WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia




Burning Smell Blamed on Quantico Brush Fire

QUATNICO, Va. — What’s that burning smell? Officials at Quantico said it’s a brush fire crews are working to contain.

More from the Marine Corps Base:

Quantico Fire Department and Emergency Rescue Services responded to a fire crawling through the woods in Training Area 11 on the west side of Marine Corps Base Quantico on April 9, 2013.

The affected area was too large to extinguish outright so emergency responders limited the spread of the fire by bulldozing a “no burn” zone around it. After the zone had been crafted, firefighters fought fire with fire by “back-burning”, a controlled burn designed to rob the fire of fuel so it can be managed safely.

An official with the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department on Wednesday attributed the burning smell to the brush fire.

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[Photo: Quantico Marine Corps Base]


Quantico Creates Violence Prevention Programs in Light Of Recent Shooting

Submitted News

QUANTICO, Va. — In light of the tragic events at Officer Candidates School on March 21 and in response to the lessons learned from a similar incident at Ft. Hood in 2009, the Marine Corps is implementing a new Violence Prevention Program in order to prevent violence on its installations and throughout the service.

Marine Corps Base Quantico, as the crossroads of the Corps, is a pioneer installation and is slated to conduct the training April 2 to April 12 as set forth in Marine Corps Order 5580.3.

The order reads: “Human factors continue to be a leading cause of mishaps and suicides. Personnel are often under stress from personal or professional factors that are not apparent to the command’s decision makers. In many instances, the individual’s risk factors were known by various leaders and peers as isolated pieces of the whole picture preventing appropriate assistance. The FPB will provide a process to combine those factors into one composite picture.”

The loss of one’s own is a hard blow for any leader, but a threat to the well-being of a unit from the inside has leaped to a top priority.

“Last week’s incident stands as a reminder of how real the insider threat is to the Marine Corps,” said Pete Russett, director of Mission Assurance. “Though no one can accurately predict the behavior of others, this program is designed to allow base personnel to recognize and report behavior that may be indicative of potential violence.”

All service members and Department of Defense civilian employees across the base are required to attend one of the three types of courses.

For the majority of the base population, the Violence Prevention Awareness and Recognition Course is required. It focuses on teaching small unit leaders how to recognize and report potential threats.

This course is available at the following times and locations:

LOCATION: Little Hall Theater (3 CLASSES EACH DAY)
DATES: April 9 – 12
TIME: 8 – 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., and 2 – 4:30 p.m.

LOCATION: The Clubs at Quantico (3 CLASSES EACH DAY)
DATES: April 10 – 11
TIME: 8 – 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., and 2 – 4:30 p.m.

LOCATION: The Basic School, Heywood Hall, Building 24164 Classroom #1 (2 CLASSES)
DATES: April 12
TIME: 8 – 10:30 a.m., and 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

“In an infantry battalion, the lance corporals would have corporals to look out for them, and the corporals would have sergeants, and those sergeants would have staff sergeants — so on and so forth — up the chain.” said Russett. “In that traditional structure, everyone’s covered. Here in Quantico, where the same lance corporals may have a civilian officer-in-charge, it’s not so easy to make sure everyone is taken care of. The VPP plugs that hole.”

For command level DOD employees and service members, such as officers-in-charge, executive officers and sergeants major, there is the Violence Prevention Officer Course. The course will instruct these senior leaders how to respond to incoming violence prevention reports to best solve issues on a case-by-case basis as well as influence their units.

This course will be held at the following time and location:
DATES: April 2 – 4
TIME: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
LOCATION: Liversedge Lodge, 2nd Floor Small Conference Room

“This is the Marine Corps answer to deal with inside threats,” Russett said. “Even though those small unit leaders may report potential threats, the commanders are vital.”

Finally, for those holding specialized billets, such as the Staff Judge Advocate, the Sexual Assault Prevention Officer and Substance Abuse Control Officer, there is the Violence Prevention Team Course. The course will instruct these key leaders on how they may influence a commanders’ response to a particular incident and advise a course of action relative to their position.

This course will be held at the following time and location:
DATE: April 4
TIME: 8 a.m. – noon and 1 – 5 p.m.
LOCATION: Breckenridge Auditorium, Building 2076

The Violence Prevention Program is not a replacement for small unit leadership but is a viable resource to make sure Marines are taken care of.

Residents Weigh in on Wider U.S. 1 Linking Prince William, Stafford

For Potomac Local News

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — People are starting to look at future improvements to U.S. 1 between Joplin Road in Prince William County to Russell Road in Stafford County.

As can be imagined, a lot of factors would need consideration before starting the road-widening project.

Jack Van Dop, of the Federal Highway Administration, outlined some of those issues during a public hearing at Hilldrup Moving and Storage in Stafford County Tuesday night.

