Getting There When?opoly: Get used to orange barrels on area roads

By SCOTT SHENK - Jan 21, 2018
Free Lance-Star

Work on the transportation network never really ends.

And that will be clear in the Fredericksburg area for the foreseeable future.

The Interstate 95 corridor from Garrisonville to State Route 3 essentially will become a 15-mile work zone for the next five or so years. When all is said and done, that section of highway will be drastically transformed.

There is more than $1 billion in planned work on roads and rails in the Fredericksburg region coming down the pike, with seven major projects on the interstate alone, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The Free Lance–Star is again using Whenopoly to help break down important issues in the region. Below is a snapshot of some of the major transportation projects in the Fredericksburg area.

The local transportation landscape changed abruptly with the surprising, recent agreement for the second extension of the I–95 express lanes, a deal that included funding for the northbound Rappahannock River crossing project. Unable to garner funding in the state’s Smart Scale program, the northbound interstate project had become a thorn in the foot of area transportation officials, who had been scrounging for ways to pay for the project.

Rappahannock River Crossing

The story so far: VDOT unveiled its design for the southbound crossing project in 2017, with the plans calling for three lanes to be added in the median of I—95 from U.S. 17 to State Route 3. The new median lanes will carry through traffic on the main line of the interstate while existing lanes will be converted to carry local traffic on the collector-distributor lanes, which will have access to the exits. The northbound crossing project will add more lanes as well.

Outlook: Work on the $125 million southbound crossing project is expected to start in summer 2018 and be completed in 2022. As for the northbound crossing project, it will take time for plans to materialize for the $132 million project, but the new lanes are planed to be built in the median.

Interstate 95 Express Lanes

The story so far: The new exits opened on the first, shorter extended section of the I–95 express lanes merge in North Stafford in the fall. The extension moved the merge point nearly two miles south of the original exit near State Route 610 in Garrisonville, where there have been constant traffic jams since the electronically tolled lanes opened in December 2014.

Outlook: The second, longer extension had been proposed and partially funded, but the state earlier this month struck a deal with express lanes operator Transurban to get the project done. The toll-lane operator will pay for the $450 million extension, according to state officials. Transurban will earn toll revenues, but the state will reap benefits of the tolls, too. The state is leveraging future toll revenue to pay for the northbound crossing, and also could earn future revenue from tolls.

The plans call for using flyovers and slip ramps at numerous access points along the 10-mile addition of the tolled lanes in the median to the U.S. 17 area in Stafford. The toll lanes will link up with the crossing lanes.

Route 3 Interchange

So Far: In December, three new exit lanes opened for I–95 traffic heading to westbound State Route 3. The new turn lanes, managed by traffic signals, replaced the old exit ramp where there has been a history of chaotic crossover traffic.

Outlook: The $21 million project also will include the construction of a dedicated lane from the southbound exit to Central Park’s main entrance and replace one of the interchange cloverleafs with left-turn lanes on eastbound Route 3. The free-flowing lane to Central Park is expected to open in the spring. The replacement of the cloverleaf exit with turn lanes is expected to be completed by January 2019.

Stafford Courthouse Road, interchange work

So Far: Work started this summer on the Courthouse Road widening and interchange projects in Stafford County.

Outlook: The $35.9-million widening project will expand a 1.9-mile section of Courthouse Road from two lanes to four lanes west of I–95 between Cedar Lane and Ramoth Church/Winding Creek roads. The new stretch of road will be divided by a raised median. Two intersections also will be reconfigured and traffic signals added as part of the widening project.

The $149.4-million interchange project will convert the exit into a relatively new concept known as a diverging diamond interchange, in which traffic crisscrosses to the opposite side of the road and back again to the right side. Raised medians and islands separating traffic and signals manage the flow. There also are no conflicts with oncoming traffic for vehicles turning left in such interchanges. The existing commuter lot will be replaced with a pair of lots, which will roughly double the number of spaces to 1,000.

The projects are slated to be completed by 2020.

There are many more projects on the books, so look for more updates in this space next week.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436 [email protected]