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Bridge work just the start of Fall Hill upgrade

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HAVE YOU done it yet?

Have you hopped into your car and headed off for your destination, eventually tooling along Fall Hill Avenue until, to your surprise, despite all of the news coverage and the multitude of street signs, you reach that one last sign: “ROAD CLOSED TO THRU TRAFFIC”?

In case you haven’t committed that embarrassing traffic faux pas yet, or if you’ve been living in a Hobbit hole the past year, here’s another warning: Fall Hill Avenue has officially closed. The canal bridge is coming down.

It’s going to be that way pretty much the rest of the year.

But don’t fret, there are detours. And, believe it or not, they work.

Cowan Boulevard is your best alternate—a simple shot along U.S. 1 that takes you right into Central Park.

The closure will be a pain for some, but in the end it had to be done.

Once it is done, though, more is coming. Once the canal bridge work is done, work on the Fall Hill widening will be about ready to gear up.

That project will add lanes to the road and widen the Interstate 95 bridge.

The bridge widening is not just for Fall Hill, though. It’s also part of the plans to extend the I–95 express lanes to the Massaponax area.

That extension is very much on the agenda, as noted in recent correspondence from Charlie Kilpatrick to the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Kilpatrick, the new statewide head at the Virginia Department of Transportation, recently told FAMPO that the extension of the express lanes is a key to pushing traffic through the area’s I–95 gantlet.

The will is there. It’s just a matter of finding the money.

And while it’s not clear exactly how the funding will work at this point, a betting man might lay down a little coin on tolls being that source.

Dear Scott: My wife and I have two clean-fuel vehicles that were grandfathered into free use of the Interstate 95 HOV lanes.

She commutes to D.C. and we were wondering what the outcome is going to be with the new express lanes. How is it going to affect us?

We’re about to buy a new car and were thinking about buying a hybrid, and we wanted to know if the tags would still work.

I don’t know if we’ll buy one if the benefit goes away.

—Gerry Bradshaw, Spotsylvania

Unfortunately for clean-fuel car owners, that HOV benefit is going to drive off into the sunset when the express lanes open.

The good thing is that these drivers will still be able to use the express lanes at any time. The difference is that you’ll have to either pay a toll or have at least three people in the car.

Certain clean-fuel vehicles have been able to use the HOV lanes free for years. In recent years, some have been grandfathered into the free-use rule.

But that will change on the new express lanes.

“Virginia law dictates this rule,” Michael McGurk, with Transurban, the corporation that will operate the express lanes, said in an email. “HOV lanes and HOT lanes have separate legislation outlining rules of road for each facility.”

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

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