09.19.2014  |   | Subscribe  | Contact us

Living, working, playing and getting around in the Fredericksburg region

REGION OVERVIEW

The Fredericksburg region is somewhat unique in that its center city is relatively tiny compared with its neighboring counties.

While some folks in Spotsylvania and Stafford comfortably say they live in Fredericksburg, others just outside the city limits associate more closely with their counties than with Fredericksburg. In fact, the local governments, economic development officials and tourism groups take pride in holding events and raising the profiles of their respective localities. There are separate Fourth of July celebrations and Christmas Parades in the city and Spotsylvania, for instance.

And while Fredericksburg bills itself as America's Most Historic City, Stafford is spending this year celebrating its own heritage - with a series of events marking the county's 350th anniversary. No matter what part of our region you call home, we hope this guide provides you with a richer understanding of the places and the faces you'll encounter here.

The region is a mix of folks whose families have lived here for generations, a healthy dose of "newcomers" who have poured into the area over the past two decades and the steady stream of new arrivals lured by cheaper housing and a strong-than-average job market.

While we're all bound by some shared attributes - the Rappahannock River, the traffic, the growth, for instance - we're also on our own when it comes to finding the community that works for us.

The Fredericksburg region is rich in history, the arts, entertainment and recreational possibilities, but it's also home to something harder to measure. It's been said that 'the heart of any town is the people that you know.'

If you stick around long enough, you'll find that the Fredericksburg region has a pretty big heart.

Newcomer's Guide to the Fredericksburg Area

ELECTRICITY
Dominion Virginia Power
www.dom.com
888/667-3000
Covers most of Fredericksburg and Stafford, King George and Spotsylvania counties. It also serves some customers in Caroline, Culpeper, Louisa, Orange and Westmoreland counties.

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative
804/633-5011; 800/552-3904
Serves Caroline and parts of Spotsylvania and Stafford counties.
Northern Neck Electric Cooperative
804/333-3621 or 800/243-2860
Provides electricity in portions of King George and Stafford counties.

Northern Virginia Electric
Cooperative
888/335-0500
Serves parts of Stafford.

NATURAL GASColumbia Gas
800/543-8911 or, in case of emergency, 800/544-5606
Serves Fredericksburg and parts of Stafford, Spotsylvania and Caroline counties.

TELEPHONE

Verizon
For residential service, call 800/837-4966.
For business service, call 800/826-2355.
Serves the Fredericksburg area

PET LICENSES

Dog licenses and proof of rabies vaccination are required for dogs 4 months and older in Fredericksburg and all counties. State law requires cats 4 months and older to be vaccinated as well, but only some localities require cats to be licensed.
Dog licenses are available from your local treasurer. And if your pet type is normally found only in a zoo, check with your local animal-control office to see if itís legal to own.

EMPLOYMENT OFFICES

The phone book has a long list of private employment agencies.
The Virginia Employment Commission has two offices in the Fredericksburg area:
10304 Spotsylvania Ave., Suite 100, Spotsylvania,
540/322-5757
529 Meadowbrook Shopping Center, Culpeper, 540/829-7430
Search VEC job listings online at vaemploy.com.
You can also search a comprehensive local job site for opportunities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the D.C. area at jobfetch.com.

CABLE TV
There are three major cable providers in the Fredericksburg area:
Comcast, 800/266-2278
or comcast.com
Cox Communications, 866/458-1670 Verizon FiOS, 800/837-4966 or verizon.com

SATELLITE TV

DirecTV, 888/777-2454 or directv.com
Dish Network, 888/823-4929 or dishnetwork.com

Fredericksburg-area schools

Most parents in the Fredericksburg area laud the locale as a great place to raise a family. They cite the area's proximity to both the nation's capital and the state capital, the suburban culture and the school divisions.

Those divisions vary widely in terms of size, diversity and location. Stafford County, which is the closest to D.C., educates more than 27,000 students in 30 schools. Caroline County, in the south, has 4,340 students in five schools.

The school divisions in the Fredericksburg area do share some similarities: All schools are on a traditional school-year schedule, typically starting just after Labor Day and ending in early June. †Most of the area high schools operate on a block schedule.

Like all school divisions in Virginia, the area schools implement the Standards of Learning tests each year. While some of the standardized testing subjects are similar, Virginia schools do not participate in the Common Core, the national education initiative that is used for standardized tests in most states.†You can read our roundup story on last year's standardized test scores†here.

