Traffic From Fredericksburg, VA to Springfield, VA

This project is focusing on the traffic from Fredericksburg, VA to Springfield, VA (near Washington D.C.) and how heavy it can be, why the traffic is always bad in this area, the history of traffic on I-95, and what can be done to try to stop all the confluence of cars and people in this area.

Heavy traffic flows south along Interstate 95 in Virginia in this April 3, 2016 file photo. (WTOP File Photo/Dave Dildine)

For years, traffic on I-95 has been really bad, especially from Fredericksburg, VA and all the way up to Washington D.C. There are many factors as to why it’s been bad, but I will highlight only a few. One reason is that Northern Virginia is heavily populated with residents and the more people there are the more cars that will travel to create traffic. This heavily populated area of Virginia will eventually keep trickling southward down I-95 and make Central Virginia just as populated and Southern Virginia as well. But, it will take years for the population to migrate southward. With all the influx of Virginia citizens, that’s why construction workers are building more lanes and more bridges, so lots of people can enter and exit the highway at the same time and try not to create a lot of traffic log jams. Another reason is since Northern Virginia has a huge job base, it creates for more people to travel and get to their jobs which then puts more cars on the road and therefore increases the chances of traffic jams to occur. Another reason is all of the schools there are in Northern Virginia. With over 167 colleges and universities in Virginia and the hundreds of public and private schools in and around Northern Virginia, it creates for more students to be carried from home to school and vice versa. This puts even more bodies on the road that adds to the traffic pile ups on the roads.

In April 1993, plans for the first traffic center was proposed on I-95 that would cost $4.7 million dollars and would include 18,000-square-foot Operations Center and a 26,000-square-foot Office of Maintenance and would be located near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The Operations Center became operational in 1995. This traffic center was installed with high-tech computers and machines in order to help with letting drivers know changes in traffic signals on the highway and to also let them know of accidents drivers may encounter later.1

A network of highway TV monitors and imbedded road sensors were installed to feed information on trouble spots to the personnel in the operations center. The workers in the operations center will then be able the remotely adjust timing of traffic signals along any detour routes to help reduce delays.

At the time of 1993, more traffic centers were planned to be installed throughout I-95, into the Mid-Atlantic, and New England states and they would then be financed by by federal and state funds that would be networked together.

HOT lanes allow lower occupancy vehicles (single occupant vehicles) to access carpool lanes by paying a fee while higher occupant vehicles continue to access the lanes for free. In December 1995, the first HOT lane opened in the US. The opening of that lane was a part of the project 91 Express Lanes, where carpools with three or more passengers could use the lanes for free. This project was followed by 9 HOT lanes converted from HOV lanes across the country. There were many lanes converted from HOV to HOT lanes, but one was I-95 Miami, FL in 2008. There were 10 fully operational HOT lanes as of September 2009.2

HOT lanes provide benefits such as reducing travel time, offering travelers feasible options to congestion, improving freeway efficiency, and raising revenue to offset implementation and operating costs. But, to get these benefits would depend on how often the lanes are used.

Currently in Fredericksburg and throughout the Northern Virginia area, there are on-going construction projects to help provide more of these HOT Lanes as well as help traffic in Northern Virginia as a whole. There are new overpasses and underpasses being built to create more cars to pass over and under the main two highways that go north and south on I-95. More HOT Lanes are being built to create for more cars to go northbound and southbound at the same time. There is also construction on some of the preexisting highway lanes in order to expand them to make more room for bigger vehicles to travel in those lanes. Route 66 is similar in that way. The expanded lanes and HOT Lanes creates for better traffic flow and avoid traffic congestion in Fredericksburg. All of these on-going projects will be completed between 2024-2026.

The future effects of these projects will be felt immediately as soon as they open. A whole lot of cars will be going in multiple directions at the same time and at fast speeds in no time. This will significantly change the dynamic of I-95 in Fredericksburg and make traffic less painful and cause for better traffic flow and allow for a lot more vehicles to access these new lanes and ramps. The expansion of the lanes will allow for bigger vehicles like tractor trailers and buses to not cause blockages to smaller vehicles behind them that make it harder for the drivers in small vehicles to see what is in front of them.

History of I-95

I-95 is the cornerstone of the Interstate Highway System, and it is cross a diverse section of the United States. It stretches 1,917 miles south of Miami, FL to the Canadian border in Maine. It goes through 15 states, feeds 46 seaports, and serves 103 commercial airports. On a typical day, 72,00 vehicles make their way through I-95, but traffic can reach up to 300,000 vehicles on holidays and other high travel times. I-95 makes up 35% of all American roads, which is quite a high percentage. The I-95 corridor consists of counties that lies within 20 miles of the main road, which makes up 10% of the United States land area. It is also home to 37% percent of the country’s population of around 110 million people. It also takes on $4.7 trillion in economic production every year, which makes up for about 40% of the national GDP. One interesting fact is that if the I-95 corridor was its own independent nation, it would have the 3rd largest economy in the world.

I-95 passes through some populated cities in the US and it cuts through farmland, small towns, and coastal communities. It gives people very beautiful views of the American landscape through the largest urban centers of the country to tobacco fields, corn fields, and cotton fields as well as pine forest in Maine and palm groves in Florida.3

The Completion of A Segment of The Interstate System In Richmond, VA and Afterwards

In 1958, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a segment of I-95 in Richmond, VA in Jackson Ward that was popular with the community. This event had highway advocates celebrate the benefits of highways as well as draw attention to the benefits that scholars of the Interstate System have generally overlooked. This event also made opportunities to explore how these advocates changed the pro-highway arguments based on the locality. These ribbon-cutting ceremonies provided an opportunity to push for further highway construction and to celebrate the longtime struggle of getting these enormous highways.4

Some highway advocates did not want these highways at the time in the 1950s because they saw it as insignificant because they thought the current road systems of neighborhood roads and non-highway roads were good enough. They also did not want to spend a lot of money to clear land and possibly make people homeless as well as destroy animal habitats. Eventually these advocates gave in and construction began, but they still thought highways were insignificant even as the ribbon ceremony had happened.

These highway advocates thought of I-95 as a noxious force and even though community leaders fought for I-95 to run through their towns, others were very opposed to the idea. The highway advocates in Fredericksburg and Springfield, VA saw what Richmond was doing and they begged the Virginian government to not build it northwards because they did not want to ruin the locales way of life, the environment such as the animals that call that part of Virginia their home, and they also did not want historic battlegrounds and monuments taken down because of it. Virginia was able build the roads around it to make sure that Fredericksburg did not lose it’s history or appeal.5

In the years and decades that followed the 1950s, Northern Virginia, Springfield, VA, and Fredericksburg, VA saw the benefits that the highway system brought and were thankful that they decided to have them built through their cities. They realized how it makes traffic better and how it made it faster for people to get where they are going. Now, highways are an essential part of life and they continue to be built, modified, and expanded upon in order to get them in good shape and make it easier to travel across the eastern seaboard of America.

  1. “First Traffic Center Installed On I-95.” The American City & County , vol. 108, no. 5, 1993, p. 22. ↩︎
  2. Rahul, Goel and Mark W. Burris. “Hot Lane Policies and Their Implications.” Transportation (Dordrecht), vol. 39, no. 6, 2012, pp. 1019-1033, ↩︎
  3. Mark T. Evans. “Main Street, America Histories of I-95.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2015 ↩︎
  4. Mark T. Evans. “Main Street, America Histories of I-95.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2015 ↩︎
  5. Mark T. Evans. “Main Street, America Histories of I-95.” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2015 ↩︎