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Leach Run Parkway gets loan program

By Alex Bridges

Front Royal's long-awaited Leach Run Parkway took a step forward despite the start of construction still in the future.

Town Council at its meeting Monday adopted a resolution stating that Front Royal would join Warren County and the Economic Development Authority and participate in a loan program that covers for the design of the Leach Run Parkway.

The complex financing package incorporates old and new debt. The $10 million would help refinance the outstanding debt from a $7.5 million public facility bond anticipation note used to cover the cost to build, renovate and equip the Luray Avenue Middle School. The $10 million also includes $1.5 million toward the design of the new middle school, Town Manager Steven Burke said Tuesday.

Town Council, at its work session last week, heard a presentation by Ted Cole, of Davenport and Company, on the financing plan.

Of the $10 million, $1 million goes to cover the cost to design Leach Run Parkway - a project eyed about 30 years ago as a connector between John Marshall Highway and Happy Creek Road. The four-lane, limited-access highway has long been viewed as a way to reduce town traffic congestion. Such a highway would prohibit driveway access and limit the number of cross streets.

Preliminary engineering for the project had been completed, Burke said. The project never reached fruition and languished for years until its recent revival.

"However, design criteria and standards have changed since the original concept was developed so we will use the original preliminary design as the basis for the final design," Burke said. "But it will be updated to account for current design requirements."

Now Front Royal, the county and the EDA are working with the Virginia Department of Transportation on Leach Run Parkway as a revenue-sharing project. VDOT will cover half the $12 million estimated cost. However, the revenue-sharing program requires the municipality to spend the money on the project first and then the state repays the local parties involved.

An agreement reached by the parties calls for Front Royal to cover 34 percent of the local cost for the project. Warren County covers the remaining 66 percent and the municipalities pay off the debt to the EDA. Burke said Front Royal and the county have devised a payment structure for any projects administered through the EDA and located in town limits.

Several months ago the EDA received proposals from 12 engineering and design firms interested in the Leach Run Parkway. A committee made up of representatives from the town, county and the EDA examined the proposals and began the process to narrow down prospective firms to only a few.

EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald said the panel plans to recommend the parties select Pennoni Associates to design the project.

"The ultimate deliverable [product] from Pennoni would be a set of bid plans and specifications," Burke said.

Staff then would seek bids from companies interested in building the road project.

"The expectation is to have construction documents advertised in nine to 12 months at the award of the contract," Burke said.

Residents, property owners and other people interested in the project will have a chance to look at the final designs and ask questions about the highway plans.

"Part of the agreement with the consultant will include community-input meetings and presentation meetings," Burke said.

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

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