Parkway project bids go over budget

The long-awaited Leach Run Parkway project could cost much more than anticipated.

Bids to construct the connect road came in well over the $8 million project construction budget set by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority – the entity spearheading the project along with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The EDA received sealed bids from five Virginia-based firms on June 18. Roanoke-based Branch Highways Inc. submitted the lowest bid of $13.28 million. A&J Development and Excavation submitted the highest bid of $17.2 million. Other bids were: $14.95 million by Allan Myers of Glen Allen; $15.12 million by Perry Engineering of Winchester; and $15.24 million by General Excavation Inc. of Warrenton.

The EDA, Town Council and the Board of Supervisors will ultimately select a contractor to build the project.

The overall project budget of $12 million included money to acquire land for the parkway, engineering and design work. The EDA has spent about $3 million so far to obtain land and easements but expects to recoup some of that money when the agency sells land to Warren County for the second middle school.

Pennoni Associates Inc. designed Leach Run Parkway as a four-lane highway, divided by a median, with sidewalks and other amenities. The parkway will connect Happy Creek to John Marshall Highway [Va. 55]. Warren County Public Schools plans to build a second middle school along the parkway route. Warren Memorial Hospital owns a large piece of property along the path. HEPTAD LLC also owns land by the route that is planned for development in the future.

EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald and Town Manager Steve Burke said last week that the bids prompted the officials to revisit the design plans.

“The bids did come in high,” Burke said. “The town, county and EDA are working through VDOT to hopefully arrive at a project scope with the contractor that can meet our budget. We’re also working with the EDA, county and town to arrive at any and all solutions to make the project go forward.”

At least a few factors pushed the bid prices over the budget.

“A lot of [the cost] had to do with the earthwork,” McDonald said. “I don’t know if it’s an unknown, like they don’t know what kind of soil is there … Sometimes they over-budget on those things just because they don’t know what’s there.”

Some geotechnical studies were performed during the design process, Burke said.

“There is always an unknown regarding the type of materials that will be encountered when the project begins,” Burke said. “There is a significant amount of earthwork involved with the project and that will be one point of discussion to hopefully arrive at a cost and a project that will meet our needs.”

Officials also are looking for other sources of money, such as grants, that might help cover the cost, Burke said. Proffers call for the future development of the HEPTAD property to provide financial assistance in paying off the loan for the Leach Run Parkway project.

Revisiting the plans in an effort to reduce costs shouldn’t delay the project much further, McDonald said. The EDA has eyed a completion date of late 2016 or early 2017.

“It delays us a few weeks but we’ll still be on target for completion,” McDonald said.

Front Royal and Warren County have been discussing and planning the Leach Run Parkway project for more than 20 years. The EDA has spearheaded the project, buying land and easements for the parkway and working with Pennoni on the design. VDOT has been involved with the project from the beginning. VDOT, the town and the county are sharing the cost of the project.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or