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5,000 VRE Santa Train tickets sell out in less than 7 minutes

Hordes of tickets to see Santa Claus on a commuter train were snapped up Monday.

Virginia Railway Express officials tell us 5,000 tickets for the annual Santa excursion trains sold out in less than seven minutes. The tickets went on sale at 9 a.m. Monday on the VRE website, and at select vendors in the VRE system.

A total of 10,000 Santa train tickets were sold on Monday, marking the sold-out event scheduled on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017.

Each year, online tickets for these trains sell out under in under 10 minutes. The vendors, which included visitor centers in Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Spotsylvania, all reported to be sold out of tickets by Monday afternoon.

Five excursions of “Santa trains” will operate from commuter rail stations Burke, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Spotsylvania, and Woodbridge. The tickets were sold for $5 in person or $6 on the VRE website.

Children who ride the trains will receive candy canes and coloring books. The trains operate as part of Operation Life Saver’s “Look, Listen, and Live” campaign.

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Traffic
Here’s when drivers are expected to pack the roads this Thanksgiving holiday

Fuel costs up this year 

Drivers headed to grandma’s house this Thanksgiving will pay more at the pump.

In fact, they’ll pay the most for a gallon of gas in the past three years. The average price for a gallon of gas in Virginia this holiday is $2.32 and $2.56 nationally, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Last year, drivers paid $1.98 a gallon, and $2.13 a gallon, respectively.

In addition to paying more for fuel, more people also plan to travel this Thanksgiving. The automobile club says 1.2 million Virginians plan to hit the highway, up 3.2 percent over last year. And 4.5 percent more Virginia travelers plan to fly this year versus last year, with 103,217 taking to the friendly skies.

To help drivers, the Virginia Department of Transportation will lift all work zones on state highways starting at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. The state agency also has an interactive travel trends map that shows peak congestion periods for highways.

If you’re traveling on Interstate 95, expect the worst southbound congestion between 1 and 4 p.m. Wednesday. On Saturday, I-95 drivers should expect to pack their patience pretty much all day — between 11 a.m. at 5 p.m — when the north and southbound lanes between Spotsylvania County and Fairfax County are expected to be heavy.

Sunday will also be a congested time to be on the roads. Route 29 through Central Virginia, including Charlottesville, is a preferred alternative, VDOT states.

The holiday getaway will begin this afternoon, and this morning, the operators of the I-95 E-ZPass Express Lanes chimed in:

The warnings come as the number of fatal traffic crashes is up this year in Virginia. A total of 46 people, to include nine pedestrians, have been killed in crashes on state roads in just the past two weeks. There have been 710 deaths on state roads this year, compared to 640 during the same time period last year.

“Tragically, traffic fatalities are on the rise in Virginia,” stated Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent in a press release. “We’ve seen an 11 percent increase over this time last year. With so many people estimated to travel over the Thanksgiving weekend, we need everyone to help prevent crashes by driving smart, buckling up and never driving drunk or drugged. We want everyone to arrive alive and enjoy the holiday.”

During last year’s Thanksgiving weekend, Virginia State Police troopers:
· Cited 9,235 speeders
· Cited 2,928 reckless drivers
· Arrested 132 drunken drivers
· Cited 824 safety belt violations & 286 child restraint violations
· Investigated 1,163 traffic crashes, in which eight were fatal

 

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Traffic
Ground broken on I-66 toll lanes. Now for the $500 million new money for surrounding transportation improvements.

It’s official: E-ZPass Express Lanes are coming to Interstate 66.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday broke ground for the construction of new toll lanes outside the Captial Beltway from Gainesville in Prince William County to Dunn Loring in Fairfax County.

“Using taxpayer resources wisely to reduce gridlock in Northern Virginia and across the Commonwealth has been a top priority of this administration,” stated McAuliffe in a press release. “The project we are beginning today will increase the capacity of I-66 and give commuters more options for how to get to work, with zero taxpayer investment and a commitment of nearly $579 million from our private partners for even more traffic-reducing projects.

The new toll lanes will be built along 23 miles I-66, where two new lanes in each direction will be placed alongside the travel lanes.

There will be new access points to the express lanes from the travel lanes, reserved space for future transit projects, and at least 3,000 new commuter parking spaces that will accommodate expanded transit bus service in the corridor.

