ON Thursday at 6 p.m., the Commonwealth Transportation Board will hold a public hearing at James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg on transportation projects that have been recommended for funding under Virginia’s Six-Year Improvement Program. They include the Interstate 95 Corridor Improvement Program that is being partially funded under the recently passed tax package to improve Interstate 81.
The CTB is scheduled to vote next month on the recommendations, which total $20.1 billion through 2024. So local residents who wish to weigh-in on how big a slice of that pie their neighborhood, city or county should get for roads, bridges, commuter lots and public transportation should plan to attend.
A complete list of Virginia Department of Transportation recommended projects in Fredericksburg can be found at: http://syip.virginiadot.org. The list contains many projects to improve interstate, primary and secondary roads in the region.
The largest projects on the six-year plan in the region are the northbound and southbound Rappahannock River Crossings and the 10-mile extension of the express lanes between Exits 143 and 133, which are critically important in an area that had the dubious distinction of having two of the worst traffic hotspots in the nation in 2017.
Notably, INRIX dropped the I–95 corridor off its list of Ten Worst Corridors in the United States in 2018. Since congestion has not notably improved in the Washington metropolitan area, it’s likely just gotten worse in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
But what the six-year plan does not include are recommendations from a comprehensive study of the I–95 corridor commissioned by the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and released by Michael Baker International last December. The I–95 Phase 2 Corridor Study Final Report stated that these projects are “critical to the operational success of the I–95 corridor in this study area by the year 2045.” They include:
- A fourth northbound and southbound general-purpose lane between Exit 126 (Massaponax) and Exit 130 (State Route 3);
- A fifth southbound deceleration lane for the I–95 off-ramp at Exit 126;
- Ramp improvements at Exits 133 (U.S. 17) and Exit 136 (Centreport Parkway) and;
- Widening I–95 northbound to four general-purpose lanes between the Truslow Road bridge (mile marker 134) and Exit 136.
Until and unless these projects are added to the plan, the considerable investments being made to upgrade the I–95 corridor will be for naught.
However, area residents who dream of completely eliminating traffic congestion will be disappointed. Even commuters in smaller, less dense areas regularly get stuck in traffic. “No matter the city a commuter finds themselves [in], getting stuck in rush hour increases a commute by the same proportion,” according to INRIX’s 2019 Global Traffic Scorecard, which noted that “major rates of growth reveal themselves in high volatility”—as in the Fredericksburg region—or “almost none” in dense urban areas with high transit use.
INRIX found that jurisdictions that achieve a state of “congestion equilibrium” exhibit no more than a 30 percent difference between peak rush hour and inter-peak traffic.
That’s the sweet spot the CTB needs to be aiming for.