Costs of buying rights-of-way, cultural and social impacts as well as protecting streams and waterways all come into play in any road project, but right now, Van Dop the project is in its beginning phase.

“This is really a phase step one of a planning study versus the environmental design-construction schedule,” Van Dop told the audience of about 40 people who attended the meeting.

Van Dop said that previous public meetings in May and October of 2012, showed that people along the corridor are most concerned about congestion at the Joplin Road entrance to Quantico Marine Corp Base, impacts on local businesses and residents, access to Interstate 95 and the need for safe bicycle and pedestrian walkways and paths.

In addition to widening U.S. 1 from four to six lanes to accommodate increasing congestion in Stafford’s Bowell’s Corner area Telegraph Road, there is also discussion about how to improve nearby Russell Road that leads to the back entrance to Quantico.

Several improvements are under consideration:

1. Place two signal lights on Russell Road – one where traffic accesses southbound U.S. 1 and the other near the gate where traffic accesses northbound U.S. 1.

2. Construct a cloverleaf interchange at U.S. 1 and Russell Road

3. Construct a half cloverleaf on the northbound side of U.S. 1 and place a signal light on Russell Road where drivers access southbound U.S. 1.

Terry Heilman, of Widewater, attended the meeting and said he found it informative.

“I just wanted to see what was proposed,” said the retired U.S. Army Master Sgt.

Heilman went on to say that he thought the project, which Van Dop said has yet to be funded, will eventually come about.

“In the long run, I’m sure it needs to be done. It’ll be somewhat painful for a while,” Heilman said.

Rebecca Dixon, a nurse who works at Fort Belvoir, said she hopes that protecting the environment gets due consideration.

“I worry about the wetlands,” said Dixon, who lives in Stafford County.

Still she recognizes the project needs to move forward.

“I think it’s necessary because … it’s already very congested at the peak times,” she said

Dixon said she favored including walkways and paths along the highway, but wasn’t optimistic they would be included in any future road widening project.

“I feel that we really need to be concerned about the homes here and pedestrians and bicyclists. I think we really do need to incorporate some things to accommodate the public in a safe way. I think it’s a low priority from what I’m seeing,” she said.

Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Public Affairs, said the state would ultimately be in charge of allocating any money to the project since federal funds go through the states.

“They’re always in charge of deciding which project will get acted upon,” Hecox said.

Van Dop told people who attended the meeting that the next steps would include aerial mapping and trying to find money for design and construction.

For now though, the feasibility study only shows only what might happen if the project proceeds, Hecox said.

“This purely an analysis on ‘what if.’” It’s if they decide do it, what would it take to do it?” he said.

Quantico Victims, Shooter Identified

QUANTICO, Va. – The Navy Criminal Investigative Service identified the shooter who killed two Marines and then himself at Quantico Marine Corps Base as an Iraq war veteran.

More in a press release:

Lance Cpl. Sara Castromata, 19, of Oakley, Calif., served as a warehouse clerk. She joined the Marine Corps in December 2011, and was promoted to her current rank in February 2013. Castromata’s awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Good Conduct Medal. She had not deployed.

Corporal Jacob Wooley, 23, of Guntown, Miss., was a field radio operator. He joined the Marine Corps in February 2010 and was promoted to his current rank in July 2012. Wooley’s awards include the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. He had not deployed.

Sergeant Eusebio Lopez, 25, of Pacifica, Calif., was a tactics instructor at the school, and his military occupational specialty was machine-gunner. He joined the Marine Corps in May 2006 and was promoted to his current rank in July 2011. Lopez’s awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation 3rd award, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal 2nd award, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon 4th award. He had deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

NCIS has identified Sgt. Lopez as the alleged shooter.

Quantico Base Commander Col. David W. Maxwell on Friday said the investigation into the shootings would be a lengthy one. He extended his condolences to the families of the Marines, and he asked for support from those who live in the surrounding area.


Quantico Triple Shooting Inquiry to be Lengthy


QUANTICO, Va. — Officials at Quantico Marine Corps Base today are mourning the loss of three active duty Marines.

An armed staff member of the Officer Candidate School shot and killed two other staff members —  male and female Marines — and then took his own life. All three victims were assigned staff members at the prestigious Officers Candidate School, OCS, an institution charged with molding Marines into officers.

A 911 call went out about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, and that’s when base officials learned the first victim, identified only as a male, had been shot and killed. About two hours later, military police with assistance from Prince William police entered the Taylor Hall barracks at OCS and found the female victim shot dead, and the shooter dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

It’s unclear what transpired between the time the first shooting victim was found and the discovery of the bodies of the second victim and shooter.

“It’s been a very long night on Quantico Marine Corps Base,” said Base Commander Col. David W. Maxwell. “Our condolences go out to the families and friends of the Marines we lost.”

