Town, county look for commuter lots

By Alex Bridges

Commuters in Warren County and Front Royal may get more parking spaces in the near future.

County Administrator Doug Stanley updated town and county representatives at a liaison committee meeting Thursday on the effort to find more places to put commuters. Virginia Department of Transportation officials have said that the existing lots near Front Royal and in the Linden area remain popular and crowded.

Stanley said he and Town Manager Steve Burke met recently with Virginia Department of Transportation representatives to look at two potential sites for commuter lots.

One site lies north of the U.S. 340-522 bridge over the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. This site lies in a floodplain but, as Stanley explained, a lot here could also serve boaters who park to use the nearby landing. The other site lies at the southern end of the planned Leach Run Parkway. Stanley said the site is in a floodplain but also on expendable land owned by the Economic Development Authority.

The need for commuter-lot space exists at the Interstate 66 exits at Front Royal and Linden.

“The closer you can get to the exit, the more likely you are to capture some additional traffic,” Stanley said.

The county’s efforts to lobby VDOT to expand the existing commuter lot serving the Linden area apparently worked. The Commonwealth Transportation Board’s latest Six-Year Improvement Plan includes $400,000 to expand the park-and-ride lot off Va. 55 in the Linden area. The lot currently accommodates about 130 vehicles. The planned expansion would add another 60 spaces and improve lighting and security, according to information from VDOT. Construction could start in early 2016.

Many commuters also use a private, vacant area in the Linden area but Stanley and other officials have said that this lot could disappear should the owner decide to develop the property.

VDOT had planned to build a park-and-ride lot at the south end of the U.S. 340-522 bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. VDOT included the lot located on the former site of a hotel in its designs for the bridge-replacement project. However, last year Town Council members voiced concerns about the location of the lot even though it appeared on the project designs since the early stages. VDOT in turn removed the lot from the bridge project.

But that left the town and county, as well as VDOT, needing to find another way to handle the increasing number of commuters using the crowded park-and-ride lots.

Front Royal Mayor Tim Darr said town and county officials looked for other options at VDOT’s request.

“VDOT asked us to come up with some ideas and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Darr said. “We’ve complied to what they’ve asked and just to find alternative sites for the park-and-rides.”

The committee also discussed:

Law enforcement at the skate park. The county Parks and Recreation Department oversees the skate park at 154 Kerfoot Ave., and other facilities in town. The county is working with Front Royal police to enforce trespassing rules and violations, Stanley said.

The Catlett Mountain Landfill. The county expects to receive bids July from firms interested in building a system to direct leachate from the long-closed landfill to the local storm sewer system. Rainwater infiltrates the capped landfill and comes out mixed with chemicals inside the closed facility. The town and county must accept a bid before construction can begin.

Front Royal Limited Partnership annexation: County officials are waiting for the town to file a petition with the circuit court asking that a panel of three judges be appointed to approve the Voluntary Settlement Agreement between the two jurisdictions. The agreement involves the annexation of 605 acres of land in the county into the town. The property is bordered by the Happy Creek Technology Park, the Shenandoah River, electric power transmission lines and Interstate 66. A judge in the circuit will sign an order asking the state Supreme Court to appoint the three judges who then will hold a hearing on the agreement. The panel then may sign an order making the agreement effective. Stanley said the matter likely could reach conclusion by the end of the year.

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