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News
Bar fight spills into restaurant parking lot leaving one man hospitalized

From a press release: 

Deputies with the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office responded to a fight outside of Mick’s Restaurant and Sports Lounge early on Sunday morning that landed a man in the hospital with serious injuries.

On December 10, 2017 at approximately 1:40 a.m., deputies responded to a call regarding an unconscious and bleeding man lying on the ground near the entrance of the restaurant. Upon arrival, deputies found the subject, later identified as Aaron Bauman, 31, breathing, but unconscious, and lying in a small pool of blood. Bauman had bruises and abrasions on the left side of his face, forearms and knees.

A witness said the subject hit one of the restaurant’s patrons and knocked another over, which led to a fight between three or four people. Video surveillance showed Bauman attempting to punch one of the bouncers who was attempting to escort the subject out of the bar. In response, several individuals began attacking Bauman.

The subject was transported to Mary Washington Hospital and later transferred to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He is being treated for serious facial and head trauma.

Deputies later learned Bauman left his two children, ages 6 and 7, at home unattended for approximately four hours to go to the bar. The subject is being charged with two counts of felony child neglect.

The incident is still under investigation.

News
Woman jumps out of moving car on Dale Boulevard, escapes abductor

From Prince William police: 

Strangulation | Abduction | Domestic Related On December 8 at 7:50PM, officers responded to the 4100 block of Dale Blvd in Woodbridge (22193) to investigate an assault. The investigation revealed that the victim, a 20-year-old woman of Dumfries, and the accused, an acquaintance, were involved in a verbal altercation while driving along Dale Blvd. During the encounter, the accused grabbed the victim by the throat and held her inside of the vehicle when she attempted to get out. The victim was eventually able to break free from the accused and jump out of the vehicle as the suspect was driving. The accused then stopped the vehicle and chased after the victim. The accused eventually gave up and drove away. Several witness then contacted police. A short time later, the accused returned to the scene and was detained by several officers. Minor injuries were reported by the victim and the accused. Following the investigation, the accused was arrested.

Arrested on December 8:

Reginald Hakeem RILEY, 23, of 5951 Hunter Crest Rd in Woodbridge

Charged with strangulation, abduction, and possession of marijuana

Court Date: January 10, 2018 | Bond: Held WITHOUT Bond

 

News
‘Give your Christmas tree, wreath and other cut greenery another life as compost’

From a press release: 

After all the holiday greenery has lost its luster, make it green again! Give your Christmas tree, wreath and other cut greenery another life as compost, mulch or habitat. Simply remove all ornaments, decorations, tinsel, nails and the tree stand and take the greenery to one of locations listed below to be recycled or repurposed.  

The Prince William County Landfill at 14811 Dumfries Road in Manassas.  Monday – Saturday, 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.  The facility is closed New Year’s Day. 703-792-4670

The Balls Ford Road Compost Facility located at 13000 Balls Ford Road in Manassas. Monday – Saturday, 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.  The facility is closed New Year’s Day. 703-792-4670

Leesylvania State Park located at 2001 Daniel K. Ludwig Drive in Woodbridge (off Neabsco Road). Trees may be dropped off at Shelter 2 and will be used for habitat.

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) located at 5399 Wellington Branch Road in Gainesville.  Dec. 26 – Jan. 8.  The drop off area is located in the front parking lot in the area outlined with the orange safety cones.  NOVEC will deliver the wood-chip mulch to interested customer-owners at no charge, visit www.novec.com/mulch

Traffic
Prince William legislator Scott Surovell makes another attempt at hands-free cell phone law

Surovell

You’ve probably done it while sitting behind the wheel, yell “get off your phone” at the slow, a seemingly distracted driver in front of you.

Well, State Senator Scott Surovell (D-36, Fairfax, Prince William) does want you to put down your phone. He’s re-introduced a new hands-free cell phone bill for lawmakers in Richmond to consider during the General Assembly in January.

From Surovell:

“Senator Scott Surovell today introduced SB 74 which prohibits driving while operating a mobile phone unless it is being used in “hand’s free” mode. Sen. Surovell introduced the same bill last year and attempted introduction in 2015 after similar legislation was voted down on the floor of the Senate

That legislation was motivated by the death of 18-year-old Fairfax County resident Kyle Rowley who was killed by a distracted texting driver on Route 7 near Herndon after a driver stuck his vehicle without breaking at full speed with 1,000 feet of straight, clear road leading up to Mr. Rowley’s car. After the driver was acquitted of Reckless Driving due to texting while driving being a secondary offense, Senator Surovell represented the family in a civil proceeding and ultimately led the fight to change the traffic law. Kyle’s parents, John and Meryl Rowley have become leaders in the effort to make Virginia a hand’s free state.”

In 2013, Surovell worked with other state officials to make texting while driving a primary offense.