When parents consider a move to the Fredericksburg area, they often ask, "Where are the best schools?"

There's no easy answer. It really depends on what you want for your children.

If you're looking for diversity, Fredericksburg City Schools would be the best bet. High test scores? Spotsylvania or Stafford county schools. A rural atmosphere? King George or Caroline County.

Looking for a school where a rooster might stop by? Caroline County. Want them to walk the halls once graced by the presence of Miss America? Spotsylvania County.

Here's how local high schools fared on recent SAT tests.

You can get more details on the area's school divisions and their test scores, climate and diversity here.

The area also offers an array of private schools, including Fredericksburg Christian and Fredericksburg Academy, as well as some pretty active homeschooling groups.

And it is home to some institutions of higher learning--including the University of Mary Washington, known for its liberal arts program. The school's Fredericksburg campus houses its undergraduate programs, while the North Stafford campus hosts the graduate school and certification programs geared toward working adults. A new Dahlgren campus offers continuing education for engineers, scientists and administrative professionals.

Germanna Community College educates about 15,000 people each year in three campuses and a satellite center.

TRANSPORTATION

In the Fredericksburg region, the driving experience is dictated mostly by two things: Interstate 95 and commuter traffic.

If you learn how to work with them, your driving experience might not be so bad and you might just make it to your destination without too much stress. But, be warned, both are beasts that can wreak havoc on the area's road network, which is constantly playing a game of catch-up with seemingly never-ending development.

Here's a rundown of the transportation network in the Fredericksburg area.

INTERSTATE 95

I-95 runs north to south and is the major artery in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Stafford.

If there is a major incident with lane closures on the interstate, jams form quickly, and congestion on the road network in Fredericksburg can grow at an incredible pace, turning many roads into glorified parking lots. And the old, faithful, secret shortcuts for the most part have all been found and in turn rendered all but useless in avoiding gridlock in such situations.

Even without an accident, traffic often clogs the interstate, along with other primary roads, during the commuter rush. Weekends (especially in the summer) also bring heavy traffic to I-95.

There is a major (mega) project in the works along I-95 that is expected to have a dramatic impact.

The I-95 express lanes project will extend the current HOV lanes in the median to Garrisonville. Currently the lanes, now used only by vehicles with at least three people, end in Dumfries. When the work is complete (likely in early 2015) there will be 29 miles of electronically tolled express lanes, running from Stafford to the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495, which also has express lanes). The new lanes will not require vehicles to have at least three people in them. But those who donít meet that requirement will have to pay variable tolls.

Here is a rundown of the areaís major roads, what to expect to run into on them and what the future holds.

STAFFORD COUNTY

Anyone who regularly drives in Stafford will end up on the primary roads of U.S. 1, U.S. 17 and State Route 610.

Traffic on 17 and 610 often is bad, some of the worst congestion in the area. U.S. 1, for the most part, can be a decent drive. But drivers will find that there are some bad spots on that highway, and some bad times to be on it.

U.S. 1 is often congested in the areas of U.S. 17 (the Falmouth intersection) and 610, primarily during the commuter rush. The courthouse area (Route 630) and Boswells Corner north of Garrisonville are two other trouble spots.

The good thing in Stafford is that some improvements have been made on major (and some not so major) roads. And there are some major projects in the works and on the books. The bad news is that Staffordís growth seems to continuously outpace transportation improvements.

Here are some projects set for Staffordís major roads:

Falmouth Intersection: Work is underway on this project, which will add eight new lanes to the congested intersection. The current focus is on putting utilities underground. VDOT expects construction on the $25 million project to begin early next year. Work is expected to take up to two years.

U.S. 17 Widening: This project will add lanes to the heavily traveled highway between McLane Drive and Stafford Lakes Parkway. Construction is underway on the estimated $48.9 million project. Work is expected to be finished by December 2016.

State Route 630 interchange (Courthouse Road): This massive project will result in a new split diamond interchange and a rerouted Courthouse Road, which will connect with U.S. 1 at Hospital Center Boulevard, south of the current intersection. The $184 million project will be advertised for bids in early 2016 and is slated to be finished in 2019.

State 630 Widening: At the same time the interchange project is being done, State Route 630 west will be widened to four lanes from Cedar Lane to Ramoth Church Road. Also, a traffic light will be installed at the entrance to Colonial Forge High School. The $29.9 million project is set to be advertised for bids in the spring of 2016 and could be finished by the end of 2017.

