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Courthouse Road, other projects get funding

The Courthouse Road interchange project in Stafford County is back on track.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday added most of the $30 million it had removed months ago from the project aimed at rebuilding the Interstate 95 interchange on State Route 630.

The change came on the day the CTB approved the statewide 2015–2020 Six-Year Improvement Plan.

The SYIP allocates $422 million for projects in the 14-county Fredericksburg District. That’s $45 million more than was included in the plan’s draft.

Numerous other Fredericksburg area projects got additional funding in the SYIP, two of which are aimed at replacing the Falmouth and Chatham bridges.

But it was the potential loss of $30 million for the approved rebuilding of the Courthouse Road interchange that had Stafford officials worried.

The removal of $30 million from the project in the plan’s draft prompted Stafford supervisors to attend a May public hearing in Tappahannock, where they implored transportation leaders to return the funding to the project.

The change in the draft was spawned in part by a new transportation prioritization program signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Among the specific reasons for the change was the General Assembly borrowing $60 million from the state’s transportation budget, according to Hap Connors, the Fredericksburg area’s CTB representative. He said the CTB also diverted some funds to bridge projects, which are a high priority.

On Wednesday, the CTB returned $25 million to the project, which will cost an estimated $184.5 million.

“I need to keep working with VDOT to restore the $5 million,” said Connors. “I think I can do that.”

He said the SYIP is considered a living document, which means changes can be made to it.

Stafford Supervisor Paul Milde was happy about the change, and praised Connors for making it happen.

“That’s great news,” he said, adding that the Virginia Department of Transportation is already in the process of buying land for the project.

The current interchange, built in 1963, cannot handle peak traffic times, according to VDOT.

The new interchange is expected to help traffic flow on Courthouse Road and U.S. 1. Both roads are regularly plagued by congestion during the commuter rush.

The new interchange loop will divide eastbound and westbound lanes of Courthouse Road. The eastern portion of the road will be rerouted, and the intersection of Courthouse Road and U.S. 1 will be moved south to meet the Stafford Hospital entrance.

And there will be two commuter lots instead of one, adding about 500 more spaces than the original plans had. The lots will be on each side of Interstate 95.

Milde said the interchange project is “essential” to planned redevelopment of the courthouse area.

“This project is going to transform the courthouse area of Stafford.”

While the interchange project was the big winner, the CTB added several million to numerous other projects.

The SYIP includes an additional $3 million to help accelerate planning for the eventual replacement of the Chatham Bridge, which is structurally deficient.

The additional funds will allow VDOT to start preliminary engineering work in Fiscal Year 2015, which starts on July 1.

The bridge replacement will cost an estimated $20 million.

The CTB also added $4.5 million to a project that will eventually replace the Falmouth Bridge, which is functionally obsolete, meaning it cannot efficiently handle traffic.

The Falmouth Bridge project, with an estimated $50 million price tag, is slated to start in 2020.

The Rappahannock River Crossing project also got more money in the SYIP.

The CTB added $20.5 million to the crossing project, which will cost an estimated $200 million.

The project will add collector–distributor lanes and bridges to I–95 between the exits for State Route 3 and U.S. 17 in Stafford. Both of the exits also will be rebuilt.

The project still needs just more than $123 million to be fully funded.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436