A full scale investigation into the shootings is underway here at the base known as the crossroads of the Marine Corps. The names of the victims will be released after all first of kin notifications are completed, said Maxwell, who declined to take questions during the press conference citing the sensitive nature of the investigation.

It’s unclear what relationship the three Marines shared.

“We anticipate this to be a lengthy investigation, and as we begin to comfort and take care of our Marines here, we ask for the thoughts and support of our neighbors in the surrounding areas at this difficult time,” said Maxwell.

More to the Story: Read our breaking coverage as the shootings unfolded

The OCS campus lies on the southern most point on the main side of the base along the Potomac River. It’s here that that every would-be Marine Corps officer trains to become a leader. The process can take as long as six months, and officer candidates — all on various career tracks – are exposed to rigorous training available in areas like squad basics, navigation, and physical fitness.

On Friday morning, Quantico officials did not have exact figures of how many officer candidates there are enrolled at the school, but they said the numbers continually fluctuate up and down.


During the overnight ordeal, a voice over a loudspeaker known as the Giant Voice System permeated the unseasonably frigid air, continually telling residents to stay indoors. Maxwell today credited the system with helping to disseminate important information to those who live behind Quanitco’s walls.

But as information about the fluid situation flowed out to members of the press, some of it became distorted. Initially, officials reported the shooter had been taken into custody shortly after the first shooting victim had been located. Only a short time later, we learned the shooter was still at large, but were told police knew the exact location of the shooter.

Knowing that he had already killed one person, officials then incorrectly reported the shooter was holed up in a barricade situation with police.

“There have been false reports in the media about a barricade or standoff situation between the shooter and police. That did not occur,” said Maxwell.

High alert

The base’s threat condition was elevated during the ordeal to Delta – the highest of any threat level on a military base. It’s used to warn of a potential terrorist attack, or to signal an active terrorist threat. Under Threat Con Delta, only military personnel were allowed on and off the base. That meant vehicles waiting to pass through Quantico’s main security gate, including a local OmniLink transit bus taking passengers to and from the tiny civilian Town of Quantico located inside the sprawling base, was held up for hours.

After the shooter and the female victim were found dead inside Taylor Hall, base officials at 2:30 a.m. lowered the threat level back to green and base

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[Photo; Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

operations returned to normal.

3 Dead in Quantico Shooting

Breaking News


Update 4:20 a.m.

We now know all three of the victims in this case are Marines, and that the shooter took his own life.

Once Quantico officials were alerted to the first shooting victim of this attack about 11 p.m. Thursday, authorities swarmed the area of the Officer Candidate School on Quantico Marine Corps Base. The gunman barricaded himself inside the barracks of the school while police waited outside.

Two hours after the incident began, military police with the help of Prince William police entered the barracks to find a second victim dead from a gunshot wound. The male shooter — who is believed to have shot and killed both victims — was also found inside dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said 1st Lt. Agustin Solivan.

The two shooting victims have not been identified.

Base officials and police are expected to make a statement on what transpired here this morning outside the National Museum of the Marine Corps. 

Update 4 a.m. 

Three people are dead following a shooting at Quantico Marine Corps Base, including the shooter.

Quantico spokesman 1st Lt. Agustin Solivan confirms that police that were called to the base shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday later found the shooter and two other victims. It appears two of the victms were shot by the suspect, but it’s still unclear how the suspect was killed. 

All three are believed to be Marines. 

We’re told Quantico Commander David Maxwell is slated to speak about what happened here overnight. Officials from the Prince William County Police Department that assisted base officials during the incident are also slated to speak. 

More as we have it.

Update 3 a.m.

The all-clear has been sounded at Quantico. A line of cars that had been held at the Marine Corps Base’s main gate were allowed to exit, nearly three hours after incident began.

Security at Quantico's main gate remains tight as no one is allowed on or off base. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Security at Quantico’s main gate remains tight as no one is allowed on our off base. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Update 2:20 a.m.

A local transit bus, an OmniLink bus that serves the tiny Town of Quantico – the only town in the U.S. located within a major military installation – was just allowed to exit the base.

With an SUV trailing behind it as it drove away from the main gate, the bus had been waiting on Fuller Road to exit the base since at least 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

Several vehicles remain lined up at the main gate and appear to be staging for an exit.

Update 1:30 a.m.

Some emergency vehicles can be seen leaving the scene, headed away from base on U.S. 1. Police cruisers still highly visible. 

Update 1:20 a.m.

While a heavy police presence remains at Qauntico’s main gate and on side streets, police officers that had been posted along Fuller Heights Road have now left the area.

More medic units have been seen entering the area from U.S. 1. All continue to head down Fuller Heights Road.

Update 1 a.m.