New bicycle lanes will be added in Fairfax County along the corridor, and the long-troubled intersection of I-66 and Route 28 will be rebuilt, removing four traffic signals along Route 28.

As part of the $3.7 billion deal between the state and I-66 Mobility Partners, a partnership between a Spanish firm called Cintra, and a French company called Meridiam, a total of $500 million will be doled out to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority ahead of the toll lanes’ opening. The NVTA, in turn, will then provide funding to projects it reviewed and selected to include a $128 million expansion of the Virginia Railway Express Broad Run station at the Manassas airport, and the construction of a $67 million interchange at Balls Ford Road and Route 234 bypass near Gainesville.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board is expected to approve these, and other projects to be funded with the money from the NVTA, on December 6.

But the new lanes and the new money for traffic improvement in the Route 234 corridor isn’t enough for Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman At-large Corey Stewart. He says the state is resting on its laurels when it comes to investing its own money in fixing transportation.

“It only addresses part of the problem. We have major problems at Sudley Manor and Wellington Road, all along Prince William Parkway,” he said. “The state is trying to say we’ve got our share of transportation improvements, when in fact our residents are paying for this with tolls.”

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Support local shops, restaurants, and services for Small business Saturday

“Small Business Saturday” was launched in 2010 by American Express to encourage shoppers across America to focus a portion of their holiday shopping on small, local businesses. The program was initially aimed at helping main street businesses survive the economic downturn and cardholders were offered various perks for shopping small. “Small Business Saturday” has since evolved into an annual event featuring tens of thousands of participating shops, restaurants and service providers throughout the country.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of Manassas and significantly contribute to this historic City’s modern beat. The revenues generated from these businesses are what helps enable the City to provide high-quality public services.

On Nov. 25, Historic Manassas Inc. will celebrate Small Business Saturday by “rolling out the blue carpet” for the local businesses. Events are planned throughout the morning to kick-off the local holiday season and discounts will be offered by many merchants. Come out on Saturday, November 25th and support the local small businesses of Historic Downtown Manassas on Shop Small Saturday!

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News
Teaching the DAGPAW: Martial Arts and concepts for Life at Manassas Park Community Center

The Manassas Park Community Center offers a variety of martial arts programs for kids of all ages. Master Geoff Mann teaches all of the martial arts classes here at the Community Center. He received his first black belt in 1992 and is a fifth-degree black belt.

Master Geoff has been an instructor at the Community Center for 13 years. That gives him more history at Parks and Recreation than the actual building itself!

Master Geoff explains that the term martial arts initially means “military way of.” The history of martial arts dates back to ancient Greece, Rome, and China. The military of these countries took the fighting and defensive systems of the peasants, adapted, and then incorporated these fighting styles to suit their military needs.

Fast forward to the 1970’s where martial arts legend Bruce Lee became famous for his skills and beliefs that the best fighter is someone who is adapted to any martial arts style while incorporating individual style and not limiting themselves to one practice.

“When I started training in 1985, the MMA club where I was training introduced us to all MMA practices at the time, so we learned a real variety! Now, I teach modern Karate, traditional Tae Kwon Do and I add a little Kempo, Akido, and Jujitsu. My own background and training is inspired by Bruce Lee because we both believe in individual style while emphasizing various martial arts,” he explains.

DAGPAW

Master Geoff tells everyone, students, and parents, that he firmly believes teaching karate and other martial arts is his tool to teach discipline, courtesy, and respect.

“Parents rarely come to me and say they want their kids to defend themselves. Instead, what parents want is for their kids to stay focused and to use their energy learning skills they can use in life. I teach these kids to become better citizens using the concepts of discipline, courtesy, and respect,” he points out.

Master Geoff teaches a theory called, DAGPAW, which stands for discipline, a’s and b’s, goal setting, perseverance, attitude (a good, can-do attitude) and work ethic. To Master Geoff, these are the real benefits of Karate and other martial arts.

“With MMA, the more involved you are, the better off you are. I am also a big believer in having consequences for actions,” he says.

The martial arts uniform is a useful tool to help discipline and focus the children. Mann encourages parents to purchase the uniform to help children achieve their goals. He gives students incentives through the patches on their uniform.

Master Geoff teaches his three to seven-year-old students how to kick properly and gets them to follow those guidelines as closely as possible. He admits there is no one true art form and encourages mixing to adapt to students’ needs and preferences.

