Improved U.S. 29 Makes Life Easier for Police
– September 24, 2013 11:53 am
GAINESVILLE, Va. – Commuters, shoppers, school buses, and freight trains used to converge at U.S. 29 in Gainesville.
For years the mix of travelers, and a growing population in western Prince William County, made the intersection problematic for not only drivers, but also for Prince William’s finest.
Five train vs. car crashes in the past 18 months at the intersection made things especially hectic. And, while no one was seriously injured in any of the incidents, responding to the train crashes was a major feat.
The accident clean up regularly snarled traffic on surrounding roads because the train was never allowed to move until an “all clear” was given from railroad investigators.
When an SUV headed south on U.S. 29 collided with a train on Dec. 19, a total of 16 Prince William police officers were called to redirect traffic around the mess and assist in an investigation. That doesn’t include a string of Virginia State Police Troopers who helped divert traffic on nearby Interstate 66, fire and rescue crews, and the county’s sheriff’s office that pitched in to help.
It was, at least back then, a typical emergency response for a train vs. car incident in Gainesville.
“We would often hear drivers say ‘I thought I was far enough off the tracks’ or ‘I didn’t even hear a train coming,’” said Prince William police Capt. Heidi Braun.
But all that changed this summer when a new bridge over the train tracks opened to traffic. Now, as part of major ongoing interchange improvements in Gainesville, drivers will no longer have to tussle with trains.
It’s good news when it comes to the safety of drivers, and for police officers who, during a car vs. train crash, would be forced to stand along roadways to direct traffic, risking the chance of being hit by another car.
“You’re going to see more of a smooth transition from Route 29, as shoppers will be able to get from Linton Hall Road and Gateway Center into the shopping center and be separated from all of those commuters who just want to simply go home,” said Braun.
The past five car vs. train crashes took place during evening rush hours, when drivers are out running errands at the adjacent Virginia Gateway Shopping Center, or are simply headed home from work.
Prior to the new bridge opening, the police department worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation to implement new safety measures at the intersection.
“VDOT has been very responsive to us. Last year we had some hard-to-see markings that caused drivers not to see the train tracks. So they came out and painted lines, and added lots of signage that said ‘train starts here, stop here,’” said Braun.
The intersection is where U.S. 29, the railroad, Linton Hall Road, and Va. 55 all converge. When the $267 million interchange improvements are complete, U.S. 29 will be widened to six lanes, and a pair of overpasses — one that now carries traffic over the railroad tracks, and the other that will carry traffic over Linton Hall Road and Va. 55 over the railroad and U.S. 29 — will be in place. It will create a limited-access roadway between I-66 and Virginia Oaks Drive.
More than 57,000 cars a day travel on U.S. 29 in Gainesville, according to VDOT.
Capt. Braun’s intersections to watch out for:
With more than 23 years of law enforcement experience, Capt. Heidi Braun has seen a lot of crashes — some of them fatal.
But you can protect yourself and other drivers by paying attention when behind the wheel while staying safe on the roads. Braun urges drivers to pay close attention at these known problematic intersections Prince William County –
– Sudley Road and Balls Ford Road — Manassas
– Sudley Manor Drive at Sudley Road — Manassas
– Dumfries Road at Prince William Parkway — Manassas
– Dale Boulevard at Minnieville Road — Dale City
– Dale Boulevard at Gideon Drive — Dale City