Loud speakers are sounding on base as a crackling voice provides instructions.

“Attention all Quantico residents: Stay in your residences,” the voice commands.

Those same instructions were repeated twice.  The speaker system appears to be apart of a base-wide warning system to provide updates to both military members and their families who live on base.

Quantico at this hour is is on threat condition Delta – the highest threat condition for any military base across this country. Delta is used to warn of potential or occurring terrorist attacks.

Condition Delta was also used on September 11, 2001, and it indicates only military personnel are allowed on and off base.

Several emergency vehicles have descended upon the Quantico Marine Corps Base and surrounding area. One medic unit from Prince William County could be seen with a police escort turning off U.S. 1 and then proceeding down Fuller Heights Road. Both the medic and police car came into the area with lights activated but no siren.

Police are posted along Fuller Heights Road in Triangle after a shooter was reported to be on the loose on Quantico Marine Corps Base. [Photo: Potomac Local News]

Police are posted along Fuller Heights Road in Triangle after a shooter was reported to be on the loose on Quantico Marine Corps Base. [Photo: Potomac Local News]

12:30 a.m. 

New information just in to Potomac Local News indicates the shooter is not in custody, however, military officials say they know where the suspect is.

The shooter, believed to be a Marine, has barricaded himself away from police. There is still little if any information on who the shooter might be, and there is still no update on the victim.

Prince William police officers who have been called to assist in this active shooter situation are posted along the length of Fuller Heights Road in Triangle. The road runs parallel to Fuller Road, the main thoroughfare on and off base. Just after midnight, a line of cars could be seen waiting to exit the base – including an OmniLink local transit bus.

The base was reported to be on lock down.

11:50  p.m.

QUANTICO, Va. — One person is injured tonight after a shooting on Quantico Marine Corps Base.

The shooting happened at 11 p.m. at the Officers Candidate School on base. One person is reported to have been shot, and the shooter is now in custody, said Quantico spokesman 1st Lt. Agustin Solivan.

The condition of the victim is unknown at this hour. Solivan said military police and Prince William police assisted in the apprehension of the suspect.

The base remains locked down at this hour.

More as we have it.


Overnight Road Work to Cause I-95 Closures

QUANTICO, Va. — Road crews plan to close a portion of Interstate 95 at Quantico this evening and overnight.

More in a press release:

Weather permitting, Thursday night March 21 (Friday morning March 22), Between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. the Virginia Department of Transportation will have intermittent full road closures on I-95 north and south near Exit 148, Russell Road, mile marker 148, for utility work. Closures will occur up to four times, lasting no longer than 15 minutes each to allow crews to relocate cable lines.

Motorists may experience minor delays. The last exit on I-95 north before the work zone is Exit 143, Garrisonville Road (Route 610), and on I-95 south the last exit is 150, Joplin Road (Route 619). Signs and message boards will be posted along the corridor to inform motorists of construction activities. State police will be onsite directing traffic.

Marine Corps 17.75 K Run Bringing Lane Closures

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The Marine Corp’s 17.75 K run will be held Saturday in the Dumfries and Quantico areas, and traffic officials warn your drive may be impacted.

Lane closures for the event will begin at 5 a.m. as the right and center lanes of Va. 234 between Waterway Drive and Van Buren Road will close. The race starts at 7 a.m. at the intersection of Van Buren Road and Va. 234, near the Holiday Inn Quantico Center, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Art Klos. The race will then head into Prince William Forest Park.

Prince William police will be on hand to help direct traffic, and message boards and traffic will be placed alongside Va. 234 to warn drivers of the traffic impacts.

After runners complete all 11.3 miles of the course, they’ll cross finish line is located within the national park.

CLICK HERE to see a full map of the marathon route. 



Driver Killed in Tractor Trailer Crash from Stafford

Update 5 p.m. Monday 

The driver who died in a tractor trailer crash at Quantico is from Stafford.

More in a press release from police:

Fatal Crash – On March 9th at 10:13AM, police responded to the area of Russell Rd and the Interstate 95 southbound ramp in Triangle (22172) for a single vehicle crash. The investigation revealed that the driver of a 2005 Kenworth T800 tractor trailer was exiting Interstate 95 at Russell Rd. The driver failed to negotiate the left turn onto Russell road due to speed which caused the vehicle to roll. The vehicle collided with the guardrail and the driver was subsequently pinned inside the vehicle. The driver died from injuries at the scene. Investigation continues.


Gerald Wayne NEWHOUSE, Jr., 43, of Stafford

11 a.m. 

QUANTICO, Va. — One person is dead after a tractor trailer overturned near Quantico.

The crash is located on Russell Road, near the back entrance of Quantico Marine Corps Base and exit 148 on Interstate 95.

