PHOTO: Canal Path

A cyclist on Fredericksburg’s Canal Path.

YEARS of work to develop a network of hiking and biking trails across the Fredericksburg area are paying off as long-awaited connections are made.

In recent days and weeks, projects advanced that will extend a trail from Fredericksburg into Spotsylvania County, and connect Stafford County with Fredericksburg. As popular as the trails already are, these actions will make the trails longer, more useful and more inviting to area residents and visitors alike.

Having the localities connected in this way fosters both a physical and symbiotic relationship that some believe has been lacking. The involvement of the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, whose mission is “to provide a cooperative, continuous and comprehensive transportation planning process,” sets the tone for regional efforts designed to make the area an even more attractive place to live.

We have long advocated regional cooperation as an effective and efficient way of accomplishing objectives that will benefit the region as a whole.

Just a month ago, the Virginia Central Railway Trail was at a dead end due to the soaring cost of building a pedestrian and bicyclist bridge over Hazel Run. The bridge would facilitate a worthwhile extension of the trail into Spotsylvania County. The rising cost of steel nearly doubled the previously estimated $140,000 cost of the project.

But thanks to a shifting of $125,000 by FAMPO and the city picking up the balance, the project should be good to go.

That terminus point of the VCR trail would put it just two miles away from meeting up with the Spotsylvania portion of the trail that runs between Salem Church and Gordon roads. The dream of trail advocates is to see those two trails connected and eventually extend to Orange County.

The problem is that Interstate 95 bisects that two-mile divide—which Spotsylvania Supervisor David Ross refers to as a “hard stop” for any hoped-for trail connection.

At present, there is no good solution. One option would be to send the trail through a tunnel beneath I–95. At an estimated cost of $2 million, such a project is hard to justify when so much of the region’s existing infrastructure needs to be improved, redesigned or replaced.

The other option is to send the trail on a path along Harrison Road, which has a bridge over I–95. But carrying the trail over I–95 would then have to wait for reconstruction of the Harrison Road I–95 bridge—with a pedestrian and bike lane incorporated into it. And that would have to wait for a widening of Harrison Road between U.S. 1 and Salem Church Road predicated on residential and commercial growth along that corridor.

That is indeed a busy stretch of two-lane these days, but when the widening would happen is anybody’s guess. And not a penny of the tens of millions of dollars the project would cost has been allocated. In reality, the trail’s “hard stop” at I–95 is likely to last for a long time.

In Stafford County, work is underway to extend the Belmont–Ferry Farm Trail to Chatham Bridge. The existing trail winds two miles from Belmont, through Brooks and Pratt parks.

The good news here is that the project to improve and add a bike/pedestrian lane to Chatham Bridge is well in the works. The timetable has been accelerated due to the bridge’s deterioration and will begin in the second half of 2020, with completion in early 2022.

After crossing Chatham Bridge, trail users from Stafford can easily access the city’s Rappahannock River Heritage Trail and Rappahannock Canal Path, as well as the aforementioned Virginia Central Railway Trail.

These trails are just waiting for you to don your walking shoes or mount your bike for the perfect means of exploring the local area. Sightseeing can be done at a manageable pace that driving just can’t provide, and you’ll get some exercise while leaving the car parked. What’s not to like?

Twitter: @FLS_Opinion

Load comments