Port Authority tries again for Rockland Road crossing grant

FRONT ROYAL – The Virginia Port Authority plans to try again to seek federal money for a potential solution to blocked railroad crossings in Warren County.

The authority intends to apply for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation that would provide some funding for a grade-separated bridge overpass on Rockland Road at the Norfolk Southern Railway crossing.

The Board of Supervisors plans to vote at its meeting today on a resolution of support for the authority’s grant application.

The authority tried unsuccessfully to win a grant when it applied in the spring 2016. County Administrator Doug Stanley said Monday that the cost of any such bridge continues to increase while parties seek a fix to the traffic problem. The resolution adopted by the board in April 2016 provides a cost estimate of $11 million to design, build and acquire the right of way for a bridge over the railroad crossing at Rockland Road. That estimate now exceeds $14 million.

Stopped trains block railroad crossings at Rockland and Fairground roads several times per day. Trains primarily service the adjacent Virginia Inland Port. The blocked crossings cause significant traffic delays for businesses and industries, school buses, users of the nearby park and area golf courses as well as residents in the Rockland community.

The resolution states that Rockland Road carries 750 vehicles per day and serves as the primary access route for several industries. The resolution goes on to state that some of the traffic blockages lasted more than an hour. The closest detour route to avoid the delays takes traffic roughly seven miles away and adds an average 10-12 minutes travel time.

The Virginia Department of Transportation estimates it would cost approximately $14.2 million to design, acquire necessary land and build a grade-separated bridge overpass at the Rockland Road crossing. Construction would not begin until 2023 with secured funding. The Virginia Port Authority anticipates the U.S. Department of Transportation could provide approximately half the cost, or $6.75 million, if it approves the grant. Local sources such as the county, VDOT, as well as other grants, would need to cover the remaining $6.75 million in matching funds. The county has not yet committed to a specific match.

Norfolk Southern Railway previously told the port authority in past grant applications that it would provide up to 5 percent of the match or $710,000. County officials asked Norfolk Southern representatives for their continued support and the 5 percent funding commitment for the latest grant application.

The port authority needs to submit the grant application with a resolution of support by the Oct. 16 deadline.