Decades-old ramblers and split-foyer homes sit along Stafford County’s Ramoth Church Road—a two-lane, winding stretch of asphalt with no shoulders.
The road lies between busy U.S. 1 and Courthouse Road, where a more urban Stafford continues to take shape as hundreds of commuter-friendly houses sprout near Interstate 95. Courthouse Road is also undergoing a transformation, with a $34.9 million project in the works to widen it from two lanes to four between Ramoth Church and Cedar Lane.
Ramoth Church, meanwhile, has largely stayed the same as when the area was rural, even though some county officials consider it one of the more dangerous roads in Stafford. But that could change as a result of the county’s ongoing “Comprehensive Road Evaluation” to prioritize improvements based on various factors.
The county this year studied 114 secondary roads or portions thereof with at least 1,000 vehicle trips per day, ranking their potential need for improvements on usage, the number of accident-related injuries and deaths, expected population growth and other variables.
Ramoth Church, several sections of Garrisonville Road and a stretch of Butler Road from the Falmouth intersection to Deacon Road wound up at or near the top of the list. They are among 63 roads or road segments that county officials are recommending for an even deeper analysis, which will include suggested upgrades and cost estimates. That list includes:
- Ferry Road
- White Oak Road from Baron Park Road to the King George County line;
- Onville Road;
- Shelton Shop Road;
- A segment of Mountain View Road between Kellogg Mill and Choptank roads;
- Doc Stone Road;
- Poplar Road between U.S. 17 and Stefaniga Road;
- Leeland Road from Morton Road to the end of state maintenance;
- Hartwood Road;
- Truslow Road between Cambridge Street and Plantation Drive.
The Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to hear a presentation on the study Nov. 27, must greenlight the list before the county moves forward. In March, supervisors are scheduled to prioritize suggested improvements and discuss how to pay for them.
Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer said the Virginia Department of Transportation is not offering enough money to even make a “whiff of a difference” to the county’s secondary roads. “If we don’t do it, it’s just not going to ever happen,” he said.
He and Supervisor Wendy Maurer are part of an ad hoc committee that has closely followed the process.
The county could potentially let voters decide whether to finance the road improvements in the form of a bond referendum, Dudenhefer said. He described the ongoing study as objective and data-driven, which he hopes will boost the public’s confidence in the final recommendations.
Stafford used a complicated formula to calculate three-year fatality and injury rates for each street. Under that formula, Butler, Onville, Ramoth Church and Tacketts Mill roads ranked among the most dangerous.
On Ramoth Church, for instance, 33 crashes have occurred since 2015, resulting in 13 injuries and one death, according to VDOT.
For Dudenhefer, the effort is personal.
His 17-year-old daughter, Emily, was killed in 2004 after her car, which was being driven by a friend, crashed into a tree on Mountain View Road. She was a Colonial Forge High School student at the time.
Earlier this year, Dudenhefer voted against Stafford’s budget—which effectively increased the real estate tax rate by 3 cents—because he felt it neglected transportation.
“The only reason I’m here is … to recognize the need for the safety of our children and [improve] the quality of life that we’re losing because of our transportation issues,” Dudenhefer said. “The minute I get to the point where I’m not effective doing that, I’m going to walk away, I guarantee you.”