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Toll road discussion leads to testy disagreements

The equivalent of a 12-car pileup erupted at Monday night’s Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting during a public hearing and vote on a long-range transportation plan.

It all revolved around a proposed four-mile-long toll road in Spotsylvania, which has caused long-simmering tension on FAMPO and put another board created for the project on a self-induced hiatus.

The toll road is part of a bigger project totaling about $300 million now known as the Rappahannock River Crossing; its name was changed last year as FAMPO’s members argued over the project.

The plan, which includes interchange improvements at U.S. 17 in Stafford and feeder roads alongside I-95 from that exit to the State Route 3 exit in Spotsylvania.

It also includes a parkway, potentially with a toll, that a new contingent of Spotsylvania supervisors essentially killed last year, after the project had already been accepted by federal authorities.

The project is included in the 2040 Long Transportation Plan, which also involves numerous other multi-million-dollar projects in the Fredericksburg region. FAMPO was set to vote on the long-range plan at Monday’s meeting, which is required by the federal government.

But during a public hearing, several citizens who would be impacted by the toll road portion of the project spoke out. They were upset that non-elected officials on FAMPO voted to keep the toll road portion of the project in the state transportation’s Six-Year Improvement Plan, and to allow money to be spent for studies on it.

They claimed there are constitutional issues at hand with property rights and that some FAMPO members are in cahoots with the Silver Cos., the local developer.

The residents backed up some issues FAMPO member and Spotsylvania supervisor David Ross recently brought up and has argued since joining the board.

The FAMPO board haggled over the issue for over an hour, which was at times confusing and heated.

Several times, as the members argued their points and debated about what they could actually do with the Rappahannock River Crossing project, Fredericksburg representative Matt Kelly was critical of the conversation.

“This is not a great moment for FAMPO,” he said at one point.

Ross believes the board has failed to support Spotsylvania elected officials’ wishes about the toll road and that members haven’t been willing to work with them.

Other FAMPO members, primarily Stafford representative Paul Milde and Kelly, said the Spotsylvania contingent hasn’t given viable alternative solutions to the Route 3 congestion problems the toll road was aimed at alleviating.

Milde said the Spotsylvania group “won the fight” on the toll road by having it set aside from the overall project. Kelly said Ross was playing politics and not focusing on fixing the traffic problems.

Ross wants the toll road portion of the project removed from the long-range plan without affecting the Stafford and Fredericksburg portions of the project.

It was unclear if that could be done, and if it could be done, it wasn’t clear how to go about doing it.

The board voted—nine for, one against, one abstention—to table the long-range plan and will vote on it at next month’s meeting.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436