Work has already started on the southbound Rappahannock River crossing, a major project that will add three lanes on Interstate 95 between U.S. 17 in Stafford County and State Route 3 in Fredericksburg.

Updated plans were unveiled Wednesday night for a companion project on the northbound side of the interstate.

Modifications could be made to the northbound design because the Virginia Department of Transportation plan has some alternatives. Decisions on those will be determined during construction. But the early version of the designs were on display Wednesday evening at James Monroe High School.

Like the southbound project, the northbound crossing will add three collector–distributor lanes running to the right of the three primary interstate lanes. Drivers each way will need to make an early decision whether to continue on the primary lanes or to exit onto the C–D lanes.

For the northbound project, the C–D lanes will start south of Route 3, which is where drivers will need to decide where they want to go.

“It’s very similar in nature to the southbound project,” VDOT’s Michelle Shropshire said of the way the new design will work. She gave a presentation to the more than 40 residents who came to see the plans, which were displayed on placards in the cafeteria.

The northbound project also calls for changes at the U.S. 17 interchange.

The ramp changes will include the closure of the cloverleaf from northbound I–95 to northbound U.S. 17. There are two options to use ramps to replace the cloverleaf.

The first option, which fits in the $132 million budget, adds three left-turn lanes where the current two-lane ramp is. That ramp now has only two lanes that lead traffic right toward U.S. 1. A red-light signal would manage traffic.

The second option, which currently exceeds the budget, would add a flyover ramp for traffic heading north on U.S. 17.

Another new ramp also will be added for southbound interstate traffic heading to northbound U.S. 17. The ramp will be managed by a red-light signal.

Also part of each project will be the addition of new spans across the Rappahannock River, inside the current bridges, along with the replacement of the U.S. 17 overpasses.

The southbound crossing project garnered funding in the first round the the state’s Smart Scale program in 2016.

The northbound project did not score well enough for state funding, but money was made available through an agreement between the state and Transurban, the operator of the express lanes, to lengthen the toll lanes about 10 miles to the U.S. 17 area in Stafford.

The crossing projects will run to the area of the extended express lanes when they are constructed.

Work on the southbound crossing project is still in the early stages, with completion scheduled to wrap up in 2022.

The northbound project is scheduled to get underway in 2020 and be completed by December 2023.

The crossing projects account for a big chunk of the approximately $1 billion in work along I–95 currently and in the coming several years as part of the Atlantic Gateway program.

The crossing projects are aimed at alleviating the bottleneck through the region.

Even with the express lanes, which run between North Stafford and Northern Virginia, congestion in the corridor remains a major issue.

In late 2017, the stretch of southbound I–95 from D.C. to U.S. 17 in Stafford was tabbed the “worst single traffic hotspot” in the nation by traffic data company INRIX Roadway Analytics.

The northbound side of I–95 also cracked the worst-of list, with a stretch from Massaponax to State Route 610 in North Stafford coming in as the seventh worst traffic hotspot in the nation.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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