Design calls for slower speeds on parkway

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — Work on Leach Run Parkway remains on track as engineers design the long-awaited route.

A liaison committee made up of Warren County and Front Royal representatives met Thursday to hear updates on mutual projects, including the parkway.

In response to questions from Board of Supervisors Chairman Archie Fox, Town Manager Steven Burke explained that the town, county and the Economic Development Authority will present a project proposal for the parkway and then seek the Virginia Department of Transportation’s approval.

“We’ve come to an agreement that we will have a 40-mile-an-hour design speed that will hopefully result in significant cost savings in construction of the project, may even allow us to reduce some of the required right of way,” Burke said. “Everything that we hope to do we do have to get confirmation that it’s acceptable to VDOT.”

Supervisor Richard Traczyk voiced concern about the speed limit considering the area. He said that until the meeting he had heard the speed limit would be higher. Burke noted the parkway’s original layout showed a 55-mile-per-hour limit.

“VDOT establishes different design criteria based on the anticipated speed of travel,” Burke explained. “The town’s basically come to an understanding that we won’t have a road with a higher than 35-mile-an-hour posted speed limit.”

County Administrator Douglas Stanley explained that a road with a slower speed should cost less to build because of the design requirements. The faster the speed limit, the straighter the road, Stanley said. Slowing down the speed allows for less cutting and filling of the roadway, he said.

From the town’s perspective, the slower speed provides for a calmer travel route with less of an impact on the project’s area, Burke said.

The EDA and Pennoni Associates, the engineering firm contracted to design the parkway, are coordinating with the Virginia Department of Transportation to begin environmental work on it. The consultant may submit the preliminary design in the next two or three months, Burke said.

Town staff and others involved in the project plan to discuss the potential locations for intersections along the parkway, Burke said. He noted the parkway could have at most six intersections along the route, with traffic signals may be built at the north and south ends of the parkway.

Mayor Timothy Darr said those working on the design have not yet decided how many intersections the parkway would have and their locations. But Darr voiced concern about the potential for six intersections.

“If you keep adding intersections, it kind of defeats the purpose if you’re going to put stoplights every quarter mile,” Darr said. “If you have six intersections in 1.3 miles it’s not really going to be a parkway, it’s going to be a parking lot.”

Burke said he expects the design would put one intersection at a site known as the Heptad Property. The parkway also would need to connect to a church on John Marshall Highway, Burke said.

Also at the meeting, Stanley updated the group on efforts to find a new software system for the building inspection and zoning department. Stanley said he and other officials had follow-up interviews with the two software providers earlier this week. Stanley said that, based on the interviews, staff plans to make a recommendation to the supervisors at their Oct. 1 meeting.

Once the county makes its recommendation, the town staff can present the information to council for its consideration. Front Royal may opt to join the county in using the software.

County and town staff have touted the software as a way to streamline the development and building inspections process and to improve customer service.

Councilman Daryl Funk asked if the software would connect zoning departments. Stanley said it would allow town and county zoning departments to track and review permits as well as issue violation notices, and let inspectors generate letters while out in the field. He explained that an inspector could, with Internet access, send documents and photographs to the department as well as to the contractor to give notice about the inspection.

The apparent increase in efficiency with zoning and inspections may sway some council members to support the town’s joining with the county in the service, Funk said.

If the town opted into the software package, it would cover 25 percent of the cost, whereas the county picks up the remaining expense.

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