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COLUMN: Why are we still wasting away again in Route 3 traffic jams?

TWICE in recent weeks, I’ve set out from my house in the Altoona subdivision heading west on State Route 3.

On the first, it was probably the worst possible time to try that, around 5:30 on a Friday night. The second time was this past Saturday, at 1:30 in the afternoon.

Both times, I was in a bit of a time crunch.

On the Friday night, the challenge was to get to dinner in Culpeper and then a 7:30 movie at Mount Pony.

Saturday, I was just trying to make it on time to a movie I needed to review.

Both times, I got stuck in barely moving traffic jams that took an agonizingly long time to pass through.

Add the slow trips together and it took me a combined 60 minutes to go the mile or so from Plank Road at Altoona Drive (by Carlos O’Kelly’s) to the main entrance of Spotsylvania Towne Centre.

That’s right, 30 minutes on each of those days to travel that one short mile.

This isn’t worthy of mentioning because I’m more important than anybody else who has to slog through it or because I deserve any special sympathy.

No, I raise the issue because after years and years of talking about the mess that is Route 3, it’s still the major east–west path through our region.

Yes, I know political and jurisdictional maneuvering is happening now over different plans to address the Route 3 logjam, especially as it connects to Interstate 95.

City and Stafford officials favor a bypass that peels off I–95 near the Virginia Welcome Center and then skirts through Celebrate Virginia to end up at Route 3 near Gordon Road. It’s a road that would let many commuters avoid the horrendous Route 3 intersection and probably add quality home time to their days.

Spotsylvania officials favor a road that leaves I–95 and then goes so far west it reconnects in Orange County. That must puzzle many of their commuting constituents, who I would think would love a way to avoid the peak-hour Route 3 interchange congestion that will continue even if some through-traffic gets shunted out to Orange.

Regional road discussions are sorrowfully approaching Maury School-type delays. For those who didn’t follow that issue, the Fredericksburg’s City Council took decades to figure out what to do with that building once it was no longer used as a school.

Time after time, different sets of councils spun their wheels while various studies and proposals were sought.

Finally a decision was reached, with the building fairly quickly converted into really lovely condominiums.

How long will tongues wag on road issues before people realize the mess that is Route 3 in Spotsylvania hurts not just the people and prosperity of Spotsylvania County, but of the whole region?

When I started at the paper in the late ’70s, plans for all manner of Fredericksburg and connectors were bandied about. Some 37 years down that woeful road, previous little has been done.

There’s still just one major thoroughfare to take traffic directly east and west around Fredericksburg.

The really scary thing: No matter what gets decided on new road improvements, it will be many years before they could be planned and built.

By then, it could take a whole hour just to make one rush-hour trip to Spotsylvania Towne Centre.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415