Costs rise on bridge, road projects

FRONT ROYAL – The cost to extend Main Street into the former Avtex Fibers site continues to climb.

Town officials had used an initial estimate of $1.75 million, of which Front Royal would pay $250,000. The cost now stands at $2.5 million, according to new estimates from the firm hired by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority to design the project.

But the Virginia Department of Transportation could help cover the overrun for Front Royal. Town Council learned of the cost increase and the potential for state aid at a work session Monday.

The phase of the extension in question spans about a third of the entire road through the Avtex site.

The authority recommended that the town apply to VDOT to participate in the Economic Development Access Program that could assist in funding the project. If approved, the town could receive $500,000 in unmatched funds and up to $150,000 in matching state money. Funding would allow the construction of the project through the middle of two lots from Kendrick Lane.

The town has partnered with the EDA and the county to develop Lot 6 of the former Avtex Fibers site south of Kendrick Lane and north of Main Street. IT Federal bought land in the Avtex site and will soon enter into a firm contract to build its facilities on the property for a technology and data-management-related service as well as retail and office space. IT Federal is expected to involve new, private investment in land, building and equipment worth approximately $40 million and the development is anticipated to employ 600 workers on the 30-acre site. Operations are expected to begin in March 2017.

The existing roads around Avtex don’t provide access to IT Federal’s property so an extension of Main Street is required.

Also at the work session, council heard an update on a project aimed at replacing the Criser Road bridge – a crossing that suffers when Happy Creek floods. Chad Thomas with the firm Mattern & Craig, hired by the town to come up with options for a new crossing, provided a report to council. The existing bridge, approximately 25 feet long, floods about every 10 years, Thomas said.

A 30-foot bridge would not flood as often, providing a slight improvement, Thomas said. A 40-foot bridge would flood about every 25 years, he added.

“I should note that neither of the bridge options result in a no-rise condition in the base-flood elevation,” Thomas said. “In order to achieve a no-rise condition, we would have to design and construct a bridge that is approximately 50-feet long and raise the roadway approximately 5 feet from where it is now. The size of that project would well-exceed the current budget for the job.”

An option calls for the new bridge to have two 12-foot-wide lanes, two 3-foot-wide shoulders that can accommodate bicycles and a 4-foot-wide sidewalk on the downstream side, Thomas said. VDOT recommends wider bicycle lanes along with the other amenities. Mattern & Craig are recommending the town go with VDOT’s suggestion.

The initial construction budget for the project of $400,000 only covered the replacement of the bridge.

“As we started to scope the project to meet the town’s requirements we began to realize that the project could be significantly more involved and complicated than we originally thought,” Thomas said.

Construction costs for the two options analyzed fall between $500,000 and $600,000, Thomas said. The estimates include engineer and construction-management costs. Engineers attributed the increased cost to roadwork required for longer crossings. Front Royal might save money on the roadwork by using town employees, Thomas said.

Front Royal has $400,000 set aside through a cost-sharing agreement with VDOT, Town Manager Steve Burke said. The town also can expect to receive about $250,000 from VDOT that was left over from what Front Royal paid toward its share of the South Fork Bridge replacement project, Burke said.

Engineers had hoped to begin construction this summer so work would not interfere with school bus routes. But the need to submit applications to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and receive approval likely will push the project to the fall, Thomas said.

At a future meeting, Town Council will need to give staff members authorization to move forward with the design of the project, Burke said.

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