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Changes ahead at Stafford exit

December 1, 2012 12:10 am


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The Virginia Department of Transportation created this rendering of the Courthouse Road interchange plan. lo120112interchange.jpg

More than 100 people turned out Thursday night to see plans for rebuilding the I-95/Courthouse Road interchange.



With each update, designs for the planned State Route 630 interchange project in Stafford County make it clear there will be big changes to the courthouse area.

The huge interchange loop will divide east- and westbound lanes of Courthouse Road and impact dozens of properties. The eastern portion of the road will be rerouted, with the intersection of Courthouse Road and U.S. 1 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. Lots will be on each side of Interstate 95.

Those updated plans for the nearly $200 million project were on display Thursday night at Colonial Forge High School.

Many of the 110 people who attended the meeting moved in close to see the numerous maps and renderings, using their fingers to trace out how they will get around once the change happens.

The new loop interchange will replace the existing diamond-style on- and off-ramps--the last of their kind on I-95 in Stafford.

Something else also caught the eye of attendees: The project will bring an end to a longtime fast-food icon on Courthouse Road. The McDonald's near the I-95 exit will be razed for the eastern commuter lot. Four gas stations around the exits and one private residence also will be lost to the project, which is still in the planning and design phase.

"This is a massive undertaking," said retired schoolteacher Dudley Fowler, who has lived off Courthouse Road for 40 years. He used to be able to pull out of his driveway without hardly looking.

Now, he said, it's hard to get out at all.

"It's just progress," he said.

Fowler added that all of Courthouse Road needs to have four lanes.

There is a project in the early planning phases that will widen Route 630 west from the planned interchange, VDOT's Michelle Shropshire said at Thursday's public meeting.

The next step for the interchange project is to get Federal Highway Administration approval of right-of-way and utility plans, in late 2013.

Plans call for the project to be advertised for construction in early 2016.

It is expected to take up to three years to finish the estimated $183 million project, which isn't yet fully funded, Shropshire said.

The designs aren't final, so there will be some changes before final approval, she told several residents at the session.

One issue in particular involves the area near the Courthouse fire and rescue station, where plans call for a cul-de-sac that will cut off emergency vehicles from a direct westbound path on Courthouse Road.

Shropshire said VDOT is working on ways to make that possible.

VDOT officials say the interchange can't adequately handle current traffic, much less the increased use that will come with new development along Courthouse Road.

There are nine designs for the interchange, including a no-build option. VDOT chose the current preliminary design because it is the second-least expensive and has fewer bridges and traffic lights than the other designs.

At the upgraded interchange, eastbound Route 630 will go over I-95, while the westbound lanes will continue to go under the interstate.

The current configuration of Courthouse Road from U.S. 1 will end just west of the fire and rescue station. Courthouse Road will be rerouted to the south. Moody Drive on the east side of the interstate is shown as a connector road between the old and new Courthouse Roads.

Along the new westbound lanes there are plans for a multi-use path for walking and biking.

"It's way overdue," Stafford Board of Supervisors member Gary Snellings said at the meeting. "It'll make a world of difference."

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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