Manassas Local

Woman charged with DUI after fatal accident in Manassas

News

Prince William police have charged a Woodbridge woman with DUI, following a fatal car crash.

According to Prince William police, early in the morning on July 26, officers responded to a call for a single vehicle crash near Centreville Road and Rugby Road in Manassas.

At the scene, officers found that the driver of the vehicle – a 1996 Infiniti I30t – was traveling south on Centreville Road when the vehicle left the road and hit a utility pole, said Prince William police.

The driver and passenger in the vehicle were flown to a local hospital for medical treatment. The passenger – 56-year old Manassas man Ellery Penn – died at the hospital as a result of his injuries, according to Prince William police.

Prince William police stated that the driver – 45-year old Woodbridge woman Carroll Smith – is still in the hospital, but is expected to recover.

Following an investigation into the incident, Smith was determined to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. Smith is being charged with driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license, stated Prince William police.

Fallen Manassas sergeant honored in ceremony

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Sergeant John D. Conner III's wreath laying ceremony with the Manassas City Police Department's Honor Guard.

Twenty seven years after being killed in the line of duty, Sergeant John D. Conner, III, was remembered in a ceremony last week.

On July 24, 1988, Conner was shot three times and later died after responding to a report of a man shooting bullets into the air, according to his Officer Down Memorial page. The suspect, Roy Bruce Smith, was shot in the foot and survived, but was later sentenced to death and was executed nine-years later.

On Friday, the Manassas City Police Association held a morning wreath laying ceremony at the Manassas City Police Department (MCPD) followed by a scholarship presentation, an employee appreciation luncheon, a running event and an evening wreath ceremony at Quantico National Cemetery.

The MCPD’s Honor Guard presented the wreath of white carnations, red roses and bluebells at the Police Department as bagpipes were played in the background. Officer Thomas J. Rodriquez placed the wreath in front of a portrait of Sergeant Conner.

Chief Douglas Keen spoke about the tragic 1988 event and later said, “Sergeant Conner was the only officer in the history of Manassas that was killed in the line of duty.”

The Manassas City Police Association Charitable Foundation (MCPACF) hosted the Sergeant John D. Conner, III Memorial Scholarship. Each scholarship winner received $500 dollars. The Foundation was proud to announce that they have donated $100,000 in scholarships during the past years. The scholarships are funded by local business and private donations. Officer Rodriquez, Immediate Past President, played an emotional video called, “Daddy’s Last Parade,” in honor of Sergeant Conner.

The scholarships were presented by Chief Keen and Officer Rodriquez. The recipients included: Brandon F. Jordan, Kathleen E. Larkin, Alexandra L. Southard and Brianna R. Tines.

The employee appreciation luncheon was catered by The Bone at the Harris Pavilion. During the buffet that included burgers, hot dogs and potato salad, Officer Rodriquez shared his summer experiences with MCPACF’s Team Summer Quest, an activity program for 35-40 at-risk youths. Every week, Officer Rodriguez takes a group on a day trip to teach and enrich them.

Team Summer Quest is designed to provide at-risk youth with “learning through experiences” outside their social and economic boundaries. The youth ages range from 13 to 17.

Some of the events include a visit to the Twilight Tattoo showcase, a live-action military pageant featuring Soldiers from The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). They also went to Jammin’ Java, a cafe and music hall, where they had the opportunity to attend a free concert and learn about instruments. Their next trip is to a local cross-fit facility where they will learn about health and nutrition.

Following the luncheon, participants ran in a Manassas City event to honor Sergeant Connor.

The final evening ceremony was held at Quantico National Cemetery. The wreath was presented and displayed at Sergeant Conner’s gravesite with some words of reflection by Ingrid Vance, Sergeant Conner’s sister, and Lieutenant Steve Neely.

Ms. Vance said, “For years, I had anonymously contributed a blue rose at the Quantico ceremony — blue representing the police department and the rose as a symbol for love — I miss my brother every day.”

Now Virginia bluebells and red roses decorate the wreath placed where her brother rests in peace.

Sergeant John D. Conner’s legacy is known as the ultimate sacrifice. He will continue to be honored and remembered for his bravery.

*This post was submitted by CCN Manassas.

Manassas man found dead

News

A man was found dead near Clover Hill Road and Yarrow Lane in Manassas this morning.

According to Manassas City police, at 6:10 a.m., officers responded to a call for the individual – 60-year old James Jones Jr. – who was pronounced dead when the officers arrived on the scene.

