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A road too far
Spotsy plan is a road too far

Date published: 9/22/2013

THE IDEA of a western bypass around Fredericksburg has been circulating for 40 years or so. Different routes have been considered, none less attractive than the plan proposed by two Spotsylvania representatives on the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The irony of highway projects is this: The more the population grows, the more you need new roads--and the harder it is to build them. Yesterday's played-out farm, a cheap buy, is now a housing development, in a state that's hard-wired to protect homeowners' rights. Yet anyone driving State Route 3 or U.S. 17 west of Fredericksburg or Interstate 95 can attest to the need for some sort of western bypass.

The latest "solution" to area congestion, though, put forth by Spotsylvania County supervisors David Ross and Tim McLaughlin, is a head-scratcher. Connecting I-95 at the Centrepoint Parkway interchange with a place close to where Route 3 and State Route 20 connect, in Orange County's Wilderness area, won't exacerbate congestion in the Fredericksburg area. That's clear from computer models. All it might do is help residents who fear a more easterly crossing of the Rappahannock would impact their quality of life.

What exactly is the Ross-McLaughlin highway supposed to provide? A much not-needed shortcut between Culpeper and Stafford? A slightly quicker way to get to Charlottesville from I-95? Or is it a not-in-my-backyard ploy by Mr. Ross and Mr. McLaughlin--a way to keep the road out of their districts? And with all the traffic issues facing an area that is expected to double in population by 2035, is this swing west around the region the best use of limited highways funds? Clearly it is not.

In fact, the Spotsylvania supes' plan is helping foster the opposite of regional cooperation. At a Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting Monday, Stafford Supervisor Gary Snellings said Ross' proposal wasn't popular in his county, Fredericksburg councilman Matt Kelly added that the city, which owns river easement in the area, wanted more input in the process, and the FAMPO members in general were opposed to the idea.

And let us not forget the Civil War. Remember the pitched battle over the Wilderness Walmart? How much hallowed ground will this proposed western route swallow up?

With FAMPO locked in heated debate, no solution seems to be forthcoming. Now State Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton (former chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and no stranger to traffic problems) is stepping in. He says the dispute has gone on too long. Although the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which he chairs, doesn't like to get embroiled in local controversies they'll take this one on.

Good. If a connector or western bypass is built, though, it should not swing all the way out into Orange County. There are far more sensible ways to use highway funds.

Should we ease commuters' pain or build A Road Too Far?

That's a no-brainer.