“Traditional ways are great, but they might not be practical such as the high jumping kick. This particular kick was originally used to knock people off horses and is not something I use in my classes,” explains Mann.

The MMA classes at the Community Center begins with the Dragon Tots class for students, ages three to four, to learn basic martial arts skills with special emphasis on courtesy, discipline, and respect. This class is on Wednesdays from 12:30 p.m. to 12:55 p.m.

WCRB Mixed Martial Arts are specifically for children, ages six to 13, with or without prior experience, to learn martial arts while emphasizing respect, courtesy, and discipline! This class also combines Master Geoff’s Academic Excellence program to help maximize your child’s learning. The class is on Mondays, from 5 to 5:50 p.m. or 6 to 6:50 p.m.

The Manassas Park Community Center is located at 99 Adams Street in Manassas Park, VA. Managed by the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation, the facility is home to basketball courts, a swimming pool, wellness areas, special events, and recreational classes. For more information visit us at www.ManassasParkCommunityCenter.com or call at 703-335-8872.

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News
Surovell’s short-term 3: Medicaid expansion, criminal justice reform, and nonpartisan redistricting

Election Day was an electoral earthquake in Virginia politics.  Fourteen seats in the House of Delegates switched from Republican to Democratic members – the largest switch since 1899.  Two have not yet been certified due to irregularities and three are heading to recounts.  We do not know if any party will control the House and probably will not know until late in the day on the first day of session after the dust has settled.

While the new situation in the House of Delegates will create some uncertainty over the next fifty days, it will create some opportunities in Virginia public policy, but not a wholesale change of direction.  The Senate of Virginia is still controlled by the Republican Party and most major committees have significant partisan majorities. 

Notwithstanding, I am hopeful that in the short-term, we might see some changes in a three areas: Medicaid Expansion, Criminal Justice Reform, and Nonpartisan Redistricting. 

Medicaid Expansion
First, Virginia has foregone billions of dollars over the last several years due to our failure to expand Medicaid.  In addition to billions of dollars, we have lots 30,000 new jobs per year and approximately $200 million per year in savings to Virginia taxpayers. 

Today, nearly 36,000 residents of the 36th District receive their healthcare from Medicaid including 24,000 children.  This means there are likely over 20,000 adults right here within minutes of your home who would receive healthcare if Virginia had taken action. 

The new margins in the House of Delegates make movement much more likely, but not without some changes in our existing program.  In 1985, Medicaid consumed six percent of Virginia’s General Fund Budget – today, that number has grown to twenty-three percent and that is before the coming tsunami of baby boomer retirement home admissions.  We need to bend the Medicaid cost curve, but I am hopeful that we are nearing the end of irrationally refusing federal help to get healthcare to hundreds of thousands of needy Virginians. 

Criminal Justice Reform
Second, Virginia’s residents and jails continue to be burdened by an overly punitive criminal justice system which over-felonizes conduct and clings on to antiquated trial practices.  Virginia’s $200 threshold between misdemeanors and felonies in the lowest in the United States of America and has not been adjusted since 1981.  I will introduce legislation to raise this to $500 and remain the lowest in the United States for the ninth time.  Similar legislation has passed the Senate and died in the House five times.  Hopefully, no longer.

Also, accused persons in Virginia have extremely limited discovery rights in criminal trials.  Legislation to bring Virginia’s criminal discovery rules up to modern standards has also passed the Senate and died in the House.  This year should be different.

Non-Partisan Redistricting
Third, the close margins in the Senate and House of Delegates may finally make it possible to move nonpartisan redistricting legislation through the General Assembly.  Computer enabled partisan redistricting lies at the root of many political problems in our country.  Non-partisan redistricting constitutional amendments have passed the State Senate twice but normally die in committee in the House.  I am hopeful that the new situation in Richmond will move the discussion forward.

I am putting together the 36th District legislative agenda over the next month.  Please send me your legislative ideas and feedback on structuring our $100 billion budget over the next two years.

It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.  Please contact me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any thoughts.

Scott Surovell (D) represents southern Fairfax, eastern Prince William, and northern Stafford counties in the Virginia State Senate. 

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Traffic
Will a lack of crossings at the Bull Run River mean higher tolls on I-66?

Will a lack of points in which to cross the Bull Run River lead to congestion, and excessive tolls on the soon-to-be-built Interstate 66 E-ZPass Express Lanes? 