An investigation into Jones’ death shows the cause to be medically related, stated Manassas City police.

5 things that would get Route 28 traffic moving faster

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Drivers turn from Va. 28 south onto Blooms Quarry Lane in Manassas Park. (Uriah Kiser/ManassasLocal.com)

There are five small improvements that can be made to help traffic move faster on Route 28 in Manassas.

These quick, short-term improvements were a result of a study that examined Route 28 from Interstate 66 to Liberia Avenue in Manassas.

2 new lanes in Fairfax County

The largest of the small five is adding new lanes to Route 28 in Fairfax County. The new lane would run from Bull Run River to Route 29, and would cut travel times about a third for commuters driving from Liberia Avenue to I-66. Fairfax County will construct the new lane, taking this portion of Route 28 in Fairfax from four to six lanes, to keep pace with growth in the region. Officials did not say how much this project will cost.

Roundabout / improved intersection

The next is an estimated $6.2 million realignment of the intersection of Route 28 and Compton Road, and the addition of a roundabout at the nearby intersection of Old Centerville Road. Drivers use Old Centreville Road as a parallel to the congested Route 28. Virginia Department of Transportation officials said the roundabout and relocated intersection would improve traffic flow in that area.

VDOT officials called this a “strange” intersection because it does not meet Route 28 at a 90-degree angle. The improvements would correct that.

Longer turn lanes at Liberia Avenue 

Extending the length of left turn lanes from Route 28 onto Liberia Road is Manassas would also improve traffic flow. This spot is often the scene of major traffic tie-ups and rear-end crashes, officials said.

The lanes should be extended so more vehicles may queue up to turn left from busy Route 28. If this project moves forward at an estimated $250,000, nearly Kincheloe Drive could be made a right turn in, right out only. A new traffic pattern for drivers entering Manassas Junction Shopping Center from Route 28 would also need to be considered, officials said.

New sidewalks

Two sidewalks are also a part of the quick fix solutions, to help separate pedestrian and bicycle traffic from vehicles. VDOT said a new sidewalk is needed on the east side of Route 28 at the bridge that carries vehicles across the Bull Run River between Prince William and Fairfax counties. The estimated $1.1 million sidewalks would connect to a walking path on the Fairfax County side of the bridge.

Another sidewalk is needed on the Prince William County side between Leeland Road and Spruce Street, on the westbound side of Route 28. The new sidewalk would be located outside Emanuel Christian School, and is estimated to cost $2.5 million to build due to higher drainage and utility relocation costs.

None of these projects is funded by local, state, or federal monies. VDOT officials said the study and its recommendations will provide elected officials a guide on how to quickly implement these quick solutions. VDOT spokesman Tom Fahrney said Prince William County could choose to fund these improvements. Other dollars could come from the state through the HB2 process, or from federal transportation grants.

A soon-to-begin Phase II study will look at larger improvements such as widening Route 28 in Prince William County, adding a reversible lane on the road for use during rush hours, expanding transit, and examining whether to build a bypass road once known as the Tri-County Parkway.

Prince William County Transportation spokesman Rick Canizales said a bypass road could be substantially cheaper to build than paying right-of-way cost to obtain land to widen Route 28 near Manassas.

“The construction costs of the [Tri-County Parkway] would be big. But the costs to take all of those businesses on Route 28 would be enormous,” said Canizales.

Prince William County paid $7 million for right-of-way acquisition of properties along Route 1 in Woodbridge for a similar widening project now under construction, he added.

A public meeting on the small five improvements on Route 28 was held Wednesday night at the Manassas Park Community Center with about 50 attendees. A similar public meeting was held two days earlier in Fairfax County, where two residents showed up to get information, said Fahrney.

New skate park coming to Manassas

Vice Mayor Way, Councilman Wolfe and Councilwoman Bass stand with skater Oscar Medrano.

On Sunday, July 19, Vice Mayor Jon Way and Councilmembers Mark Wolfe and Sheryl Bass joined skater Oscar Medrano, a rising senior from Osbourn High School and others to break ground on a new skate park at Jennie Dean Park.  

This park will replace the Old Town Skate Park that had to be torn down to make room for the new Baldwin Elementary and Intermediate School.

This new park will feature a concrete surface, a huge upgrade from the asphalt surface from the previous skate park. It will also include several new features such as grind boxes, and new rail and bank ramps. In an effort to be earth conscious, the previous ramps will be refurbished and located within the new skate park.