Here’s a statement from police: 

*INCIDENT: Crash with reported fatality, Russell Rd and the I-95 interchange near Quantico. Single vehicle, tractor trailer, ran off the roadway and overturned. Driver died at the scene. Drivers can expect delays in the area as the investigation continues.

We’ll have more once we get it.

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[Submitted photo]

Loud Boom Rattles Residents as Quantico Continues Weeklong Training

QUANTICO, Va. — A thunderous boom rattled windows and peace of mind late Tuesday morning.

The suspected culprit: munitions training at Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Some of you emailed us to report that your house shook. Below is the schedule for munitions training for the remainder of the week at the base, and a note about ongoing pile driving work outside the facility as part of the 95 Express Lanes Project:

Tuesday – Feb. 12. Range Clearance Operations are scheduled from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Wednesday – Feb 13. Explosive Munitions Operations are scheduled from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Thursday – Feb. 14. Explosive Munitions Operations are scheduled from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m

Friday – Feb 15. Range Clearance Operations are scheduled from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday – Feb. 16. Range Clearance Operations are scheduled from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition, the I-95 expansion project will be conducting pile driving operations Monday through Saturday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the month of February.


Stars & Stripes Café Offers Warmth, No Frills


When walking in to the Stars and Stripes Café one thing is clear – it looks and feels like home. Lined with knickknacks, collectibles and other merchandise sold by local vendors on site, this café is the epitome of what you’d see on your next trip to your grandmother’s home.

Cozy and inviting, the building has been reincarnated into several different businesses, including a home and a deli before opening as the café two months ago. Managed by Alan Melton, a chef who was trained in New York City, the café in Triangle is a quick turn from the main entrance of Quantico Marine Corps Base.

To find out if the café was worth its salt, I sampled four different food items showcased on the menu. For an opener, I ordered the baked potato soup ($4.95). Many of the items on the menu, like the soup, are homemade and delivered to the restaurant. It was creamy, served at the right temperature, and hit the spot on one of the coldest days this winter.

While the taste was delicious, the presentation was off – as it was served in a ceramic bowl with a plastic spoon. If you’re looking to bring someone on a first date and plastic cutlery isn’t their thing, avoid the soup.

Baked potato soup at Stars and Stripes Cafe and Collectibles in Triangle. [Photo: Stephanie Tipple / Potomac Local News]

Baked potato soup at Stars and Stripes Cafe and Collectibles in Triangle. [Photo: Stephanie Tipple / Potomac Local News]

The “Semper Fi”, a modern take on the Italian sandwich ($6.95 for 7-inch sandwich and $9.95 for 12-inch), was true to its description, but didn’t offer any spice or punch that would have brought it over the edge into delicious territory. This is a safe bet when ordering a sandwich, but I recommend ordering spices, oil or vinegar on the side to give it some kick.

The “Chappie James Reuben” Panini ($6.95) was true to a classic Reuben, but could have used more of the Thousand Island dressing. The “Colonel Cordon Bleu” ($5.95 for a 7-inch and $7.50 for 12-inch) was one of the day’s favorites and did a classic cordon bleu sandwich justice. It’s a large portion, so consider sharing or ordering the smaller size.

The BLT sandwich, one of the daily specials, had just the right amount of bacon, lettuce and tomato, and just enough mayo to be a sloppy eat.

Having New England roots makes me a little biased when it comes to Italian style desserts, the cannoli was just the right size and the presentation was simple and well done. A dollop of whipped cream and a cherry would be welcome additions to make this more in line with traditional cannolis.

When ordering drinks, watch out for soda prices. Soda bottles are listed $1.65, but it’s really a can for that price. They also don’t have free refills, so make sure you don’t drink your entire can or bottle of juice before your main course. They also don’t offer ice and cups, so if you want a more formal dining experience, this isn’t the place. Stars and Stripes Café is great for a quick meal while you’re in the Dumfries and Quantico area. It’s the perfect spot to come for an informal lunch with a friend, but don’t expect the works. The atmosphere is very friendly and inviting, but it doesn’t offer some of the frills and consistent service that you’d find at a more established restaurant.

I-95 Slope Work Resumes at Quantico This Week

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — They put it off before but it had to get going again at some point.

Virginia transportation officials are warning drivers to expect daytime closures on Interstate 95 in the area of Quantico Marine Corps Base this week. The work is to repair a slope along the highway and it’s not considered a part of the larger effort to bring I-95 Express toll lanes to North Stafford.

More in a press release:

The right lane of Interstate 95 southbound will close next week during daytime hours near mile marker 147, just south of Exit 148 at Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Beginning Monday, Jan. 7 through Thursday, Jan. 10, the right lane will be closed each day from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) continues to repair the slope of the roadway over approximately 200 yards. Due to the materials being used, this work must be performed when temperatures are warmer during daytime hours. Work on the project has been suspended since Dec. 20 to avoid congestion delays over the year-end holidays.

