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December 19, 2012 12:10 am


VDOT began the Falmouth intersection project Tuesday by demolishing the former bank at the corner of Butler Road and U.S. 1.


Some thought this day would never come.

But it did.

Work on the reconstruction of the Falmouth intersection started Tuesday morning with the demolition of the former bank building that has recently served as Stafford County Republican headquarters.

Shortly before 11 a.m., an excavator with a monstrous yellow claw moved in on the brick building at the intersection's northeast corner.

Traffic at the junction of U.S. 1, U.S. 17 and Butler Road was busy as usual as the claw clamped down on one of the structure's dormers, crunching the wood, glass and brick with ease and leaving a hole in the roof. Then it moved on to the next dormer and did the same.

Quintin Elliott, the administrator for the Virginia Department of Transportation's Fredericksburg District, watched the demolition with a handful of other department officials and Stafford County Supervisor Cord Sterling.

Elliott had no doubt the project would get done, saying he made it a priority when he became the district administrator in 2008.

Sterling, who represents the Fredericksburg District on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, said he's "glad to see it getting done. It's a 30-year-old project that kept getting stalled."

Many different plans came and went over the years--a bypass, a flyover and even a roundabout.

Stafford residents, county officials and VDOT finally settled on the current plan: the addition of eight lanes. The new layout will separate the through and turn lanes, which is expected to improve congestion at the intersection.

The nearly $25 million project will include a "landscape and streetscape" plan, making it compatible with the historic nature of the surrounding area, said VDOT's Greg Henion during an update prior to the demolition.

The impact on the Falmouth area's historic resources has been one of the project's key planning aspects--and hurdles.

Henion said VDOT has worked with residents as well as county, state and federal authorities to create a "legally binding document that stipulated how the project's impacts on the historic district will be mitigated."

The bank demolition should be finished by the end of the week. The three other buildings at the intersection and four structures on Butler Road also will be razed.

Crews have to inspect the structures for hazardous materials before they start demolishing them.

"The demo work itself should have little to no impact on traffic," Henion said.

VDOT also is working on a plan to keep the impact on traffic to a minimum during the entirety of the project.

After the structures are demolished, crews will start relocating utilities. That work is scheduled to begin in February and be finished by October. Most of the utilities will be moved underground.

Actual construction on the intersection is expected to start in the spring of 2014. It could take two years to complete the work.

The project is expected to have a positive impact on wait times, according to VDOT.

By 2016, if nothing were done at the intersection, the average wait at the lights was projected to be nearly four minutes. With the improvements, VDOT says, the average wait will be 56 seconds.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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