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FAMPO OKs $1.2 million for Fall Hill project


The local metropolitan transportation board voted on Monday to close a funding gap for the increased costs of the Fall Hill Avenue widening project and to endorse the 2040 long-range plan, which includes a planned extension of the Interstate 95 express lanes to Massaponax.

The Fall Hill Avenue widening project is years from starting, but the estimated costs have grown from the original $36.6 million to about $44.2 million, according to information in the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization agenda.

FAMPO voted, 7–1, to amend the  2012–2015 Transportation Improvement Program to use nearly $1.2 million in statewide unused and surplus funds. Along with the addition of local matching funds from Fredericksburg and potential money from another project, there remains a shortfall of up to $2.5 million, said Quintin Elliott, Fredericksburg District administrator for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Elliott said the city should, and he plans to, ask the Commonwealth Transportation Board to see if the state can provide the money to close the  remaining gap. The CTB will hold a public hearing on the state’s next six-year improvement plan Oct. 29 at Massaponax High School. The hearing starts at 6 p.m.

The CTB will have to amend the improvement plan to transfer the money to the Fall Hill project.

Contractor Kimley–Horn and Associates informed the city of the cost increases in the summer. Issues with utilities, right-of-way acquisition, engineering work and  environmental, cultural and historical impact studies are some of the causes for the increased estimate. The extension of Mary Washington Boulevard also added to the cost increase, Elliott said at Monday’s meeting.

The project is broken into phases. The first will include widening the western portion of Fall Hill Avenue to four lanes, joining the section that already has been widened. Sidewalks and a trail also will be added, and the bridge spanning Interstate 95 will be replaced. The second phase of the project calls for widening the rest of Fall Hill and extending Mary Washington Boulevard to connect it with Fall Hill near the Rappahannock Canal bridge.

The project’s preliminary schedule calls for construction to begin about mid-2015. It could take two years to finish.

The city is handling the first 30 percent of the project design, then will hand it over to VDOT.

The FAMPO board also voted, 5–3, to endorse the 2040 long range plan, but not before member David Ross, a Spotsylvania County supervisor, failed to strike $1 million in the plan for preliminary studies for the Rappahannock Parkway toll road. That parkway is part of a controversial project aimed at fixing congestion along the Interstate 95 corridor from U.S. 17 in Stafford County to State Route 3 in Spotsylvania. Ross and other Spotsylvania FAMPO members have successfully put the parkway portion of the project on hold, if not killed it altogether.

The proposed plan also carries over from  the 2035 long range plan a project to extend I–95’s electronically tolled express lanes from Garrisonville to Massaponax, at exit 126. The new lanes in the interstate’s median are under construction in Stafford and are scheduled to open by early 2015.

The state’s commissioner of highways, Greg Whirley, sent FAMPO a letter asking that the board keep the express lanes extension in the new long range plan, as “the extension of the I–95 express lanes is a top priority of Governor McDonnell,” he writes in the letter.

That didn’t sit well with FAMPO member Matt Kelly, also a Fredericksburg council member. He asked that VDOT give a presentation next month on the project and funding sources.

The southern extension of the express lanes would cost about $735 million and would be funded by a public–private partnership like the other portions of the project. It is years away from being done.

Scott Shenk:  540/374-5436