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Posted November 14, 2012 | comments 9 Comments

South Fork bridge replacement: Council wants parking lot nixed

By Alex Bridges

State transportation officials must weigh several factors before they can nix a park-and-ride lot from designs for the South Fork Bridge replacement project.

Front Royal Town Council at its meeting Tuesday voted to ask the Virginia Department of Transportation to remove the commuter lot at Shenandoah Avenue and 18th Street as proposed. Council voted 4-2 in favor of a resolution that cites the town's efforts to beautify its entrances, the need for green space and a threat of runoff from the lot to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

The resolution is addressed to Sean Connaughton, state secretary of transportation, and VDOT Commissioner Gregory Whirley.

Sany Myers, a spokeswoman for the department, stated in an email, "When a request from a locality to change an element of a project is received, VDOT will consider and evaluate the value of the change, prior public input and the affect of the change on the project design, function, schedule and cost."

Councilmen Thomas H. Sayre and Daryl L. Funk opposed the resolution and expressed fear such a change late in the process could delay the project and lead to a loss in federal funding.

But Councilmen Bret W. Hrbek and N. Shae Parker expressed doubt that a redesign would jeopardize the funding and accused VDOT of using that fear to keep from having to make late changes to the design.

Hrbek noted that neither he nor several other members were on council when VDOT held public meetings a few years ago and took input on the project's design, including the commuter lot. If council at the time supported the commuter lot, Hrbek said the consensus has changed with the panel's membership.

"I think the town has spent a tremendous amount of money to beautify our entrances and we continue to look for what kind of vision we want to have as people cross the bridges, as pretty as the new bridge is and hopefully the second one will be just as nice," Hrbek said. "To have a parking lot as the first thing you see is not the kind of impression that we want to leave for our visitors we hope will move here and spend money here and work here and enjoy Front Royal."

It's council's prerogative to tell VDOT the town doesn't want the parking lot in the proposed location, Hrbek added, noting that the agency did not ask Front Royal officials where to put the facility. Council has asked VDOT to relocate the required stormwater pond in another part of the property.

Hrbek challenged Sayre's worry that asking VDOT to change the project design at this stage could result in a loss of federal funding.

"I believe that kind of threat is just that -- it's a threat to get us to back down and I am willing to call that bluff, so I am looking forward to voting for this and telling VDOT that this is the town that we have and we'd like to have it look like the town we want it to look like," Hrbek said.

Funk said he initially agreed with the resolution, including the concerns with the aesthetics of the lot's design.

"I am very concerned over the safety of the residents in the neighborhood around the park-and-ride," Funk said. "However, I do believe the replacement of the South Fork bridge is of the utmost priority to all the citizens of Front Royal and Warren County, and to the extent that I believe a redesign might endanger that project and the lives of the people traveling that bridge, I have to vote against [the resolution]."

Parker called the argument for keeping the lot to not delay or hinder the project "almost absurd" and he accused VDOT of bullying the town. Parker noted the lot escaped the attention of council and officials at the time because VDOT advertised the project as a bridge replacement. VDOT officials have indicated the agency included the parking lot in the design as advertised. Parker added that he would rather see VDOT make alterations to the existing lot and relocate the recycling center elsewhere in the county to make room for expansion.

"I have to say if VDOT's willing to risk the lives of the people of the Town of Front Royal who have to cross that bridge over a park and ride, shame on them," Hrbek added.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


    How much money has the town (citizens tax dollars) spent on the beautification project? Have we seen any return on this investment? Localities everywhere are financially strapped, yet Front Royal town council is still conerned with flowers, building planters, and planting trees. Wake up and realize that one of the worst recession in history is not the time to worry about spending tax dollars on beautification. I understand the idea guys, but the timing is horrible!!!

      The reason they are replacing the South Fork bridge (like the North Fork bridge) is in direct result to the I-35W bridge that collapsed in Minnesota in 2007. Alot of the bridges in Virginia (and other states) are old and need replacing, so they are being replaced for safety reasons. It's better than falling into the Shenandoah on your way to work.

    As long as its not across from Funks house its okay with him.
    He's proven already he looks out for himself and not the towns citizens.Can't the town just pass an Ordnance not allowing any community park and rides in town limits?

