State transportation officials plan to take the next step toward alleviating backups at a railroad crossing in Warren County.

The Virginia Department of Transportation scheduled a public hearing for June 17 to receive comments on the design of a bridge on Rockland Road to cross over the Norfolk Southern Railway in the county.

Freight cars can block Rockland Road as trains arrive at the Virginia Inland Port near Front Royal and stop motorists at the crossing, which causes traffic delays for residents and Warren County school buses. County officials and elected leaders, along with representatives from VDOT, Norfolk Southern and the Inland Port, are seeking a solution to the problem.

The crossing lies at the border of the North Fork and Shenandoah magisterial districts. Supervisor Delores R. Oates represents the North Fork district and said that residents contact her often with concerns about the intersection.

“There is not a week that goes by that I don’t get either tagged in a Facebook post or a text message from constituents who are frustrated at the length of time that that crossing is blocked,” Oates said by phone Monday. “So I think the relief is, believe me, will be very well-received.”

Oates said she typically takes Rockland Road when she goes to church on Sundays.

“So I will tell you there have been situations where we’ve not been able to get there — not frequently for us but there have been at least a few this year,” Oates said. “And so I do understand the frustration of residents who live (there), you know, who are trying to navigate and they’re not sure and, once you get up there ... you cannot bail out in some cases and it’s difficult to turn around, especially if you’re pulling a horse trailer.”

Oates noted that some horse farm owners who live in the area use Rockland Road.

Oates went on to say that the railroad company has been responsive when she called about her constituents’ concerns with the crossing.

The project would create a crossing over the railway on Rockland Road near Front Royal and the Virginia Inland Port.

The proposed 42-foot wide bridge spans 220-feet long and provides a minimum vertical clearance of 23 feet over the railroad tracks, according to VDOT. The bridge can accommodate double-stacked freight containers. Rockland Road traffic can travel on the bridge uninterrupted as trains pass under the crossing, VDOT states.

The project includes improvements on Rockland Road where it approaches the crossing and the alignment of Fishnet Boulevard at the entrance to Rockland Park.

VDOT officials anticipate construction to begin in December 2023 and last 16 months. VDOT plans to close Rockland Road during construction and detour traffic via U.S. 340-522 (Winchester Road) to the west and Fairground Road to the east and north. Rockland Park will stay open during construction.

VDOT reported that 2,200 vehicles traveled on Rockland Road per day on average in 2019. Officials estimate that daily average to more than double to 5,990 vehicles by 2046.

The estimated project cost of $27,371,830 includes $1,940,393 for preliminary engineering, $3,491,616 to obtain rights-of-way and $21,939,821 for construction. Partial funding comes from a grant awarded to the Virginia Inland Port Authority by the National Maritime Administration.

The public can join the hearing, in virtual format, from 4 to 6 p.m., via the VDOT website project page at https://www.virginiadot.org/RocklandRoad and follow the instructions to connect to the meeting. VDOT plans to record the entire online hearing and make it available on the agency’s YouTube channel.

The public can use the following methods to submit comments for entry into the official transcript for the hearing:

* An online survey from June 17-27 at https://www.virginiadot.org/RocklandRoad.

* By calling 540-332-7848 and leaving a voicemail message that VDOT will transcribe and place into the hearing transcript. The voicemail line will be available Jan. 26-Feb. 4.

* By email to elizabeth.jordan@vdot.virginia.gov.

* By U.S. mail to Elizabeth Jordan, Ph.D. Project Manager. Virginia Department of Transportation, 811 Commerce Road, Staunton, VA 24401-9029.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com