Community Development Director Liz Via-Gossman credited skate boarders Oscar Medrano and Diego Patrick for coming forward when the new school was first being discussed to press City officials to provide a place for skateboarding. 

“The kids, most of them city residents from our schools, spoke at public hearings and hosted city officials at a skate competition to show us how important their skate park was to them,” said Via-Gossman.

The skateboarders formed a committee to work with City staff on the improved design within an acceptable budget.  The new skate park replaces two under-utilized basketball courts that will be replaced elsewhere in the park when Jennie Dean Park undergoes an updated master plan effort later in the year.

A grand opening is planned for Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015.  The park was designed by American Ramp Company from Joplin, MO and the new features are being constructed at their plant in Missouri.  The concrete work is being completed by Toro Concrete, Inc.  

Manassas to restrict panhandling at key intersections

News

Manassas will restrict panhandling at 16 intersections in the city.

These intersections have been ranked among the most dangerous intersections in Manassas, based on vehicle crashes, injuries and property damage worth more than $1,500 stated city council documents:

Liberia Avenue at Centreville Road
Liberia Avenue at Euclid Avenue
Liberia Avenue at Signal Hill Road,
Liberia Avenue at Prince William Parkway/Wellington Road
Liberia Avenue at Mathis Avenue
Liberia Avenue at Richmond Avenue
Prince William Street at Grant Avenue
Church Street at Grant Avenue
Nokesville Road at Godwin Drive
Mathis Avenue at Sudley Road
Sudley Road at Digges Road
Sudley Road at Plantation Lane
Centreville Road at Breeden Avenue
Ashton Avenue at Cockrell Road
Ashton Avenue at Godwin Drive
Centreville Road at Kincheloe Drive

These changes come after two federal court decisions in Virginia that aim to restrict a locality’s ability to limit panhandling.

The United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that panhandling is protected under the First Amendment, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia stated that Henrico County’s ban on panhandling was too broad, stated city council documents.

According to city council documents, the restricted panhandling must be considered ‘aggressive’ which is defined as:

(a) Approaching or speaking to a person, or following a person before, during or after soliciting, asking or begging, or continuing to solicit the person being solicited after the person has made a negative response, if that conduct is intended or is likely to cause a reasonable person to

2 (i) fear bodily harm to oneself or to another, damage to or loss of property, or the commission of any crime, or (ii) otherwise be intimidated into giving money or other thing of value;

(b) Intentionally touching or causing physical contact with another person or an occupied vehicle without that person’s consent in the course of soliciting, asking or begging;

(c) Intentionally blocking or interfering with the safe or free passage of a pedestrian or vehicle by any means, including unreasonably causing a pedestrian or vehicle operator to take evasive action to avoid physical contact; or

(d) Using obscene or abusive words or violent or threatening gestures toward a person solicited.

The Manassas City Council read through the new ordinance on July 13, and will read through it a second time before approval on July 27, according to Manassas City Clerk Andrea Madden.

Late parks & rec director leaves little libraries in Manassas Park

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Morretta, who served as the parks and recreation director for 20 years, passed away last month after battling cancer.
Morretta completed the little libraries in 2014.
All three libraries are located on the community center’s property on 99 Adams Street.

Former Manassas Park Parks & Recreation Director Catherine Morretta left the community with something to remember her by – three little free libraries at the Manassas Park Community Center.

Morretta, who served as the parks and recreation director for 20 years, passed away last month after battling cancer.

“Reading was extremely important to her, and she wanted to bring that to the park as well. So she wanted to promote reading at the park…on a nice day you could sit outside and read. The reading libraries were made for residents…she would even restock them out of her own [collection],” said Manassas Park Recreation Supervisor Tony Thomas.

Morretta completed the little libraries in 2014, working with co-worker Sue Griffith and her father Harry Griffith Jr, stated Thomas.

“I remember Catherine told us a story about living in Germany as a child and parks having these free libraries, and she wanted to bring that concept to Manassas Park,” said Thomas.

All three libraries are located on the community center’s property on 99 Adams Street in Manassas Park.

Potomac Local has added these little library locations to our map, along with the little library locations involved in our Greater Prince William Little Free Libraries project, with the Prince William Library Foundation.

This interactive online map will allow you to find all of the little free libraries in our area that are participating in our initiative.

Let us know where you’re putting your own PW Little Free Library! Be sure to include the name, street address, town name, and zip code! 

Also, post pictures of your library on the Library Foundation’s Facebook page.

Express Lane drivers see purple

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Purple Lane Striping 3

There are new purple stripes on the 495 and 95 Express Lanes.

