STEPHENS CITY — After years of planning and construction, the long-awaited Crossover Boulevard opened to traffic on Friday.

The new road's four-lane bridge spans Interstate 81, taking drivers from Tevis Street in Winchester to Front Royal Pike (U.S. 522) in Frederick County.

“This day has been a long time coming,” Virginia Department of Transportation official Ed Carter told about 50 local and state officials who gathered Friday morning near the bridge for an opening ceremony.

The road aims to ease traffic congestion and prepare for future development in eastern Frederick County.

“This construction was at a particularly hard time because of the [COVID-19] pandemic,” said Carter, who is VDOT's Edinburg Residency Administrator. “And in spite of the many unexpected challenges and things that happened during that pandemic … everybody came together. And it just shows what local partners can do when they set their minds to it. The job was finished on budget and on time.”

Winchester's portion of Crossover Boulevard, which extended Tevis Street to about a third of a mile from I-81, was completed in January 2019 for $1.9 million. Frederick County’s $22.3 million portion involved the construction of the bridge and connecting the road to Front Royal Pike. Winchester-based Perry Engineering received a $17.6 million contract to build the bridge and the remainder of the road. Perry Engineering began the county’s portion of the project in May 2019 and wrapped up this week.

Crossover Boulevard cuts through a planned development east of Winchester. The property, located in the county, was previously known as the Russell 150. Baltimore-based MMA Capital Management, which owned the property, had planned to build 645 residential units and at least 107,500 square feet of commercial space on the 150-acre site. But earlier this year MMA was purchased by Fundamental Advisors LP, an asset management firm headquartered in New York City. Fundamental Advisors Managing Director Ryan Keane told The Star that Fundamental Advisors is having preliminary discussions about future development but did not provide further details.

Before being purchased by Fundamental Advisors, MMA matched state funds to build the four-lane bridge, a traffic circle on the Heritage Commons property and a four-lane extension of Crossover Boulevard from the traffic circle to the intersection of Front Royal Pike and Airport Road.

“I think this might be one of the more critical infrastructure pieces that we’ve ever been a part of, even though it’s been short-lived for us,” Keane said during the ceremony.

Frederick County Assistant Planning Director John Bishop said planning for Crossover Boulevard began in the 1980s. In 2005, plans moved forward to accommodate the Russell 150 development when developer Denver Quinnelly announced plans to construct 294 townhouses and 500,000 square feet of commercial and retail space on the property.

But the economic recession in 2009 scrapped the Russell 150 project. Quinnelly later filed for bankruptcy, and the land was auctioned in 2012 to MMA Capital Management (formerly MuniMae).

The Frederick County Board of Supervisors rezoned the property for MMA in 2015, allowing for 645 residential units and at least 107,500 square feet of commercial space. One of the proffers for the rezoning was for the owners of the property to match state funding for Crossover Boulevard (known at the time as the Tevis Street extension).

“So here we are today, thanks to the leadership of our board, the support and participation of our private partners, VDOT and the blood, sweat and tears of so many of you that are here today participating,” said Bishop, noting the importance of Crossover Boulevard's east-west connectivity over I-81, which has been "one of the key shortfalls for our local transportation network.”

Mark Merrill, who represents the Staunton District on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, praised the county and city for their collaboration on the project and demonstrating “effective government” by making Crossover Boulevard a reality.

“This road will be particularly important as work continues on the I-81 corridor, and in the not too distant future, a replacement of the bridge over route 50,” Merrill said, referring to the planned Millwood Pike bridge replacement at the city-county line. 

Opequon Supervisor Bob Wells said the road will be a “wonderful enhancement” for area residents and make access to the Winchester Regional Airport easier.

“The completion of this roadway stands as a testament to the bright future of Frederick County that we are facing and a job well done,” Wells said. “Once again, we thank all of you who are a part of this.”