Since then, cell phone use behind the wheel in Northern Virginia has remained a problem.

“The Alliance applauds Senator Surovell’s efforts to find solutions that will help reduce distracted driving. Recent VDOT statistics show that over a 6 year period, approximately 1 in 6 traffic fatalities in Northern Virginia occurred when at least 1 of the drivers involved was distracted,” stated Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance President David Birtwhistle in an email to Potomac Local. “Many more traffic incidents impacting the efficiency of the transportation network are caused by distracted driving. Northern Virginia’s congestion issues will not be solved by such legislation, but every effort to reduce the number of incidents and save lives matters.”

More from Surovell:

“Virginia first prohibited texting while driving in 2009, but only made it a secondary offense punishable by a small fine. In 2010, Fairfax County Police reported writing fewer than 50 tickets for texting while driving because of loopholes in the law and the fact that it was a secondary infraction.

Since 2014, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reports 576 collisions and 283 injuries where driving texting was verified as part of the collision.

In 2014 alone, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reported that more than 24,000 crashes in Virginia were attributed to distracted drivers.”

It’s a changing political climate in Richmond and the delegate who led the charge to ban texting while driving in 2009, Richard Anderson (R-Prince William County) says the bill could face some opponents, as it did last year.

In 2009, Anderson also had one opponent in his effort to ban texting while driving seven years ago.

From Anderson:

“The only group that had problems were Virginia ham radio organizations that were concerned that my bill would preclude the use of ham radio by their members during emergency and disaster relief operations. The bill had an exemption for them, which removed their opposition/concerns.

In the final analysis, the objection came from within the General Assembly itself. Some members were concerned that the bill was simply unenforceable. Others were concerned that the bill constituted excessive government intrusion into the passenger compartment of privately-owned motor vehicles (a view that doesn’t square with the prohibition against the consumption of alcohol by motor vehicle operators).”

Traffic
Thousands of Virginia bridges get low grade despite VDOT assurances they’re safe to use

It’s difficult to avoid driving over a bridge in Virginia, and motorists often don’t give them a second thought. Drivers are unaware that some of the structures they have come to trust are in a troubling state, especially in the southwestern part of the commonwealth.

Of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s nine districts, Bristol has the highest number of bridges and culverts rated D or lower on the agency’s “health index,” an indication of the overall soundness of a structure. (Culverts are tunnels that allow streams or drains to flow under the road.)

Data obtained from VDOT shows that 451 bridges and culverts of over 3,400 in the Bristol district have that low grade, and 182 structures were deemed structurally deficient, or “poor.” The worst structure, a bridge in Scott County, has a grade of 12 on a 100-point scale – a solid F.

Even so, state officials say motorists should not worry.

“Scary terms aside, if there were a problem out there, [the bridges] would be investigated and closed,” said Michelle Earl, communications manager for VDOT’s Bristol district. “This is nothing we toy around with.”

Many bridges across the state need major repairs and possible replacement. While the vast, rural Bristol district has more than its share of such bridges, it is aggressively attacking the problem, officials say.

Gary Lester, a bridge engineer for the Bristol district, said there are many reasons for a high number of bridges with low grades, but two stand out: Bristol has more bridges than any other VDOT district, and because of the area’s geography, they are built differently than anywhere else in the state.

The Bristol district is a mountainous region with many streams to cross, and winters are harsh. This means that more salt is used on the roads due to snow, which corrodes the exposed steel in the simply designed bridges.

“In the past, we’ve used a lot of steel beams with timber decks because those were the cheapest and easiest for our crews to put in at the time,” Lester said. Most of the bridges were constructed in the early- to mid- 20th century.

The bridges needed to go up fast, so they were designed differently than those in Northern Virginia, Fredericksburg or Hampton Roads – districts that have the fewest structurally deficient bridges. Those bridges have a design life, or the time in which the bridge is structurally sound, of 50 to 100 years. Bridges built with just steel beams and timber decks in the Bristol district have a design life of about 25 years and need costly rehabilitation much more often.

Dr. David Mokarem, a research associate at Virginia Tech, said VDOT’s health index is determined by the overall condition of all of the bridge’s parts. He said that traffic, load capacity and the geography of the district are factors in determining the grade.

Age and design life are also important factors. The needs for each district also depends on how much the bridges are used, so it makes sense that the more populous northern and eastern areas of Virginia see most of the funding from VDOT. That doesn’t mean that Bristol’s situation can be ignored.

“If [the grade] is 65 percent, that’s low,” Mokarem said. “They need to be fixed, repaired … something needs to be done.”

Lester is addressing the need in his district by looking at his bridges differently. He said he focuses on the structurally deficient bridges. This means that the bridge either can be crossed only by light vehicles and loads or cannot be used at all until it is rehabilitated or completely reconstructed.

The formula for determining structural deficiency is more accurate than the health index, Lester said. The formula, based on federal guidelines, divides the bridge into its deck structure and substructure and carefully calculates the health of those two parts.