According to a Transurban release, the purple 4-inch stripes were added to the yellow and white road lines that precede entry points on to the Express Lanes.

The purple stripes were added to help signal to drivers that they are about to enter the Express Lanes, stated a Transurban release.

DJ, Exxon service station, robbed in Manassas

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11710038_1014995315208080_2210016100083870212_o

Update

Prince William police have obtained surveillance of the individual that robbed the Exxon service station in Manassas on July 17.

According to Prince William police he is described as a white or Hispanic male, between 20 and 40 years old, 5’8″ and 145 pounds with a medium build. He was last seen wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt with white stripes, blue jeans and a blue bandana covering his face, stated Prince William police.

Original post

There were two armed robberies in Manassas last week.

The first robbery was in the afternoon on July 13 at a residence on Community Drive in Manassas.

DJ’s car robbed at birthday party

According to Prince William police, the victim – a 36-year old Manassas man – told officers that he was a DJ at a birthday party at the home when two men asked him to step outside the home to talk.

When the victim was outside, one of the individuals displayed a handgun and took the victim’s money, car keys and car, according to Prince William police. The individuals fled the scene in the car, and a second vehicle that was described as a tan Chevrolet Caprice with Maryland license plates, stated Prince William police.

One individual is described as a black male, 6’0” and 185 pounds, wearing a brown and black shirt and blue jeans, stated Prince William police.

The second individual is described as a male, 6’0” with a heavy build wearing a green polo shirt and blue jeans, according to Prince William police.

Cash taken from Exxon service station

The second armed robbery took place on the morning of July 17, when Prince William police were called to the Exxon service station on Sudley Road in Manassas.

According to Prince William police, the shop clerk – a 38-year old Manassas man – told officers that a white male who had concealed his face robbed the service station, while displaying a black revolver.

Cash was taken from the scene, and the individual fled on foot towards a nearby shopping plaza, said Prince William police.

The individual is described as a white male, 5’8” and 145 pounds, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with white stripes and blue jeans. His face was covered with a blue bandana, said Prince William police.

Manassas makes History Channel

News

Downtown Manassas will make its television debut on a History Channel program this year.

According to Manassas Museum programs coordinator Doug Horhota, the History Channel decided to film a program on war trains in Manassas because the city is known for its trains.

“We shot the footage at three locations: Liberia Plantation, Manassas Railway Depot, and the Manassas National Battlefield Park” said Horhota.

Horhota was interviewed for the program because of his work at the museum, and his extensive knowledge on the city’s train history.

Manassas just hosted their 21st annual Manassas Heritage Railway Festival on June 6.

The trains filmed for the program were used during the Civil War for carrying supplies for troops.

The program is set to air at the end of this year.

Brunch series: A la carte seafood and classics at CJ Finz’s brunch

News

Chris Sellers and John Kibben own CJ Finz.
On their brunch menu they offer crab cakes Benedict, Chesapeake omelettes, the classic steak and eggs and grits and gravy.
Their brunch is served a la carte.

CJ Finz, a new seafood restaurant located in Downtown Manassas, offers wholesome classics at their weekly brunch.

The restaurant – which is located on West Street – serves their brunch every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

They’ve only been open since February, but have already received a warm welcome from the community.

“We grew up in Manassas and having the opportunity to open our restaurant in the town in which we grew up was a great feeling.  Getting through the build-out period and opening the doors was a process to say the least but, well worth the warm welcome we have received from fellow Manassas residents,” said co-owner Chris Sellers.

While many restaurants serve brunch buffet style, CJ Finz serves their brunch a la carte.

“We chose to go with a la carte as opposed to buffet because we wanted to be able to give individual attention to each plate and make sure every customer had a great brunch experience,” said Sellers.

On their brunch menu you’ll find a crab cakes Benedict, Chesapeake omelettes, the classic steak and eggs and grits and gravy, said co-owner John Kibben.

According to CJ Finz’s chef Will Landay, a good brunch consists of well made basics and fresh ingredients.

“We think what makes a great brunch is having a good mix of the breakfast and lunch items that people love without making things so basic that they aren’t worth leaving home for.  For example, we make fresh hollandaise sauce every day for brunch, that’s something your average person can’t do at home.  We want you to remember coming to brunch here every time you sit down to eat breakfast,” said Landay.

Have a place you enjoy for brunch? Let us know!