State Route 610: There have been numerous recent upgrades at various intersections on Garrisonville Road. There are other projects slated for the North Stafford highway and at a commuter parking lot.

  • Widening:The highway will be widened to six lanes between Onville and Eustace roads. The $13.8 million project is slated to start in June 2015 and be finished by the end of 2016.
  • Onville Road Intersection Improvement: At the Route 610 and Onville Road intersection, turn lanes will be added in this $13.2 million project to accommodate increased traffic at the Quantico Marine Corps Base. Work should start in early 2014 and be finished by October 2015.
  • The Staffordboro Commuter Lot Expansion: is in the midst of a $12.9 million expansion, which will add 1,000 spaces and include such extras as centralized slug pickup spots and bus bays. The expansion is currently in the works and is expected to be completed in December 2014.
There are more projects on the books. To find out details, click here and here.

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY

While there is a good bit of rural country driving available in Spotsylvania, it's also home to a few of the area's most congested roads.

State Route 3 is the big one, where †heavy retail shopping and a big-time commuter corridor often combine to make this a highway from hell.

The worst times to drive Route 3 are the during the commuter rush, eastbound in the mornings and westbound in the early evening. Weekends can get pretty hairy, too. The highway widening that was completed in 2013 has helped. So has signal synchronization.

But during the afternoon commuter rush, you might want to avoid the Route 3 area around the I-95 exit at Central Park, which turns into a scrum of heavy traffic weaving every which way. It's not unlike the bumper car ride at Kings Dominion.

Massaponax is another area that can be overwhelmed with traffic making its way through a heavy retail shopping destination. Weekends here can be a beast. A project known as the Jackson Gateway includes plans to improve the roads and I-95 in this area, but nothing will done anytime soon.

The Courthouse Road Project is one of the bigger projects in Spotsylvania and was completed in 2013. It was done in two phases (click here for details on the†first phase†and here for information on the second phase).

Here are some projects in the works and planned for Spotsylvania:

U.S. 1, Harrison Road Intersection: The estimated $22 million project will add turn lanes to U.S. 1 and Harrison Road at the oft-congested intersection. Construction is expected to start in early 2016. The completion is slated for late 2017.

U.S. 1, Mudd Tavern Road Intersection: Left-turn lanes will be added on U.S. 1 to improve safety and traffic flow. The right-turn lanes also will be lengthened. The estimated $5.9 million project will be advertised for construction in December. This project is near the planned Dominion Raceway, a 160-acre race track development off IĖ95 that is expected to open in early 2015.

Mudd Tavern Road Bridge: The span over IĖ95 will be replaced with a new structure expanded to four lanes. The estimated $6 million project could go to bidding in 2018, with completion set for 2020.

Spotsylvaniaís Virginia Railway Express Station: The new station will be built in the Crossroads Industrial Park off U.S. 17. The station will include a 1,500-space parking lot. A companion project will add a third track from the station to the area near the Fredericksburg train station. As of December 2013, the county had yet to procure the property for the station, which was originally expected to open in December. The opening has been pushed back to the spring of 2014.

Gordon Road Commuter Lot: This $9.2 million project will add 500 spaces to the lot. Work has not begun, and there is not completion date.

REAL ESTATE

Though it has its own distinctive history and identity, the Fredericksburg area to a large extent is a bedroom community of Washington.

A large percentage of the workforce commutes to Northern Virginia and Washington, which has a large influence on local housing prices. People who commute are willing to pay a premium to be closer to their jobs, which means prices in Stafford County tend to be higher than those along Interstate 95 in Spotsylvania County and the city of Fredericksburg.

Stafford housing prices are also influenced by the countyís proximity to a major local job center, the Quantico Marine Corps Base.

The Fredericksburg region as a whole saw a large runup in housing prices during the boom, and new communities sprouted up throughout the area as builders cashed in on the demand.

The housing collapse hit the region hard, driving down housing prices significantly and putting many builders out of business.

Over the past few years housing prices have started to climb back up, and more new homes are getting built, though itís still far from the heady days of the early-to-mid 2000s.

The number of new retail projects has also slowed as Realtors seek to first fill the space that was built during the economic boom.

Though itís possible to discuss the regionís housing market as a whole, each locality is different, and even within each jurisdiction there are submarkets with their own characteristics.

Click here to browse real estate listings across the Fredericksburg region.

BUSINESS

Though much of the Fredericksburg-area workforce commutes to Washington and Northern Virginia, there are employment opportunities within the region.

