I think most of the people are thinking favorably," Glavis said.
Glavis said a public hearing was held on the replacement bridge last year, and concerns were voiced about incorporating safety features to the Poor House Road entrance to U.S. 340, which is near the bridge.
"There've been some accidents there over the years," Glavis said.
Glavis said VDOT appears to have taken the concerns about the Poor House Road area into consideration in its design plan.
"I've only heard positive feedback about it," Glavis said of the project.