The rating is out of nine. Once a bridge receives a four or below, it is considered structurally deficient and must have signage to advertise its load capability. To put that rating in perspective, a brand-new bridge with a few cracks is given a score of eight.

Every bridge is inspected every two years, and if they are structurally deficient, they are inspected once a year or more, Earl said.

VDOT had a goal over the past five years to decrease the number of structurally deficient bridges in each district by 15 percent. Bristol was the only district to exceed that goal. The district is replacing those bridges with ones that have a design life of 100 years.

“We’re looking at the overall load on a bridge before they go structurally deficient, and we’re looking at the condition of the joints to improve those so they don’t leak any water to get down into the structural elements, which will be a new performance measure,” Lester said. VDOT plans to announce these new performance measures in the next few weeks.

As the measures take effect, Lester said that the number of bridges determined to be structurally deficient should go down each year. The district will continue to work hard to bridge the structural and financial gaps.

“There’s new funding available to help improve bridges,” Earl said. “Public safety is our ultimate goal, so if there was an issue out there, it would get closed.”

Traffic
Deep pothole plugged behind Woodbridge Target, Value City Furniture stores

Remember that growing pothole we reported this past summer in Woodbridge? 

The nearly 10-foot deep hole was located behind a Target and Value City Furniture stores in the Parkway Crossing West Shopping Center in Woodbridge.

We received an email today from Prince William County Occoquan District Supervisor Ruth Anderson telling us the that the hole is gone. It also included a photo of the newly patched hole.

From Anderson: 

Photo by Bill Milne today. Sink hole off of Telegraph Road appears to be fixed.

No word yet on who patched the hole. Over the summer, Anderson’s office pleaded with property owners to fix the pothole that had been preventing traffic through a portion of the shopping center’s parking lot.

Anderson also asked Prince William County staff to find out who was responsible for the fix.

 

News
No snow accumulation expected, but here’s the link to delays/closures list just in case

We’ve got some forecasted snowfall off to our west, but no accumulation expected in our area. 

If you wake up and see snow on the ground, you can check this list for area school and government delays and closings.

From VDOT: 

Virginia Department of Transportation crews are preparing for more winter weather, this time during Tuesday morning rush hour.

Crews reapplied anti-icing treatment on the roads Monday. The storm is currently forecasted to arrive very early Tuesday morning, and crews will mobilize aroundmidnight to treat problem areas with salt and sand as needed ahead of rush hour.

Drivers are asked to:

— Continue to check weather forecasts, as storm timing and intensity can change. Temperatures are expected to hover right around freezing.
— Factor in extra time or consider delaying their morning commute.
— Consider every road to be an icy road, especially in the dark.
— Reduce your speed and always use your headlights.
— Be patient; remember that many fellow drivers are not comfortable driving in adverse weather conditions.
— Take it slow on bridges, ramps, and overpasses, and other known trouble spots.
— Ensure gas tanks and windshield wiper fluid tanks are full.

And the winter fun doesn’t stop there. Arctic air will pour into our region Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, as low temperatures are expected to dip into the single digits. 

 

News
OWL Volunteer Fire Department responds to warehouse fire

From Occoquan Woodbridge Lorton Volunteer Fire Department:

Woodbridge, VA December 9th, 6:00 a.m. – Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Firefighters responded to the report of a two story commercial structure fire at 14339 Jefferson Davis Hwy in Woodbridge. Crews arrived within minutes and reported smoke showing from the roof.

Crews forcibly entered through front door and found fire on the first floor. The source of the fire was found in a storage area and was contained. An additional sweep of the building was conducted. The fire was knocked down in less than 10 minutes.

Several people were inside an adjacent unit evacuated.

The blaze is under investigation by the Prince William County Fire Marshal’s Office. Fire and Rescue units from OWL VFD, Dale City VFD, Dumfries – Triangle VFD, PWCDF&R, and PWCPD responded to the incident.

OWL VFD is one of the largest and busiest volunteer fire departments in the United States with almost 300 members. OWL VFD provides fire suppression, EMS care, and rescue services to 80,000 residents in our 27 square mile area through the operation of three fire stations. OWL volunteer Firefighters and EMTs work the 6 pm to 6 am shift, five days a week, plus 24/7 holidays and weekends.

News
Santa pays a visit to children on Virginia Railway Express

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Hundreds packed the annual Santa Trains on the Virginia Railway Express.

With snow falling, Santa paid a visit to trains that left stations in Manassas, Woodbridge, Burke, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania.

We were on a train that left the Fredericksburg station headed north to Woodbridge to capture the photos in this post.

The popular trains are part of the Operation Lifesaver project. Online tickets for the special event sell out each year in a matter of minutes, while the remainder of the tickets is usually sold in less than 24 hours at VRE stations.