WINCHESTER — The COVID-19 pandemic means Frederick County won’t hold a Transportation Forum this year.
The county’s Transportation Committee unanimously agreed on Monday morning to cancel the forum, which has been held annually each fall since 2015, either at the County Administration Building or Winchester Regional Airport.
The forum gives the public a chance to learn about regional transportation projects and talk with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) staff, county planners and elected officials about the projects. Previous forums have drawn anywhere from 50 to 100 people.
But concerns about spreading the virus prompted the panel to nix this year’s forum.
Frederick County Assistant Planning Director John Bishop asked about the possibility of holding the forum via the video teleconferencing app Zoom, but committee member Gary Oates said, “Let’s just skip it this year and plan to do it next year.”
As an alternative, Ed Carter, resident engineer at VDOT’s regional office in Edinburg, said the agency could prepare a video for the county’s website highlighting major transportation projects in the county.
“That sounds like a great idea,” committee member and Stonewall District Supervisor Judith McCann-Slaughter said.
When the video is uploaded (a date has not been set) to the website, people will be able to comment online and provide feedback.
Also at the meeting, Bishop told the committee about a study being conducted by the Winchester-Frederick County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to assess ways to realign traffic on Front Royal Pike (U.S. 522) where the road intersects with U.S. 17/50 (Millwood Pike).
Traffic volume is soon expected to exceed the capacity of the signalized intersection at Front Royal/Millwood Pike and the northbound entrance to Interstate 81. The potential development of a new intersection on Front Royal Pike with new alignment could relieve the existing intersection of some traffic and accommodate future development.
Bishop said the MPO hired engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. earlier this year to begin a study, which will develop potential improvements to the road network and establish goals on how to integrate them.
Bishop said the MPO will consider three scenarios for improvements. One would involve constructing a proposed corridor from the undeveloped Heritage Commons development, east of Winchester, to Tulane Drive. Another would involve constructing a corridor from the Heritage Commons property to Prince Frederick Drive, while a third scenario would construct a corridor from the Heritage Commons property to Inverlee Way. All three potential corridors would intersect with Front Royal Pike and divert traffic from the existing Front Royal Pike/Millwood Pike intersection.
The MPO is expected to pick a scenario before the end of the year.
But Bishop said after the meeting there is currently no timeline on when construction of those improvements would begin.