Economic development officials and commercial Realtors have been trying to persuade federal agencies and contractors to relocate to the Fredericksburg area where much of their workforce lives. There are three military bases in the Fredericksburg area: the Quantico Marine Corps Base on the Stafford/Prince William County line, the Naval Surface Warfare Center in King George County, and Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County. Those bases, particularly Quantico and Dahlgren, are some of the regionís largest employers, and the countryís largest defense contractors have offices clustered around them.

The region also has three hospitals -- Mary Washington, Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and Stafford -- that provide many jobs.

McKesson and CVS are among the companies that operate distribution centers along the regionís well-located thoroughfares.

The University of Mary Washington and Germanna Community College are also among the regionís largest employers.

Tourism is another local focus, due to the regionís rich colonial and Civil War pasts.

Of late more modern destinations are showing interest in the region, with the Dominion Raceway and a minor league baseball complex set to open in early 2015. Stafford officials are also trying to persuade Legoland to open a theme park along Interstate 95.

Geico has a regional headquarters in Stafford, providing thousands of jobs.

Much of the region outside Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 and 17 remains rural, allowing agriculture to stay a key part of the local economy and providing outdoor opportunities for golfers, fishermen and hunters.

The region is among the fastest-growers in Virginia, leading to wealth for many of the areaís developers and builders who survived the housing crash.

The region has two airports: Stafford Regional and Shannon.

BB&T, Wells Fargo, Union First Market, PNC and SunTrust are among the regionís largest banks.

HEALTH CARE

The following is a list of hospitals and health clinics that serve residents in the Fredericksburg area:

†HOSPITALS†

Full-service hospitals

Mary Washington †Hospital, 1001 Sam Perry Blvd., Fredericksburg; 540/741-1100. Owned by Mary Washington Healthcare.

Spotsylvania Regional Medical † Center, 4600 Spotsylvania Parkway, Spotsylvania; 540/498-4000. Owned by HCA Inc.

Stafford Hospital, 101 Hospital † Center Blvd., off U.S. 1 at Stafford Courthouse, 741-9000. Owned by Mary Washington Healthcare.

Special service facilities

Emergency Department at Lee's Hill, 10401 Spotsylvania Ave., 540/741-0555. Owned by Mary Washington Healthcare.

HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Fredericksburg, 300 Park Hill Drive, Fredericksburg; 368-7300, † 40-bed rehabilitation hospital.†

Snowden at Fredericksburg, 1200 Sam Perry Blvd., Fredericksburg; †† 540/741-3900, psychiatric hospital.

CANCER CENTERS

†Regional Cancer Center, 6105 Health Center Lane, Fredericksburg; 540/786-5666. Radiation treatments. Operated by Mary Washington Healthcare.

†Regional Cancer Center at Stafford Hospital, 101 Hospital Center Blvd., Stafford,540/741-9000. Radiation treatments. Operated by Mary Washington Healthcare.

†Mid-Rivers Cancer Center, 15394 Kings Hwy., Montross, 804/493-8880. Operated by Dr. Christopher Walsh.

SURGICAL CENTERS

†Fredericksburg Ambulatory Surgery Center, 1201 Sam Perry Blvd. Suite 101, adjacent to Mary Washington Hospital; 540/741-7000.†

SurgiĖCenter of Central Virginia, 1500 Dixon St., Suite 101, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401;540/371-5349. Outpatient surgical center.

CLINICS THAT SERVE †THE POOR AND UNINSURED

Caroline Christian Health Center: (804/448-1380) Pediatric care. All insurances accepted. Payments based on sliding scale.

Caroline Family Practice: (804/632-1030). All ages. All insurances accepted. Payments based on sliding scale.

Community Health Center of the Rappahannock Region: (540/735-0560) All ages. All insurances accepted. Payments based on sliding scale.

Guadalupe Free Clinic of Colonial Beach: (804/224-0571) Must be uninsured and meet income limits. Must live in Colonial Beach or Westmoreland County.

Fredericksburg Christian Health †Center: (540/785-8500) All ages. All insurances accepted, except Medicaid HMO plans. Payments based on sliding scale.

King George Department of Social Services Free Clinic: (540/775-3544) Adults only. Must be uninsured.

Lloyd F. Moss Free Clinic: (540/741-1061) Adults only. Must be uninsured and meet income limits.

Westmoreland Medical Center: (804/493-9999) All ages. All insurances accepted. Payments based on sliding scale.