Exclusive | Stafford’s low-hanging, forgotten bridge may be replaced after all

A redesigned I-95/Route 17 interchange near Falmouth includes new lanes down the median of the interstate, and a new exit ramp from I-95 north that would lead drivers to a signal light on Route 17, shown in yellow. [Image: VDOT]

One of four bridges that carry drivers on Interstate 95 over Route 17 near Falmouth is too low.

There are signs all over the intersection in Stafford County waring trucks that are too tall to go under the bridge to take another route. In fact, if a truck that’s too tall approaches the bridge a blaring alarm rings out in an effort to warn the driver. It can be an unsettling sound if you’re driving by when this happens.

This bridge is on the northbound side of I-95 and is the collector-distributor [CD] lane that drivers use when they’re exiting and entering the highway.

Three other bridges at this interchange are being replaced right now as part of the effort to redesign the I-95/Route 17 interchange, and to build a new span of the Rappahannock Falls bridge, which carries I-95 traffic over the Rappahannock River.

Originally, there wasn’t a plan to rebuild the low bridge on the CD lane as part of the interchange redesign project. Stafford Supervisors last year were angered over this, and called out state transportation officials for a lack over oversight, as they seemingly forgot about this bridge.

But now, the Virginia Department of Transportation says the bridge may be rebuilt after all. The transit agency is accepting bids form construction companies that want to build a new lane on I-95 north from Route 3 in Fredericksburg, across the Rappahannock, to where the low bridge sits at Route 17.

“Depending on the proposals submitted, the bridge may be able to be rebuilt as part of the I-95 Northbound Rappahannock River Crossing project,” said VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Hannon. “An announcement on the contract award is expected in spring 2020. At the time of the announcement, we will know whether the replacement of this overpass will be included as part of this project. At the same time, we will also learn whether two other bid options in the contract can be built.”

If the new, higher bridge doesn’t come as part of the river crossing project, it could come as part of a second project, to add a new travel lane on I-95 between Route 17 and Centreport Parkway, near the Stafford Regional Airport.

Whichever option is chosen, Hannon says VDOT would like to make the bridge underpass more pedestrian-friendly. Stafford Supervisors last year said many residents who live in the nearby Olde Forge neighborhood walk down Route 17 to get to nearby shopping and restaurants.

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