Closures on Route 28 to continue this weekend in Bristow

News

Expect some nighttime closurevdotlogos on Route 28 this weekend.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is continuing work on the $70 million Route 28 widening project this weekend on Friday and Sunday evening.

The work will take place between Aden Road and Battalion Square, according to VDOT, and Route 28 will be closed in both directions as crews work on storm sewer lines.

More on closure times from a VDOT release:

• 10 p.m. Friday, July 17 to 5 a.m. Saturday, July 18
• 10 p.m. Sunday, July 19 to 4 a.m. Monday, July 20

Traffic will be detoured via Fitzwater Drive, Kettle Run Road and Vint Hill Road.

Neighbor spots intruder in Manassas home

News

Manassas City police responded to a burglary in progress on Rolling Road on July 12.

According to Manassas City police, a witness told officers that she was checking on a neighbor’s home when she saw an unknown individual standing in the kitchen.

During the incident, the individual left through the kitchen to a back door and fled the scene on a bicycle, said Manassas City police. The individual was last seen traveling northbound on Rolling Road.

The individual is described as a white male, around 20 years old, 180 pounds with dirty-blond medium length hair, said Manassas City police. He was last seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with a pink design on the back.

Manassas, Stafford on short list for new vets health center

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11717508_1091318494229246_9059782689112760709_oThere’s an $85 million veteran’s care facility coming to Northern Virginia.

This year the Virginia General Assembly passed two bills that called for the building of two new veteran’s care centers in the state – one in Northern Virginia and one in Hampton Roads.

Currently, there are two existing veteran’s care centers in Virginia – the Virginia Veterans Care Center in Roanoke and the Sitter & Barfoot Veterans Care Center in Richmond.

According to Delegate Rich Anderson, who led the Northern Virginia bill through the House of Delegates stated that the area center will cost around $85 million – with 65% being paid by the federal government, and 35% being paid by Virginia.

Choosing a location for the care center

The bill passed in the General Assembly required that one of the care centers be built in Northern Virginia, but it did not stipulate the locality.

All area localities were allowed to put out a bid to the Virginia Department of Veterans Services to signal an interest in housing the veteran’s care center.

Prince William and Stafford counties were the only ones to do so.

Anderson stated that a locality that wanted to have the veteran’s care center would need to deed 25 acres of county-owned land to Virginia to be considered.

“One of the key things is the funding that’s made available to construct these veteran’s care centers – and it’s a mixture of federal money from the Veteran’s Administration and state money – it does not cover the cost of land acquisition. A locality has to provide the land at no cost,” said Anderson.

Recently, the Prince William board of supervisors passed a unanimous resolution to deed 27-acres off of Ashton Avenue near Manassas to Virginia for that purpose.

According to Stafford County spokeswoman Shannon Howell, Stafford filed their application to be considered but have not yet deeded the 25-acres to Virginia.

What the funding process, design, will look like

While the federal government is expected to foot 65% of the bill for the veteran’s care center in Northern Virginia, state and county government decided not to wait for the funding, and will upfront the cost.

“Instead of waiting for the feds to give us their 65%, Virginia’s just going to upfront the money in its entirety. Because if we sit around and wait for the federal government, it will just take a long time because they have a lot of needs with states that are requesting this money…hopefully, at some future point, we will be able to get a reimbursement from the federal government. There’s such a need here in Virginia – we’ve got 800,000 veterans in the state,” said Anderson.

There is no guarantee on when, and ultimately if, the federal government will give Virginia that 65 percent.

Anderson stated that currently the veteran’s care center is being designed, along with the location that will be built in Hampton Roads, and then the state will decide which one will be built first.

“The goal is to go ahead and design both centers right now – do all of the design work – and then the state will make a decision sometime next summer, on whether the Northern Virginia veteran’s care center will be first, or whether Hampton Roads will be constructed first,” Anderson stated.

Because Virginia is footing the bill for now, the veteran’s care center in Northern Virginia will only have 120 beds, instead of the planned 240 beds, said Anderson.

“Because Virginia has made the decision that we’re going to fund it entirely with Virginia resources, the plan is to construct a facility with…120 beds. But with that available land – 27 acres – that gives us plenty of expansion room for later years, building the facility out,” Anderson said.

Within the next year, the decision will be made on if the Hampton Roads or Northern Virginia location will be first.

VRE could face major fines for delaying safety improvements

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121212 VRE

Virginia Railway Express (VRE) could face fines up to $25,000 a day starting in 2016.

This is one of the consequences that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) could levy against Virginia’s only commuter railroad for not meeting full federal compliance standards with implementation of “positive train control” by the end of 2015, according to VRE spokesman Bryan Jungwirth.