One Prince Willam County resident thinks so, and emailed VDOT (and us) about his concern: 

After reviewing the Transform I-66 design again, I am concerned about the lack of road network capacity over the Bull Run between Fairfax County and Prince William County.

This will lead to excessively high tolls with limited alternatives. I am mainly concerned about the I-66 Westbound Direction where traffic is currently being held back by the light at Braddock and Route 28 and the I-66 merge at the Fairfax County Parkway interchange.

Three lanes from US 29, two lanes from Braddock Road, one lane from Northborne/Walney, and two lanes from Route 28 Southbound will funnel into the five lanes of I-66 and one lane of US29 across the Bull Run. This will lead to significant backups that will limit access to the two Express lane entrances at the I-66/Route 28 interchange.

The NVTA Transaction Plan does not include any additional crossings of the Bull Run other than at Route 28 in Yorkshire. The Manassas Battlefield Bypass is not included in the NVTA Transaction plan.

Please consider applying the I-66 Corridor Improvements Payment to:

– Add a shoulder traffic lane between US29 Centreville and VA234 Business similar to the current shoulder lane configuration along I-66 between US 50 and the Capital Beltway. (Remove Rest Area)

– Add a two-lane road connection (with an adjacent bike facility) between Balls Ford Rd. in Prince William County and Bull Run Dr in Fairfax County over the Bull Run. (Interactive Map)

It should be noted the “Projected Year 2040 Peak Hour Traffic Volume Plots” shows a 2040 volume of 6,990 vehicles in 3 Lanes between US 29 Centreville and VA 234 Business which is not possible. 1,900 vehicles per lane is the maximum. This makes me question all the data projections in this project over the past six years.

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Traffic
Changes ahead for OmniRide, OmniLink riders

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission has changes in store for riders on Dec. 4, 2o17 as part of its fall service change. 

From a press release: 

PRTC’s Winter Service Change will take effect on Monday, December 4. New schedule brochures will be available from operators upon request and timetables will be available online starting Monday, November 27.

The following routes will change; routes not listed below will not change.

OmniRide:

  • Dale City-Washington – One later D-100T trip will be added, starting at the PRTC Transit Center at 8:20 a.m.; AM bus stop at 19th & H will move one block south.
  • Dale City-Navy Yard – New routing and new stops in DC, now serving L’Enfant Plaza; first AM trip will start 30 minutes earlier; bus stop at Dale & Greenwood removed.
  • Lake Ridge-Washington OmniRide – AM bus stop at 19th & H will move one block south.
  • Lake Ridge-Pentagon/Crystal City – New routing in Crystal City to serve new stop at 18th Street Bus Bays; new AM stop at Eads & 13th; stops at 12th & Clark and 18th & Crystal eliminated.
  • Montclair-Washington – Will use South Route 1 OmniRide routing on 7th Street in DC; new stops at 7th & Independence.
  • South Route 1 – New stops at 7th & Independence.
  • Manassas-Washington OmniRide – PM bus stop at 19th & H will move one block south.
  • Manassas-Pentagon OmniRide – Last two PM trips will continue to the Cushing Road and Limestone commuter lots.
  • Gainesville-Washington OmniRide – Last two PM Manassas-Pentagon trips will continue to the Cushing Road and Limestone commuter lots; PM bus stop at 19th & H will move one block south.
  • Gainesville-Pentagon OmniRide – Last two PM Manassas-Pentagon trips will continue to the Cushing Road and Limestone commuter lots; one new AM and one new PM trip.

Metro Direct:

  • Prince William Metro Direct – Timetable changes; bus stops on Route 1 at Car Wash and Dunkin’ Donuts removed.
  • Manassas Metro Direct – AM Timetable changes.

OmniLink: 

  • Woodbridge – Woodbridge VRE Station will be served by both A and B Loops; bus stops on Route 1 at Car Wash and Dunkin’ Donuts removed; some timepoints will change.
  • Dale City – Bus stops at Dale & Greenwood removed; new stop at Troupe & Cordelia.
  • Route 1 – Bus stops on Route 1 at Car Wash and Dunkin’ Donuts removed.
  • Manassas OmniLink – Timetable changes to better coordinate with Cross County Connector; bus stop at Sudley & Grant removed.
  • Manassas Park – Timetable changes to better coordinate with Cross County Connector.
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