By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- State transportation planners picked a poor spot for a park-and-ride lot near the South Fork Bridge on the Shenandoah River, according to some Front Royal officials.
Plans call for the Virginia Department of Transportation to widen the South Fork Bridge north of town. VDOT needed to acquire the property at the southwest corner of the bridge for the right of way to accommodate for the wider span. VDOT proposed to build a park-and-ride lot on the remaining property and included the plans in the designs.
A demolition company recently razed the former Relax Inn on the property.
Several members of the Front Royal Town Council at a meeting Monday expressed concern that the park-and-ride lot as planned poses conflicts with traffic and access on Shenandoah Avenue at 18th Street.
Town Manager Steven Burke on Tuesday indicated the council likely felt more concerned over the bridge than the commuter lot.
"We've been in communication with VDOT regarding the proposed parking lot," Burke said. "VDOT has told us that the town should have been aware of its proposed location because it was included in the original public meeting that they had about the bridge project at A.S. Rhodes Elementary.
"Unfortunately I believe most, if not all our members of council were more focused on the proposed configuration of the intersection of [U.S] Route 55 and Shenandoah Avenue," Burke added. "We did not focus or did not recall the presence of a park-and-ride lot at that location. We are continuing to evaluate its presence and hope to provide further input to VDOT in the future."
Most of the council's concerns center on the placement of a parking lot at the entrance corridor to the town and the potential impact of the traffic on the neighborhood, Burke noted. The proposed lot is the first of its kind in town limits.
"Unfortunately its location is questionable since it's placed in the entrance corridor," Burke said.
Whether the state agency would alter the designs remains unknown.
VDOT Assistant Residency Administrator Edwin Z. "Ed" Carter gave an update on the project to the Warren County Board of Supervisors at their meeting Tuesday. Carter advised the agency plans to advertize for bids to build the project in January.
"However, we're $68 million short on funding," Carter said.
The proposed commuter lot includes 59 parking spaces.
"I think it would benefit a lot of the people in town because they'll probably be the ones using it, and then it would be less traffic on that bridge, too," said Happy Creek District Supervisor Tony F. Carter.
Studies dating back to 2007 show a lack of commuter lot space in that area, according to the VDOT official. He noted that all commuter lots in the county are either at capacity or over.
"So we think this would be a real enhancement to the town," Ed Carter said, adding that VDOT has a landscaping plan for the lots to make them attractive.
VDOT plans to install a left turn lane from southbound Shenandoah Avenue to 18th Street for traffic going into the parking lot, Carter said.
"I think it will be very attractive," Carter said.
VDOT can adjust the designs if the town brings up any concerns, Carter said.