Positive train control is a combination of technologies that can automatically stop a train to prevent collisions and derailments, like the Amtrak train that derailed outside of Philadelphia in May.

Another possibility is that CSX, the railroad that owns the tracks that VRE’s Fredericksburg line trains operate on, could stop the trains from using the tracks until they are in compliance, stated Jungwirth.

Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which mandated that all ‘Class 1’ railroads install positive train control by the end of 2015, according to documents from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Will railroads meet the deadline?

According to Jungwirth, many railroads will not meet this deadline.

“Everybody’s been aware of the deadline since 2008…[Congress] set up a compromise [when passing the bill] to have the deadline at the end of this year, but it wasn’t realistic. It’s a massive undertaking to try to do it between 2008 and 2015 – it really couldn’t be done,” said Jungwirth.

When the act passed in 2008, the technology for positive train control didn’t even exist yet, according to Jungwirth.

VRE purchased 19 new locomotives in 2010, which cost $77 million that was funded with state, local and federal government money. The locomotives were built by Motive Power in Idaho.

Jungwirth said positive train control technologies were somewhat available by 2010 when VRE purchased the new locomotives, but they chose not to purchase them at the time.

Additionally, VRE had a $5.1 million budget surplus. $2.5 million was used to acquire the new locomotives, $500,000 went to the company’s insurance trust fund and the remainder went to building a third track in Spotsylvania County.

Jungwirth stated that VRE currently needs to purchase radios and antennas for the positive train control mandate, but that Norfolk Southern, that runs the railroad lines that VRE uses, was also not in compliance with the technology on their tracks.

Amtrak on track to meet deadline

Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said that Amtrak would meet the deadline.

“Amtrak is on schedule to activate PTC in the NEC by the federally mandated deadline of Dec. 31, 2015. Amtrak owns relatively few miles of the infrastructure we use – about 97% of our route mileage is owned by other railroads that host our trains. Installation of PTC is the legal responsibility of the railroad that owns the track,” stated Woods.

According to CSX spokeswoman Kaitlyn Barrett, the company is planning to spend more than $1.9 billion for compliance with the positive train control standards, but agreed with Jungwirth that the end of 2015 is an unrealistic deadline.

“More than 550 employees have been hired to focus on PTC, with 1,000 in total working on the system across our network. In 2015, we are planning to spend an additional $300 million in developing and deploying PTC…the industry has been steadfast in its comments that the 2015 deadline is not realistic. Given the complexity of implementation, we feel that extension is fair and reasonable,” stated Barrett.

What happens next?

The only way an extension for the railroads could be granted is an act from Congress.

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt introduced the Railroad Safety Act and Positive Train Control Extension Act to Congress in March, but no vote has been called on it yet. If passed, the act would extend the deadline for positive train control implementation to December 2020.

Congress will go into recess in August and September, so the timeline for a deadline to be extended is limited.

Rail companies, including CSX and VRE, are going to legislators to request they support the deadline extension, said Jungwirth and Barrett.

PRTC: Service cuts, higher fares, won’t save bus service

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Many of the OmniRide local bus routes that serve eastern Prince William County stop at the PRTC Transit Center in Woodbridge.

Officials are trying to figure out how to keep PRTC buses rolling in 2017.

There’s been more talk, but not much action to address the looming $9 million annual shortfall for Prince William County’s transit system.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) operates bus service and has a hand in Virginia Railway Express. At the PRTC commissioners meeting last week, they talked about an impending $9 million budget shortfall that could halt bus service in its tracks.

PRTC only has until March 2016 to make changes before they’re forced to make some drastic cuts to bus service. Any changes will be implemented in July 2016.

Current funding is not enough

According to PRTC’s Executive Director Eric Marx, the cost for bus services is exceeding their funding. The transit agency’ is funded primarily through a 2.1% motor fuels tax which is imposed on jurisdictions that are members of PRTC, according to spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo.

The motor fuels tax rate is not enough to sustain current bus services, and by 2017 there will be a $7 million shortfall, and an additional $9 million shortfall every year after, said Marx.

“We’ve known about the [budget] concern for quite a while…and then the fuel prices fell, and we lost about 25% of our revenue, which squarely moved the problem up into fiscal year 2017…cuts alone aren’t going to be able to do all we have to do to solve the problem, unfortunately,” said Marx.

