Letter to the Editor: VDOT meeting on bridge was a sham


Your front page report, “Bridge hearing draws support, foes of design” on Thursday, deserves praise, giving equal time as it does to both sides of the Morgan’s Ford bridge issue, a feat made extremely difficult for any reporter confronted by up to 20 Virginia Department of Transportation bureaucrats and local politicians, including the president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Richard Traczyk.

Traczyk’s acknowledged “last hurrah” after 20 years of excellent public service on the board is VDOT’s version of a Shenandoah River bridge replacement at the picturesque spot near Front Royal that most nearby residents, the chairman’s constituents, do not want. Early on, the VDOT contingent and the politicos outnumbered the public in attendance. It evened out some as the four-hour, so-called public hearing, at which no-one was allowed to speak publicly, progressed.

As a retired international journalist, I commend your reporter who provided your readers with new information on an engineering study by the respected Toole Design Group which offered an alternative bridge to that of VDOT. This compromise offer provided more (pedestrian and bicycle paths) and cost (about $5 million) less than VDOT’s design with regard to traffic safety, destruction of the environment, and ignorance of the historical significance of this part of the river.

In a word, not mine but of a neighbor leaving the meeting place, the public hearing was a stage-managed sham. In my extensive experience covering everything from city halls to the U.S. Senate, this shameful performance by our Board of Supervisors and VDOT came as close to governing by autocracy as anything I’ve seen anywhere (except, perhaps, Russia under Putin) since the beginning of World War II.

Most everyone in our area agrees the 85-year-old bridge needs replacing. VDOT should come together with Toole Design Group and its employer, Piedmont Environmental Council, to iron out a design compromise, then, swallow hard for goodness sake, get on with the job.

Malcolm Barr. Sr., Front Royal