Real-time listings of work zones and road conditions in Virginia are available on VDOT’s 24-hour traffic information website, www.511Virginia.org. Motorists can also access 511Virginia by calling 511 from any telephone in Virginia.

Prince William County Landfill Still a Haven for Bald Eagles

Prince William Conservation Alliance Executive Director 

At the crack of dawn two days before Christmas, 40 volunteers fanned out across Nokesville and beyond to look for birds. While many were focused on last minute holiday shopping, Northern Virginia birders flocked together to count bird species and abundance as part of the annual Nokesville Christmas Bird Count.

This holiday tradition started in 1900 when concerns about declining bird populations were beginning to attract attention. Ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed counting and appreciating birds as an alternative to the annual Side Hunt, a competition to see who could shoot the most birds.

Now in its 113th year, the Christmas Bird Count is the largest and oldest citizen science event in the U.S. The National Audubon Society leads the effort, compiles data nationwide and makes the results available to all on their website. The data collected by volunteers is used by researchers, conservation biologists and others to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

In Northern Virginia, hundreds of people volunteer every year for one or more of five survey areas, which each cover a 15-mile diameter circle (113,000 acres).

The Nokesville Christmas Bird Count Circle, sponsored by Prince William Conservation Alliance, covers a diverse landscape at the edge of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and captures the transition from coastal plain to piedmont ecosystems. It extends from the Prince William County landfill on Va. 234 to Nokesville, and from the Lunga Reservoir near Interstate 95 to Catlett in Fauquier County. The count circle includes portions of the Rural Crescent, Prince William Forest Park and large areas within Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Birders at this year’s Nokesville Christmas Bird Count saw clear skies and calm winds, with morning temperatures ranging from 20 degrees in the morning to a high of nearly 50 degrees. Together volunteers identified 90 different species of birds and nearly 13,000 individuals.

Highlights of the day included American Tree Sparrows and a surprise showing of Evening Grosbeaks at the Foggy Bottom Wetland. Fourteen Northern Shovelers were visiting a private pond in Nokesville and two Screech Owls were spotted near Bristow Road.

At Quantico, there was a solitary Common Loon and Red-headed Woodpeckers, which were also seen at the Cedar Run Wetland Bank. Common Ravens were at the Cedar Run Wetland Bank and four Brewer’s Blackbirds at a farm near Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area. In Fauquier County, birders were excited to see 32 Horned Lark and 12 Rusty Blackbirds.

Traditionally the Prince William County Landfill has the largest numbers of Bald Eagles and this year was no different. Birders counted 10 adults and 10 immature Bald Eagles, along with many gulls including 650 Ring-billed Gulls and three Great Black-backed Gulls.

European Starlings were by far the winner for the most individuals, with more than 2,300 included in the count. Canada Geese were also well represented, with more than 1,400 individuals, and we recorded more than 1,000 Ring-billed Gulls.

Species lists from previous Nokesville Circle counts are online here, where you can also find more information about this year’s survey.

The Christmas Bird Count is a holiday tradition that is lots of fun and helpful to scientists seeking to protect bird diversity nationwide. Volunteers for the Nokesville survey meet midday at Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area for a hot lunch and to trade news about the morning’s adventures before heading out to cover areas not surveyed in the morning.

Everyone is welcome, regardless of birding expertise. It’s a great way to learn more about local wildlife and meet new friends.

10 Most Clicked Stories of 2012

Powerful storms, car crashes that injured and killed youth, the opening of new restaurants, the loss of a familiar face at one of the area’s most famous restaurants, and the changing landscape of Woodbridge topped the list of the most clicked news stories of the year on PotomacLocal.com.

See the list below of the top 10 stories and tell us what should get an honorable mention.

Double Fatal Crash Investigated in North Stafford

On an early morning in September, a car crashed on Va. 610 in Stafford County, collided with a tree, and instantly killed a 15-year-old girl and 23-year-old man. Several others were injured.

4 Seriously Injured in Aquia Crash

The site of twisted metal wrapped around a tree jolted the Aquia Harbour neighborhood in July. Police said 19-year-old Daniel Ringler had just bought a new car, loaded it with some friends, and went for a drive.

The car crashed, two passengers were ejected, and police said alcohol appeared to have been involved in the crash.

New Dumfries Clinic on Schedule to Open

The Dumfries area got a lot of attention this summer when a new military health clinic relocated there from Woodbridge. The Dumfries Health Center is expected to serve 47,000 patients and is part of the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital System.

Connolly Calls on USPS to Release Hidden Report

The U.S. Postal Service completed a study that examined the impacts of cutting back mail delivery service from six days to five days per week. When the agency tried to keep the results of the survey a secret, it didn’t sit well with one area congressman.