According to PRTC’s fiscal year 2015 budget, it receives $11.5 million in federal funding and $3 million from state grants. It also receives subsidies from the localities – $14.7 million from Prince William, $329,800 from Manassas, $245,900 from Manassas Park, $89,300 from Stafford, $28,500 from Fredericksburg, and $84,100 from Spotsylvania.

There are currently three potential scenarios on the table that Marx presented to the commission.

The first would cut 35% of all service – including local and commuter service – across the board, which would save $1.8 million a year and lose PRTC 2,350 riders a day, according to PRTC documents.

The second option would be to eliminate all local OmniLink services, which would save $3.1 million a year and lose 4,300 PRTC riders a day, said PRTC documents.

And the third scenario: cut all local OmniLink service, and eliminate the remaining services in half, which would save only $6.1 million. The transit system expects to lose 7,450 riders a day under this plan, according to PRTC documents.

None of these scenarios would allow PRTC to make up the full $9 million budget shortfall.

PRTC has a few options

Marx stated that PRTC had some options to find some cost savings and generate additional revenue.

An audit from the county’s independent auditor will be done this fall, to take a closer look at PRTC’s budget. Then the Prince William board of supervisors will provide budget guidance in December, and authorize any service reductions in March.

“Because we’ve been as lean and as self-critical as we have when trying to provide as much service, I don’t think there are an awful lot of [efficiencies] out there…we could consider additional revenue sources…any major services are going to result in a large reduction for riders,” said Marx.

According to Marx, PRTC budgets for a 7.5% fare increase to riders every other year, but a more frequent increase is possible – with a potential consequence.

“Obviously we can consider higher fares – again, what that will definitely do – because it will chase people away from the system…we will just chase people away [from riding],” said Marx.

Marx said adding a floor to the motor fuels tax could help alleviate the budget shortfall. This change would need to be made through the General Assembly in Richmond.

“Because of the drop in fuel prices, we lost about $2.1 million per year…and [we’re] going to lose roughly another $3 million in revenue [because of fuel prices],” said Marx.

A floor on the motor fuels tax would provide a bare minimum that PRTC could account for in their budget each year, which currently fluctuates based on the gas prices.

Additionally, Marx asked for general fund monies from the county, and some funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

“Treading water”

Fredericksburg City Councilman Matthew Kelly, who serves on the PRTC Commission, spoke about his concerns on how Prince William County has been handling transit.

“Let’s face it in Prince William; you’ve been treading water on transportation for decades, barely keeping your head above water,” said Kelly.

Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson stated that she had concerns with the lack of riders she has seen on the OmniLink local service.

Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe stated that OmniLink service needs to be preserved as the community continues to change.

“We have some very serious challenges. There’s no question that Prince William County’s going to continue to be in the transit business – both in terms of providing commuter service…but as well as that local service around town, which is going to grow more and more important as the community changes and grows. I don’t know how we’re going to solve the problem…I look forward to doing the work to make sure we continue to keep Prince William County commuters moving,” said Nohe.

They’re moving the Vint Hill Road intersection south, widening Route 28

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Route 28 in Bristow is being widened to four lanes.

The work also includes untangling busy dual intersections at Route 28 at Vint Hill and Bristow roads. Traffic backs up at both of these intersections — that sit about 200 feet apart from each other — during the morning and evening rush hours.

Route 28 will be widened from two to four lanes from Vint Hill Road south to Fitzwater Drive in Nokesville. Crews have already begun demolishing old buildings along the southbound side of Route 28 to widen the roadway.

A key part of this project is building a new intersection of Vint Hill Road at Route 28, about a quarter of a mile south of where Vint Hill Road meets Route 28 today. Moving the intersection will not only help to ease some of the congestion near Bristow Road, but it will also allow for better timing of traffic signals in the area, said Prince William County Transportation Chief Tom Blaser.

The new intersection of Vint Hill Road at Route 28 will allow drivers to head in any direction on both roads. Drivers who use the old Vint Hill Road intersection, to be dubbed “Old Vint Hill Road,” will only be able to turn right from Route 28 onto Old Vint Hill Road, and right from Old Vint Hill Road to Route 28.

A traffic light at “old” Vint Hill Road and Route 28 will be moved to the intersection of “new” Vint Hill Road and Route 28. A traffic light at Bristow Road and Route 28 will remain in place.

