Community breaks ground on Leach Run Parkway

Ron Llewellyn, left, a board member of the Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority, chats with Front Royal Mayor Tim Darr during the groundbreaking ceremony held Wednesday afternoon for Leach Run Parkway. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Community leaders broke ground on a major road project Wednesday nearly a quarter century in the making.

The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority held a groundbreaking ceremony for the future Leach Run Parkway – a 1.3-mile, four-lane highway, divided by a median, designed to connect Happy Creek Road to John Marshall Highway.

The authority spearheaded the $13.18 million project, working with engineers and other agencies such as the Virginia Department of Transportation along with the town and county. The EDA also worked to acquire the land needed for the highway that will provide access to the new middle school. The route also runs along property planned for development by HEPTAD and land owned by Valley Health.

Town and county representatives as well as some former Front Royal mayors participated in the groundbreaking. Patricia Wines, chairwoman of the EDA board of directors, led the event and noted that the project has been a long time coming.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Traczyk commented on the collaborative effort it took to reach this point.

Richard H. Traczyk, chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, speaks during the groundbreaking of Leach Run Parkway off Oden Street in Front Royal on Wednesday. Also pictured, from left, are Greg Drescher, vice chairman of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority; Patricia Wines, chairman of Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority; and Tim Darr, Front Royal mayor. Rich Cooley/Daily

“This is another example of what we can do when we put our efforts together, put politics aside and do what’s right for our people,” Traczyk said, reading from a statement. “Working together with the town, the EDA and the county, this project and others recently really have come to fruition.”

The highway should ease traffic congestion in town and provide a more convenient route for motorists in the areas of Shenandoah Shores, Shenandoah Farms and the Happy Creek Industrial Park traveling to Interstate 66 and beyond, Traczyk said. The route also should allow buses to pick up and drop off children at the new middle school without needing to travel through town, Traczyk added.

“This is just the next step in the continuing process for improving our community and the quality of life for our people,” Traczyk said.

Front Royal Mayor Timothy Darr concurred with Traczyk that the project remains a collaborative effort.

“It’s always important that when we start a project to do what we can to finish a project,” Darr said.

Town and county officials participate in the groundbreaking ceremony of Leach Run Parkway off Oden Street in Front Royal on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Former mayors John Marlow and Jim Eastham, in attendance at the event, have worked on the project at different times in the long process, Darr pointed out. Darr cited minutes of a council meeting from Nov. 27, 1989, during which members directed the town manager to take the early steps needed to begin the project. The following year an engineering firm briefed council at a work session on the preliminary concept – a two-lane, divided highway. Darr noted that the design has changed significantly since then. Council then approved the plans in January 1991.

Darr said “we’re there and we’re finally digging dirt and it’s gonna be a great thing and it is a true, community effort.”

“It just shows that we, as a community, do work together,” Darr said.

After the ceremony, Marlow said he felt pleased to see the project reach this point. Marlow explained that the earliest concept called for a highway that would eventually connect to a new interchange with Interstate 66. The Virginia Department of Transportation did not support that part of the concept at the time.

Eastham echoed Marlow’s sentiment.

“It’s a great day I tell you,” Eastham, also on the EDA board, said after the ceremony.

Eastham served on the town Planning Commission during Marlow’s time as mayor. Eastham also credited the town’s former Director of Planning Kim Fogle for her “visionary” work on the project years ago.

“The challenge for doing something like this is when you have two governments involved and they’re not really set up to do this sort of thing, and this is where the EDA came in and brought the third leg of the school to get this together,” Eastham said.

The EDA expects the contractor to complete construction of the project by this time next year.

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