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Posted January 4, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Board: Keep road in bridge project

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Adjustments to a curve on Morgan Ford Road in Warren County should go forward as planned, the Board of Supervisors recommended this week.

The Virginia Department of Transportation continues to work on the design for improvements to the Morgan Ford Bridge across the Shenandoah River and the road leading up to the span. The county has an opportunity to save local funding by letting VDOT continue plans to design improvements along the road, including the nearby intersection with Howellsville Road.

But concerns by a landowner affected by the project prompted Shenandoah District Supervisor Richard H. Traczyk to bring the matter up for discussion at a board work session Wednesday. As the supervisor noted the issue concerns a section of Morgan Ford Road just west of the bridge. VDOT officials say the agency can leave the curve untouched and focus solely on the bridge.

Landowner and Traczyk constituent Christopher Manion asked supervisors to pass a resolution of support for or against upgrades to Morgan Ford Road as proposed by VDOT.

Supervisors reached a consensus of 4-1 to support VDOT's efforts to design the improvements to the curve as planned, leaving the section of road in the overall bridge project. Traczyk dissented on behalf of his constituent.

Christopher and Theresa Manion own nearly 35 acres that fronts a curved section of Morgan Ford Road. Designs call for a slight straightening of the curve, according to VDOT. But as Traczyk told the board Mr. Manion has expressed concern about how any adjustments to the curve might affect the owners' property and, moreover, the impact it could have on traffic speeds.

"Do we want to spend the money years down the road doing it at county expense?" Traczyk asked. "Do we want to have the federal government and state government go ahead and make these changes now?"

VDOT Assistant Residency Administrator Edwin Z. "Ed" Carter advised the bridge project remains in the design phase.

"We took the comments that we heard over the various meetings and people wanted us to remain as close to the alignment of the old road as we possibly could," Carter told the board. "Unfortunately we can't stay within the edge of the old pavement because it does not meet any type of our design standards.

"So if we're going to improve this road it has to be to our minimum standards and we've already done some design exemptions by not putting super-elevations on the road and things of that nature," Carter added.

The design also must incorporate elements such as ditches that address water drainage per state and federal requirements, according to Carter. VDOT can't elevate the road only to force water into Manassas Run, Carter said.

"It really makes no difference to us, from VDOT's perspective, whether we stop the project in this vicinity or whether we do this piece," Carter said. "This is an opportunity to make this a better piece of road and make it clean all the way through from this intersection whenever these routes at some point in the future are done."

The curve adjustment as one time planned would cut through the Manion's farmland, Traczyk pointed out on a map. Carter explained that the

The county and VDOT has looked at upgrading the intersection of Morgan Ford Road at Howellsville Road. Federal funds remain available for the intersection improvements, according to Traczyk. In the future should the county wish to extend those improvements it could do so with federal money and no local revenue.

VDOT Assistant Residency Administrator Edwin Z. "Ed" Carter told the board such a cut, as illustrated in a preliminary design, would involve shifting the road more than seven feet into the Manion property.

"If take no action or just let VDOT do a bridge repair and hook it up basically down below to its existing road ... at some time the county is going to have to foot the bill to finish this up and do this intersection 10, 15 years down the road," Traczyk said.

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

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