      Better yet. Let the supervisors pass one that says if you have a town sticker and not a county sticker you don't park in the county's park and rides. Guess the town thinks no one in its borders commute. Funny when they want to go green to get money for the Happy Creek project and now that would to put road blocks up for those wanting to car share. If the town wants to move the park and ride that has been part of the project for years, fine. VDOT should remove that money and the town should be required to provide one somewhere in their borders at their cost.

    Beautification? The previous articles on this topic clearly state that the town wants to develop this as a commercial property ($$$)

    " Council has asked VDOT to relocate the required stormwater pond in another part of the property." Water does not flow uphill. VDOT has engineered the Storm Water Pond to be located at the most appropriate spot.

    "(council is concerned about) a threat of runoff from the lot to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River." Does the town council even know what a storm water management pond is? THE RUNOFF WILL BE TREATED BY THE POND AT THE EDGE OF THE PROPERTY.

    Also, isn't the council concerned about the runoff that would be generated by the commercial property that they already indicated will be built there?

    "To have a parking lot as the first thing you see is not the kind of impression that we want to leave for our visitors we hope will move here and spend money here and work here and enjoy Front Royal."

    LOL, that's a good one. A parking lot will have little to no impact on anyone's impression of Front Royal. Instead of worrying about showing off to visitors, they need to worry about the people who already live here. You know, the ones who commute each day 50+ miles each way or more, because there are no decent paying jobs in FR. The same ones who bring back their hard earned dollars that pay the town employee's their salaries and pay for the day to day operations for the town.

    Speaking of impressions, what about the other buildings that are there on 522? That whole section of town is a hodgepodge of various buildings crammed together from new to run down, and odd too. I always chuckle at the used car lot using the obvious old diner as a sales office. Looking at the town of Front Royal as a whole, three words come to mind, Rundown, Old, Dirty. Front Royal has serious junk issues. Just cleaning up the town would have more of an impact, than stopping the construction of a parking lot.

    Don't you think, it would have been better to bring this issue up, BEFORE VDOT purchased the land and tore down the existing motel there? Uh oh, of course not! They sure didn't want to upset that payday did they. I wonder who owned the land and building???

    Bravo Mr. Hrbek. I have never been a fan of yours but on this issue you are absolutely right.

    VDOT does not run our town, and neither should the federal government. What the blazes, it's our money that they stole from us (legally) that they're giving back to us (minus their sizable cut) to rebuild the darn bridge.

    I support you, sir, not because of the content of your concern, but the principle on which it rests: that localities, and not distant bureaucracies, are the primary authority for initiating, overseeing, and approving (or NOT approving) such projects and their particulars.

    VDOT has a habit of taking charge of projects and then coming back with a monstrosity, "take it or leave it," waving their interpretation of "federal regulations" (hundreds of thousands of pages long) accompanied by the threat of the loss of federal funding.

    You know, maybe we should stop trying to find federal funding for everything we do around here. Maybe we should instead tell the feds to get out of town -- and out of our lives.

    The federal government is driving us to ruin. Why applaud them? Why lie down and let them run their bulldozers over us? Do you think they care about beauty? (Or truth, or the Tenth Amendment, for that matter).

    Good for Mr. Hrbek. Keep it up.

      Seriously??? Where was Mr. Hrbek when the previous public hearings were held?? I guess not there, because he doesn't even know if the previous council supported the lot. He obviously didn't give a hoot before. So, what's the difference now. Oh yeah, he is getting paid to give a hoot. Or somebody figured out that somebody important to him was going to lose money over the deal.

      The only time the town cares about something is when it can bring them money. If they had not been able to con the county into giving them money from the shopping centers, they said they would annex so they could charge town taxes. But the people off Criser Road who were annexed into the town didn't even get town water/sewer. But they sure had to pay their town taxes.

      Let's get rid of all that federal money coming to Front Royal. Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicare/Medicaid money paid to Doctors, grants to buy a tank for the sheriff, all of it. Fantastically stupid idea.

    "Maybe we should instead tell the feds to get out of town -- and out of our lives"

    So I assume that you will be swimming across the river rather than using this blood money bridge and looking like a hypocrite?

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