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Route 3 Improvement, Culpeper County

Widening of Route 3 between Stevensburg and Lignum

Project at a Glance

Begin Date
Design-build contract awarded Oct. 24, 2013

Est Completion Date
May 4, 2017

In design

$23,593,000 million design-build contract

Lengths and Limits
5.1 miles, from 4.1 miles east of Route 29 to 4 miles west of Orange-Culpeper county line

Branch Highways Inc.



Greg Cooley

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Project Purpose

The project will improve a 5.1-mile section of Route 3 from two lanes to a four-lane divided highway from Stevensburg to Lignum. This is the final section of Route 3 in Culpeper County to be widened to four lanes.

The primary need is improvement of safety along the Route 3 corridor. Between 2006 and 2009 there were 69 crashes on the two-lane segment of Route 3. Seven people died and another 62 people were injured, several seriously. Two more people died in a crash in 2010.

The 2010 update of Culpeper County’s Comprehensive Plan identifies four-laning Route 3 along the existing alignment as a county priority. It is also listed as a regional priority by the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission in the draft 2035 Rural Long-Range Transportation Plan.

The current average daily traffic on Route 3 is 7,850 vehicles. That is forecast to increase to 14,210 by the design year, 2035. Nine percent of the vehicles using the highway are trucks.

Project History

Widening of Route 3 in Culpeper County to four lanes has been proposed since the early 1990s. Due to limited funding the project was split into three phases. The eastern segment (Orange County line to Lignum) and the western segment (Route 522 to west of Stevensburg) have been completed using state funding.

Project timeline:
1995 - Location public hearing held (December).

1996 - The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved a northern bypass alignment for the four-lane improvements near Stevensburg.

1999 - Design public hearing held. The CTB approved the major design features of the overall Route 3 corridor improvements, but recommended that final approval of the design of the Stevensburg segment be delayed until additional analysis was completed. 

2001 - Location and design public hearing held on Stevensburg segment, at which two potential alignments were presented: improvements along the existing alignment (Alternative A), and a northern bypass of Stevensburg (Alternative B). Alternative B was favored by the public.

2002 - VDOT recommended and the CTB approved Alternative B, the northern bypass alignment and design (June).

2010 - Conversion of the project from state funding to federal funding required an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). That review established that the northern bypass alignment (Alternative B) would have significantly greater impact to the area's historic resources, requiring more than double the amount of land from the Brandy Station Battlefield site than Alternative A (76.6 versus 36.2 acres).

2011 - A combined location and design public hearing was held (March), with 66 members of the public in attendance. A community meeting was in held shortly after in Stevensburg to answer further questions, with 65 people attending. The CTB rescinded their previous approval of Alternative B at its July 2011 meeting and then approved the district's recommendation to build the four-lane improvements on the existing alignment. As design work continued, VDOT enlisted the help of the Stevensburg community advisory group. Based on public input, several changes were made to the design: 

  • A storm water management pond has been relocated so it no longer affects the historic Wicked Bottom spring.
  • Reduction of the speed limit through the Stevensburg area to 45 miles per hour.
  • Access and entrance to the Salubria historic site has been improved with a right-turn lane, a crossover and widening of the private entrance.
  • Access to the Stevensburg Post Office, Stevensburg store and auto repair shop has been improved by the addition of a crossover at that location.
  • The roadway alignment was shifted to the south to minimize the impacts to Hansborough Ridge, one of the geographic features of the Brandy Station Battlefield. The district is working with the Department of Historic Resources (DHR) to minimize the impacts of the road improvements to Hansborough Ridge.

2012 - Design-build procurement process selected for this project (February).

2013 - Project awarded to design-builder Branch Highways Inc (October).

Project Costs

Preliminary Engineering: $5.16 million

Right of Way and Utility Relocation: $7.61 million

Construction: $30.72 million

Total: $43,492,679 estimated cost

Resources and Links

News Release: Governor McDonnell Announces $168 Million in Transportation Projects Approved for Construction
Oct. 17, 2013

Public hearing brochure Adobe Acrobat PDF (368 KB)

Aerial photo showing alternative alignments Adobe Acrobat PDF (5 MB)

Six-Year Improvement Program project listing

Department of Transportation Act of 1966 – Section 4(f)

Protecting Historic Properties: A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review

News Release: Task Force Will Assist VDOT with Route 3 Design

Notes from May 6 Meeting of Route 3 Task Force

News Release: Task Force Will Meet June 6 in Stevensburg

Exhibits from June 6 Task Force Meeting:

Notes from June 6 Meeting of Route 3 Task Force Adobe Acrobat PDF (24 KB)

Agenda for July 11 Meeting of Route 3 Task Force Adobe Acrobat PDF (32 KB)

Exhibits from July 11 Task Force Meeting:

Notes from July 11 Meeting of Route 3 Task Force Adobe Acrobat PDF (35 KB)

Environmental documents:

    Revised Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation Adobe Acrobat PDF (4 MB)

    Revised Environmental Assessment Appendices Adobe Acrobat PDF (6 MB)

    Final Memorandum of Agreement Adobe Acrobat PDF (5 MB)    

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Page last modified: Feb. 10, 2015