No 4-lane in Orange battlefield
County supervisors douse proposal for new State Route 20 through Wilderness park land.
By ROBIN KNEPPER
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
January 11, 2007
Orange County supervisors have let go of the idea of a four-lane road through the Wilderness battlefield.
"It's time to accept the reality that Route 20 is never going to be four-laned through the battlefield," said board Chairman Mark Johnson. "It's not going to happen."
Johnson's comments preceded the unanimous vote Tuesday night to accept the Route 20 Corridor Plan into the county's comprehensive plan for growth and development.
The corridor plan stirred controversy by recommending that State Route 20 be widened on its present alignment or a new road built west of it next to Lake of the Woods to accommodate the expected increase in traffic.
The county Planning Commission added language, however, to "discourage development that would necessitate construction of a four-lane highway over any portion of the route in Orange County."
"It is the intent of the county not to undertake improvements that would encourage more non-county related traffic," the commission's language continued. "The study did not seriously explore options other that realigning Route 20 through one of the most significant historical resources in the county."
At Tuesday night's public hearing, representatives from the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust and the Piedmont Environmental Council joined local no-growth advocates in asking supervisors to accept the Planning Commission's restrictive language.
Russ Smith, superintendent of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park--which includes the Wilderness Battlefield in Spotsylvania and Orange counties--had voiced the Park Service's objection to an enlarged or realigned road through the battlefield.
The present alignment of the two-lane highway, the only road into Orange County from the heavily populated northeastern corner of the county where it adjoins Spotsylvania, crosses land owned by the Department of Interior and leased to the Virginia Department of Transportation..
Although the board's vote was unanimous, Supervisor Rich Wallace, who represents residents of Lake of the Woods and adjoining areas along Route 20, added his caution.
"It's a dangerous highway," he said, "and something has to be done about it. Too many of our local citizens are dying on that road. Something has to be done to address that."
Supervisor C.L. "Sonny" Dodson, whose district includes the town of Orange and north along Route 20 to U.S. 522 at Unionville, agreed.
"Something has to be done," he said, "and will be. But it will be in some other location other than in the present footprint."