Letter to the Editor: Bridge is a top priority for the community

By Richard H. Traczyk

I am writing in response to the recent letter to the editor titled “VDOT meeting on bridge was a sham.”

I have had the opportunity to serve the Shenandoah District of Warren County for 20 years; first as a member of the Planning Commission and most recently as supervisor for the past 12 years. During this time I am proud of the many positive steps that this community has made, including the new school facilities, Samuels Public Library, Warren County Public Safety Building, Bing Crosby Stadium and Warren County Community Center,  to name a few. This progress has been made while maintaining affordable tax rates thanks to economic development efforts to expand our local tax base.

As the supervisor for the Shenandoah District, the replacement of the Morgan Ford Bridge remains a top priority of the community and one that I hope we can complete in the near future. The existing bridge is a death trap, taking three lives since 2010. The bridge has a sufficiency rating of 2 out of 100 and is no longer functional. It needs to be replaced, and needs to be replaced with a bridge that will be wide enough and high enough to meet the needs of the community for the next 100 years.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has worked tirelessly with the county and the project stakeholders, including the vocal minority who has opposed the bridge’s replacement.

The current bridge design incorporates a number of concessions to address valid concerns, including reducing the width of the bridge, keeping it within the footprint of the existing bridge, providing a rustic appearance, and incorporating traffic calming features. In addition, at the board’s request, VDOT has banned through truck traffic and reduced the speed in the area to 25 mph to allay fears about the area attracting additional traffic. It should be noted that some property owners did not want fish piers or bike paths on the bridge. Its intention is safe passage over the river, not a destination, and as such those additions were not considered in the proposal from the beginning.

The Feb. 4 VDOT meeting was well attended and again showed that most of my constituents support the proposed bridge replacement. I asked VDOT to have ample staff present to answer questions from the crowd. I was asked by the opposition for an opportunity to present an alternative to the VDOT presentation and VDOT obliged. I asked my follow board members to attend to answer questions from their constituents and they attended. We were all prepared for the large turnout which included over 150 people by my count. Those attending were given ample opportunity to provide input on the proposal. The intent was to have a public presentation of ideas, concerns, and comments and not intended to be a public spectacle as some of the opposing faction wanted.

I am sorry that Mr. Barr feels that the meeting was a sham. I am also sorry that he feels that outside interests like the Piedmont Environmental Council belong in Warren County and in the Shenandoah Valley. The real sham is the façade of red herring issues that the vocal minority have portrayed to stymie the project that the vast majority of the residents of the community wholeheartedly support.

Richard H. Traczyk is chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors