Land needed so city can extend street

Posted: September 16, 2013

The Winchester Star

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WINCHESTER — A state-funded project that would open a new east-west pathway in the city’s southern tip is about to move into its next phase.

At its work session at 6 p.m. Tuesday, City Council will review an ordinance authorizing the purchase of land needed for a $5 million project to extend Monticello Street from Valley Avenue to Battaile Drive. The work includes the construction of a bridge over the CSX railroad tracks.

The project is part of the incentive package offered to Rubbermaid Commercial Products when it decided to undertake a $53.5 million expansion of its local operations. The expansion was announced in December 2011.

But Jim Deskins, the city’s economic redevelopment director, said Ashworth Brothers, Trex Co. and other companies located in the Winchester Industrial Park would benefit because the extension would create a more direct route to Front Royal Pike (U.S. 522) and the Virginia Inland Port north of Front Royal.

Residents would benefit, too, and Deskins said a future project would enhance access to Winchester’s major shopping corridor.

“Eventually, once we extend Pleasant Valley to Battaile Drive,” he said, “we will make another east-west connection for people who want to get over into the shopping area.”

Letters extending a purchase offer were sent to each property owner. They include the justification for the project.

“The City of Winchester is divided by the CSX railroad running through the [c]ity from north to south, which greatly impedes east-west traffic movement,” the letter stated.

“This difficulty in moving in an east-west direction creates undue delays impacting the efficient movement of public safety vehicles, the general traveling public, and commercial traffic. The development of this new connecting road includes a bridge over the railroad, which will be one of only two bridges over the railroad in the city, further increasing the safety and efficiency of traffic flow.”

The project would be paid for with a Transportation Partnership Opportunity Fund grant the city received from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The six parcels the city needs to buy range in size from 5.1 acres to 246 square feet. They total approximately 6.7 acres.

McPherson & Assoc. Inc., an appraisal firm based in Frederick, Md., determined the fair market value for each parcel. That total amount is $895,425.

The ordinance the councilors are to consider would authorize city staff to “take all steps necessary to acquire the properties,” including condemnation.

That verbiage, Deskins said, is in place so no further action is needed by the council if a deal can’t be reached with a property owner. He said there’s been no indication that any of the owners had plans for the sections of property the city needs for the project.

Deskins said the city hopes to complete land acquisition, then finish project design work over the winter. The extension likely would be a design-build project, which would allow work to begin next spring.

Construction should take no more than 18 months, he said.

The appraisal process took a bit longer than expected, Deskins said, but the project is proceeding as expected.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com