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Skinner: Developers are key to road building

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Because of the contentious nature of the area’s regional transportation board, Spotsylvania is basically on its own when it comes to road projects, Supervisor Gary Skinner told a group at a town hall meeting Thursday night at Massaponax High School.

The only way to fix the problem, he said, is tied to developers and revenue sharing with the state.

He then went on to describe how the county can still get important road work done in the Massaponax area, which includes the Cosner’s Corner shopping center.

Traffic often can be congested and hectic on U.S. 1, Interstate 95, U.S. 17 and other feeder roads in the area. And the Spotsylvania supervisors have approved thousands of homes and apartments for the area.

Most in the crowd of about two dozen seemed to agree that improvements around the Cosner’s Corner area are needed, but they were hesitant with the manner in which Skinner said the necessary money can be raised to address congestion in the area.

Skinner covered other transportation topics during the meeting, but the Massaponax issue dominated the discussion.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, he gave an overview of the Jackson Gateway. About a half-million dollars has been spent to study the massive proposal in recent years. It would cost an estimated $400 million to $500 million.

But a new project proposal has trumped the gateway—the so-called super ramp project, which was developed by VDOT. The highway department presented a draft of the proposal to the board on Jan. 14.

The aim of both projects is to get traffic off of U.S. 1.

The super ramp project would be done in phases and cost a great deal less than the gateway proposal.

The first phase would be a “J-loop” exit from I–95 to Southpoint Parkway near the area of Carmax.

One big portion of the project would take a ramp from I–95 near the Carmax to southbound U.S. 17. The ramp would include bridges over Southpoint Parkway and U.S. 1.

The plan also calls for an exit from northbound U.S. 17 to northbound I–95. Also, U.S. 17 would be widened to four lanes and the bridge over the interstate would be replaced.

VDOT’s estimates put the total costs at between $150 million and $189 million.

Skinner said the project can be done for less, about $65 million. He thinks the private–public partnerships are the way to cut costs for the county.

The partnerships, developer proffers and revenue sharing are keys to Skinner’s plan is to draw money. He told the crowd he already has supported one development that would help pay for the super ramp.

In January, Spotsylvania supervisors approved the 378-acre Heritage Woods project just south of Lee’s Parke. The development is envisioned to have 725 detached homes, 147 town houses and 188 apartments. Supervisors Greg Cebula, David Ross and Paul Trampe voted against it. Heritage Woods marked the sixth such development approved by the board this year, totaling almost 4,000 homes.

The Heritage Woods developer agreed to pay $17.9 million in proffers, with $3 million coming up front.

“I fought for Heritage Woods for one reason: We were able to get $3 million up front.”

The county could double that funding through revenue sharing with VDOT, he said.

In turn, that money would help the county get $20 million in bonds for the projects over the next two years, he said.

Meanwhile he said the county will be able to get more money through developer proffers.

Bonnie Ramey, who lives along Jim Morris Road, wasn’t sold on relying on development, especially apartments, to fund the road projects.

“I still don’t see this as a long-term fix,” she said. “I think we’re going way too fast.”

Rupert Farley, a regular at area transportation meetings, also criticized the reliance on developers.

“What you’ve got here is a Catch-22 situation,” he said.

The residents also wondered if the roads would be built before the new housing.

He believes most of the project can be done before all the homes are built, which he figured would take about 20 years.

“If I do nothing, it’ll get worse and worse,” he said.

Skinner said his hands are tied as far as funding, primarily because of the problems on Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Spotsylvania supervisors on FAMPO have butted heads with their counterparts from Stafford and Fredericksburg for the past two years over a proposed parkway.

He also ripped into elected state and federal officials, saying they don’t seem to care about what happens in localities like Spotsylvania.

He said there’s only one way he knows to fix traffic in Massaponax.

“If I go out and say no new development, guess what? I’m not gonna have any money to work with. Growth is still gonna occur here.”

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436