Studies advance; university officials say nothing definite
By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Shenandoah University officials say a proposal to close part of Millwood Avenue isn't a "done deal," even as work on two more engineering studies moves forward.
The committees of university representatives and city officials met for the first time Thursday to discuss the current studies under way related to the potential closure of Millwood Avenue between Jubal Early Drive and Apple Blossom Drive.
The university announced earlier this week that it awarded contracts to two firms to conduct separate studies needed in order to determine the feasibility of the closure and changes necessary to make it work. A previous study conducted by Gorove/Slade recommended closure of the roadway and the installation of a right-turn lane on westbound Jubal Early Drive as well as a traffic signal at University Drive and Millwood Avenue.
Work efforts must also meet certain milestones before any construction can begin, according to Evan Wyatt, of Greenway Engineering. As Wyatt explained, the process for this proposal involves completion of a topographic and property boundary survey of the project area, the traffic modeling for the year 2022 and a final geometry design. More milestones follow, according to Wyatt.
As the engineer explained, the scope of the study extends beyond just the section of Millwood Avenue to include other areas to look at drainage and related issues.
Additionally, the studies under way will look at potential traffic volume changes that may arise from several other projects, such as the proposed flyover on Interstate 81 to connect an extended Tevis Street in Winchester to U.S. 522 in Frederick County. That project could draw some traffic away from the Millwood Avenue-Jubal Early Drive corridor. Engineers also are looking at the impact of a proposed extension of Jubal Early Drive to Va. 37.
While the earlier study recommends closing the section of Millwood Avenue, the two new studies are looking at more detailed engineering and design elements.
"The way this is being done is actually very prudent of the city because it's not just us doing an engineering design plan now, it's also the belts and suspenders, phase model that's being done," Wyatt said after the meeting, when asked if the current studies could show the proposal won't work.
Mitch Moore, the university's vice president for advancement, commented after the meeting that SU and the firms doing the studies hope to reach all the milestones in 60 days, but that may not happen until March. He noted the Gorove/Slade study took much longer than expected.
"I think that is part of what happened when you have to go through a local government process is, at least what we felt like we could do is that we can work with the city, but we as a private entity could help get the details moved forward," Moore said. "By no means not to hide anything at all. It's just a matter of being able to do it."
The university has committed to paying for the studies and the project should it reach the construction phase. But whether that happens remains unknown.
"I don't think it's a done deal at all," Moore said. "I think council said, when they accepted the study, that we understand and we think, in principle, this seems to make sense, and as we go forward there are a number of detailed questions that need to be answered.
They outlined those very specifically and we are doing our best to answer those questions to their satisfaction."