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Silver Cos. to revive rest-area ramp plan?
Silver might bring back plans for a ramp to Celebrate Virginia South from Interstate 95

 Hotels at Celebrate Virginia South are visible from the rest stop on Interstate 95 but can't be accessed from there.
BILL FREEHLING I/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 2/17/2012

BY BILL FREEHLING

The Silver Cos. might dust off long-shelved plans for a ramp that would allow southbound Interstate 95 travelers to connect directly to Celebrate Virginia South.

The plan, which Silver first presented in 1998 during the process of rezoning Celebrate Virginia South, would turn the existing Virginia Welcome Center rest area at mile-marker 132 into a regular I-95 exit.

A ramp would be added to the right of the area where trucks are directed at the Virginia Welcome Center. The ramp would connect to Carl D. Silver Parkway at a signalized intersection next to the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center. The plan would not affect northbound I-95 traffic.

Silver owns the land where the ramp would be built, said Jud Honaker, president of the company's commercial division. The company would pay for the entire cost of the project, which Honaker estimated at $1 million or less, in exchange for project approval from local, state and federal officials.

Silver pitched the idea for a couple of years in the late 1990s to no avail, and it's been shelved since. The hotels at Celebrate Virginia South are now within short walking distance of the rest area, but there is no road connecting them.

The possible impetus for Silver bringing the plan back up would be a similar proposal being made by W.J. Vakos & Co. in Spotsylvania County. Vakos is working on plans that would allow southbound travelers on I-95 to tie into Southpoint Parkway from a new road added to the off-ramp at Exit 126. That project would also be privately financed.

If the Southpoint project is approved, Honaker intends to bring back up the plans for the Virginia Welcome Center ramp. If the Vakos project isn't approved, he probably won't, since he would see no reason why the result would be different than last time.

Honaker acknowledges that the plan could significantly help the development of Silver's Celebrate Virginia South, which has struggled amid the recession. But he also thinks the plan would be a far cheaper and almost equally effective alternative to a $300 million parkway project being considered between I-95 and Gordon Road, which would involve landowners losing property.

Both Joe Wilson, chairman of the Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority, and Karen Hedelt, the city's economic development and tourism director, endorsed Silver's plan.

From the new exit, Hedelt points out, southbound I-95 travelers could easily access Fall Hill Avenue and the newly widened Bragg Road. It would help divert traffic from the bottleneck that exists at the I-95 interchange on State Route 3 near the entrance to Central Park. And it would make it easier for I-95 travelers to access the hotels at Celebrate Virginia South, the Wegmans grocery store and the rest of the development.

The new connection could also help with traffic flow should Kalahari Resorts, which has struggled to obtain financing for its large planned Fredericksburg waterpark resort at Celebrate Virginia South, pull the trigger on the complex.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com