Gloria Spooner Dies

If you’ve lived in the Potomac Communities for any length of time, especially if your path took your through Quantico – the crossroads of the Marine Corps – you know about the Globe and Laurel Restaurant.

Our area lost one of the faces that made the destination eatery what it is today.

Strong Storms Blow Through Region

It would become known as the Great Derecho Storm of 2012, but all we knew the night it blew in to our area was it was one of the strongest wind gusts we had ever felt here. The storm hit after dark on the last day of June, and when it left it took power, cell phone service, and peace of mind with it. Forth of July fireworks shows were canceled, boil water advisories were issued, and it was hot outside. Our continuous coverage of the storm’s aftermath was highly viewed.

Diner of TV Fame to Reopen in January

It may be the most famed diner in the Potomac Communities, but it has historically been one of the most unlucky businesses in the region. Now known as County Café, it opened as County Fare and was featured on the popular TV show Restaurant Impossible in 2011. After years of struggling to make a profit, the owner closed up shop. But when news came of a new owner coming to the spot, it got your attention.

Stonebridge Altering Woodbridge Landscape

It’s the town center that sprung up from nowhere. Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center made lots of headlines this year as many stores and restaurants in the new complex at Dale Boulevard and Interstate 95 opened their doors for the first time.

More than just stores, the complex also boasts housing making it a true mixed-use neighborhood.

Cheesecake Factory to Anchor Potomac Mills Renovation

Not to be outdone, the folks across the street from Potomac Town Center at Potomac Mills mall – a retail shopping staple in Woodbridge since 1985 – also announced some changes. Mall officials announced a new outdoor walkway that would be built in front of the mall, and would be anchored by a very well known restaurant.

102812-Sandy-radar Sandy: The Latest

Just as voters were making up their minds as to who they would choose to lead the nation over the next four years, Mother Nature decided she would blow Hurricane Sandy toward the Northeast, putting millions of people on alert.

While the Potomac Communities were spared the brunt of her damage, residents in New York and New Jersey weren’t so lucky. Our continuing coverage of the day kept readers in Prince William and Stafford counties informed.

Emergency Road Work on Joplin Rd. at Quantico

4:30 p.m.

Crews are working to repair guardrails along Joplin Road. Traffic will be shifted to one side of the roadway as the repairs are made, according to transportation officials.

3:40 p.m. 

QUANTICO, Va. — Emergency road work will be conducted this afternoon at Joplin Road at Interstate 95.

It’s unclear what prompted the work, but officials with the Virginia Megaprojects office said the work will occur east of the highway. Two-way traffic will run as normal on Joplin Road on the west side of I-95.

This is the same area in which crews have been pile driving for a new bridge that will be a part of the I-95 Express Lanes project. That effort will extend HOV lanes form Dumfries to North Stafford, and when they’re open will allow carpoolers to ride free and single drivers the option to pay a toll to escape congestion on the main lanes of I-95.

The area is heavily traveled as the main gate to Quantico Marine Corps Base is located at Joplin Road and U.S. 1.

Also, a nearby work zone at the back gate of Quantico has been suspended for the holidays.

More in a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation:

DOT is lifting a work zone lane closure on Interstate 95 southbound near mile marker 147, just south of Exit 148 at Quantico Marine Corps Base.

The right lane has been closed each weekday from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. since Monday, Dec. 10. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is repairing the slope of the roadway over approximately 200 yards.

Work on the project is temporarily suspending due to the year-end holidays. Work will resume on the project on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013.

This work zone is not related to the I-95 Express Lanes Project.

Pile Driving Underway at Quantico

QUANTICO, Va. — Pile driving work has begun near the Quantico Marine Corps Base as part of the Interstate 95 Express Lanes Project.

The work is underway near Joplin Road (Exit 150) on I-95. Transportation officials said the pile driving work will support the foundation of a new bridge that will run over Joplin Road.

Overall, the new Express Lanes are expected to open in 2015, and they will connect North Stafford with existing HOV lanes in Prince William and Fairfax counties. The new lanes will provide a seamless connection with express toll lanes which opened last month on the Capital Beltway between Springfield and Dulles Toll Road.

When they open, single drivers must have an E-Z Pass or E-Z Pass Flex and will be charged to use the lanes. Carpoolers or vehicles with three or more occupants must have an E-Z Pass Flex to use the lanes for free.

More about the construction in a press release from Virginia Megaprojects office:

Pile driving will take place Monday through Saturday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Daytime lane closures will be in place on Joplin Road to allow for this work. Motorists should expect delays in this area. Due to the holiday, closures are suspended Dec. 24 and 25, and until noon on the 26th. Review the Joplin Road Pile Driving Fact Sheet.

