A monumental amount of work is underway on the Interstate 95 corridor through the Fredericksburg region, and more is in the pipeline.

About $1 billion’s worth of projects are in the works, all coming on the heels of the $1 billion spent on the express lanes expansion/conversion.

While those investments are expected to help loosen the valve on the I–95 congestion choke point in the region, many local transportation leaders believe there’s at least a little further to go before the flow will be good enough.

A fourth-lane proposal for a stretch of I–95 in Spotsylvania County, beyond the southernmost point of the Rappahannock River Crossing projects, aims to avoid creating another choke point. That extra lane is deemed a possible fix that would stop—or at least delay—the pattern of leapfrogging choke points moving from the Dumfries area south.

But that proposed project, and four others on I–95 in the region, failed to draw funding from the latest round of the state’s Smart Scale program.

Some believe one reason those projects scored poorly is because Smart Scale really doesn’t account for weekend traffic impacts in its scoring system.

A “Top 100” chart showing the days with the most traffic on the interstate between Stafford and Spotsylvania counties indicates weekend traffic has a major impact on I–95 south of U.S. 17 in Stafford.

The chart was produced by the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, using 2017 traffic figures that were gathered using sensors in the interstate’s pavement.

The chart shows that weekdays were worse than weekends on the interstate north of U.S. 17 in Stafford County, as expected.

But the weekend traffic volumes south of U.S. 17 are “almost exclusively” worse than weekdays on I–95, something FAMPO Administrator Paul Agnello said was surprising.

The thinking is that weekend traffic bypassing interstate snarls north of Fredericksburg is using U.S. 17 as the route back to I–95. That U.S. 17 route has long been popular for truckers and long-distance travelers, and there’s no reason to think it isn’t still true.

Agnello said local officials are thankful of the investment in the region’s transportation infrastructure. But like others, he notes that the area continues to play catch-up with a transportation network stretched by traffic that has continuously increased over the years.

He thinks the southbound fourth-lane project could fill the “final piece” of expanding I–95 enough to avoid the bottleneck issues in the near-term.

“If we get to exit 126 [Massaponax],” he said, “I think we’d be good, for a while.”

Agnello hopes the findings will convince state officials to reconsider weekend traffic impacts in ranking Smart Scale projects in the future.

In the meantime, get ready for several years of drastic I–95 makeovers from North Stafford to south of State Route 3.

In 2023, after the crossing projects have added six lanes to the interstate— among a plethora of other work—the corridor won’t look the same, whether you’re sitting in traffic or just passing through.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436 sshenk@freelancestar.com

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