Work on this project has required several closures and detours on weekends. Here is information on the upcoming detour for July 17 to July 29: 

Route 28 (Nokesville Road) between Aden Road and Battalion Square will again be closed in both directions Fridayand Sunday nights so that crews can continue storm sewer line work, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.Closure times:

  • 10 p.m. Friday, July 17 to 5 a.m. Saturday, July 18

  • 10 p.m. Sunday, July 19 to 4 a.m. Monday, July 20

Traffic will be detoured via Fitzwater Drive, Kettle Run Road and Vint Hill Road.

Funding for the nearly $25 million project comes from federal and state sources, as well as some developer proffer monies said, Blaser. It’s not being funded with local tax dollars.

The project is set for completion next summer.

Write by the Rails creates two little free libraries in Manassas

News

Write by the Rails is a reading and writing organization in Manassas
On Sunday, the group created two little free libraries.
Write by the Rails is one of the partners of the GPW Little Free Libraries project.
The group built a little library for the Nokesville United Methodist Church.

Over the weekend, members of the Manassas Write by the Rails group gathered to create free little libraries for the Greater Prince William (GPW) Little Free Libraries project.

Potomac Local has partnered with Write by the Rails and the Prince William Library Foundation to get several little free library locations set up across the greater Prince William area.

Belinda Miller, who has spearheaded Write by the Rail’s involvement in the project, spoke with several group members about the little library locations they would like to build in Manassas.

On Sunday they were able to build a little free library for the Nokesville United Methodist Church, and begin the library for the New School.

More on the project from author Victor Rook:

A first prototype was constructed in just a few hours using donated recycled materials. Authors Dan Verner and Nick Kelly repurposed a few shelving panels and a solid birch top to create one of the now five designated libraries. We are still in need of more wood, hinges, knobs, and plexi glass, so if you have these supplies and would like to donate, email Belinda at belindamiller1@me.com.

This interactive online map will allow you to find all of the little free libraries in our area that are participating in our initiative.

Let us know where you’re putting your own PW Little Free Library! Be sure to include the name, street address, town name, and zip code! 

Also, post pictures of your library on the Library Foundation’s Facebook page.

Extended trail would link Prince William Forest, Manassas Battlefield National parks

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Planners are talking about extending a walking trail that would join two National Parks in Prince William County.

An asphalt walking trail on Prince William Parkway ends at the intersection of Liberia Avenue and Wellington Road in Manassas. Transportation officials last month were directed to find out how much it would cost to extend the trail from that intersection to Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman, At-large Corey Stewart asked for the numbers. The trail would connect to another walking trail on the Route 234 bypass portion of Prince William Parkway, allowing both Prince William Forest Park and Manassas National Battlefield Park to be connected via the county’s expanding trail system.

The county’s transportation department is working to compile the information to present to the chairman. As of now, there is no cost figure or date of when construction on this project could begin, said transportation department chief Tom Blaser.

Prince William County has made the construction of both sidewalks on one side and paving hiking and biking trails on the other standard when it widens or constructs new roads.

The county’s parks department is working in conjunction with the transportation department to find out what it would take to extend the trail.

“Certainly on the wishlist of the master plan is to have connectivity between both Prince William Forest Park nd the battlefield, because what you would end up with is a patchwork of trails that we could market on a master trail map,” said Prince William County Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Brent Heavner.

Ultimately, whether or not this project goes forward will depend on taxpayer funding. Both Heavner and Blaser said the new trail could run through Innovation Park at Prince William — a key economic development area for Prince William County just outside Manassas, home to the Science and Technology Campus of George Mason University.

Brunch series: Standard American fare at City Grille in Manassas

News

City Grille offers a Sunday brunch.
The grille is located off of Balls Ford Road in Manassas.
The buffet is all you can eat.
They serve a variety of American fare.
The grille's chef does weekly watermelon carving.

If you’re looking for a traditional Sunday morning brunch, then stop by the City Grille in Manassas.

The City Grille, located on Balls Ford Road, has been owned by Eugene McCant since 2009.

“We are in the location that many locals remember as Pargo’s Restaurant,” stated McCant.

According to McCant, their menu is standard American fare including prime rib, wings and burgers. They also have an outdoor patio and tiki bar.

City Grille has its all-you-can-eat brunch buffet menu on Sunday’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“[It] includes an omelet station where omelets are cooked to order in front of you.  The buffet also includes Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, corn beef hash, bacon, sausage, grits, pasta, pastries, fresh fruit, creamed chipped beef, sausage gravy, homefries, broccoli saad, and seasonal additions,” said McCant.

The grille’s chef also does watermelon carving most weeks which many guests enjoy, McCant said.

Have a place you enjoy for brunch? Let us know!

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