Extending 29 miles from Edsall Road (Rt. 648) to Garrisonville Road (Rt. 610), the 95 Express Lanes will provide new choices, added capacity and improve the performance of the existing HOV system. The Project is scheduled for completion in early 2015. 

Work to repair a slope along I-95 at Quantico is also underway. This work is not apart of the I-95 Express Lanes Project.

The right lane of I-95 south will continue to close during daytime hours near mile marker 147, just south of the Quantico Marine Corps Base. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is repairing the slope of the roadway for approximately 200 yards. This work began Monday, Dec. 10 and will continued through Thursday, Dec. 20 each weekday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Motorists may encounter minor traffic delays as they approach the work zone.

Nearly $50,000 in Fines Don’t Deter Popsicle Signs


PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va .– Did you know that each time you pass by a road sign on the median in Prince William County – you’re paying for it?

In an effort to keep roads safe and clutter free in the county, the Virginia Department of Transportation has a rule of no signs in the “right of way” but this doesn’t always stop area residents, businesses and organizations from posting the signs.

These “popsicle signs” (no, not the ice cream variety) have become more prevalent than ever after the recent Presidential election and are considered by many to be a nuisance. They’re also used by housing developments, Realtors, and by businesses advertising a special product or service. At the November 20 Prince William County Board of Supervisors meeting, residents spoke out.

“Unfortunately, during the last few years, we’ve been subjected to a proliferation of unsightly signs of all kinds on our roads, our intersections and our shopping centers. These signs are robbing us of our right to enjoy our community. This situation is out of control,” said Allan Beverstock, of Manassas.

In order to remove these signs, Prince William’s Neighborhood Services office, sends out a team of inspectors and volunteers to help ensure what signs are there are allowed to be there.

And while this team works hard to ensure the cleanliness of the roadways in the county, this comes at a significant cost of time and resources for. In this fiscal year alone, the inspectors and volunteers have collected 21, 638 signs, with 453 collected for court hearings.

“From 10/22 to 11/24, we decided to say well let’s see what that looks like – and we collected 960 signs between that period; 273 were political signs and 443 were builder’s signs and 244 were non-builder signs,” said Michelle Morris, Management and Fiscal Analyst for Neighborhood Services.

Election signs in particular have a window of time where they are allowed to be displayed, but are expected to be cleared away by the respective campaigns within 5 days after the elections.

For each offense, the fine is currently $100 per sign, and in this fiscal year, $48, 629 was collected in fines for these illegal roadway signs. Some people feel that this large volume of illegal signage would be deterred by higher fines for repeat offenders, especially considering the amount collected in fines is significantly smaller than the $100,000 plus dollars a year it costs to maintain the sign tagging and fine program.

“Some of the citizens have asked us to do higher fines for repeat offenders, because some people don’t know – but some people do know. We’ve tried to get it for the past few years so that the amount is higher for repeat offenders but that hasn’t passed down in Richmond,” Morris said.

Each time an inspector or a volunteer crew goes out, they’re required to follow a specific process for tagging and removing these roadways signs.

“You have to take a picture, you have to tag it, we have to find the registered agent for it, we have to send the summons out to the courthouse, which has to be served by a sheriff and then a court date has to be set,” Morris said.

All of this effort also leads to pollution in the environment as, “All the signs ultimately end up at the landfill.”

Morris commented that in many cases the posting of the signs illegally is unintentional, although each sign has to be properly tagged and fined – regardless of the intent. The Neighborhood Services sign tagging program urges residents to visit their website and be aware of the rules for posting signage in the county.

Children Still in Need of Gift Sponsors

MANASSAS, Va. — Each year Volunteer Prince William works to make sure some needy children in our area receive something special for Christmas.

If the numbers of children who are still applying to be apart of the gift program are any indication, the volunteer organization has a steep hill to climb and is in need of help.

More now in an email from Volunteer Prince William Director Mary Foley:

The Un Trim A Tree Holiday Gift Program for needy kids provides 2 gift per child valued at $50 total per child from throughout the greater Prince William community. About 7,500 children have registered for this program and we are most appreciative to hundreds of donors who have provided gifts to 6,300 children so far but we still have 1,200 kids needing a donor to provide them with gifts. There are three ways one can help us meet the wishes of the last 1,200 kids. We can provide a donor with the specific wishes of a child or you can just go purchase toys that we can match to the child or simply make a cash donation to the program for toys and gift cards.

The hot toys this year include: Barbie, Princess and Dora for little girls. Or action figures, soccer balls and legos for little boys. Donations can be dropped off until next Wednesday, December 19th at the Volunteer Prince William office – 9248 Center Street in Old Town Manassas.

To receive a specific wish for a child- please call (703) 369-5292 ext. 201 or via email at: stibbs@volunteerprincewilliam.org or mfoley@volunteerprincewilliam.org

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