For a Better Commute. For Better Connected Communities in Prince William & Stafford, Va.


Quake rattles area

The U.S. Geological Survey map depicting the Washington area quake.

The U.S. Geological Survey map depicting the Washington area quake.

A magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck the Washington region about 5 a.m. Friday.

The quake was reported to 10 miles northwest of Rockville, Md. and 15 east of Leesburg, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The quake struck 3.1 miles below the surface in Maryland.

According to initial reports, Prince William County public safety officials received calls about the quake.

Stafford County Public Safety officials say they did not receive calls about the quake.

We are working to find out how many other areas reported feeling the quake.

Beltway lanes to shift Friday

HOT lane work is ongoing at the Springfield Mixing Bowl. (VDOT)

HOT lane work is ongoing at the Springfield Mixing Bowl. (VDOT)

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – A five-lane portion of the Capital Beltway will be reduced to four lanes tomorrow.

The Virginia Department of Transportation calls it a lane shift, and it will take place three-quarters of a mile before Va. 620 (Braddock Road). The new lane configuration will be in place until late December and comes as part of the Beltway High Occupancy Vehicle lanes project.

At 9:30 p.m. Friday, crews will work to re-stripe the pavement and place barriers around the construction zone, reducing traffic down to one lane in the area.

The new traffic pattern should be in place by 9 a.m. Saturday, a VDOT spokeswoman said.

Transportation officials tell motorists to expect major delays in the area during the construction hours.

Crews aimed to complete the lane shift on July 9, but inclement weather prevented them from doing so.

The HOT lanes will be two new lanes between Springfield and Dulles Toll Road, which will add capacity to the Beltway. Vehicles with three or more passengers will be able to use the lanes for free or single drivers can opt to pay a toll to use the lanes when they are completed in late 2013.

Found human remains still unidentified

LORTON, Va.—Skeletal remains found in Lorton on Monday night will be sent to Richmond for a closer examination.

The medical examiner’s office in Fairfax County worked Tuesday with an anthropologist to try and identify a human skull and skeletal remains found on Furnace Road about 8 p.m. Monday.

The team decided Tuesday to turn the case over to forensic scientists at the state medical examiner’s office in Richmond.

“It will hopefully happen sooner than later, but it could take weeks or months before we hear anything,” said Fairfax police spokeswoman Tawny Wright. (more…)

UPDATE: Human remains sent to Richmond

UDPATED: The human skull and skeletal remains found on Furnace Road in Fairfax County will be sent to the state’s medical examiner’s office in Richmond.

A state medical examiner and an anthropologist worked Tuesday to identify the remains during an autopsy but came up empty.

Once the remains have been sent, it could be weeks before an identification is made, said Fairfax police spokeswoman Tawny Wright. (more…)

Copy paper, supplies needed for schools

Cynthia McAree and Robert Sowell Sr. of Apple Federal Credit Union, and Stafford School Board Chairman Dana Reinboldt-Griffis-Widewater and School Board member Stephanie J. Johnson – Aquia, kick off the annual “Stuff the Bus" school supplies drive on Monday. (Mary Davidson)

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – When school officials last year set out to collect school supplies for children in Stafford County, residents and businesses donated $30,000 in supplies to the cause.

Those supplies, like pencils, notebook paper and marble composition books, went to help more than 350 families.

This year they hope to do better.

Members of Stafford’s school board and banking managers from Apple Federal Credit Union gathered in North Stafford on Monday to kick off this year’s Stuff the Bus school supplies drive.

As part of the drive, now through August 25 you can drop off new school supplies to the Apple FCU branch in the Doc Stone Shopping Center, at Chick-Fil-A at Doc Stone, Storage 2000 in Aquia and on Va. 610 in North Stafford, the Walmart at Stafford Lakes off U.S. 17 and the Stafford County Public Schools Administration Building near the county’s courthouse.

One item that elementary schools can use this year: white copy paper.

“A lot of jurisdictions across the country have faced financial difficulties and we’re no different. Copy paper is an important thing to have as teachers use it for worksheet assignments they pass out,” said Stafford County School Board Chairman Diana Rienboldt – Griffis-Widewater.

School officials reminded those who will donate this year that many stores, including the ones the Stuff the Bus drive has partnered with, already have school supplies stocked. (more…)

VRE says goodbye to Amtrak

A Virginia Railway Express train pulls into the Woodbridge station. (Photo: Mary Davidson)

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – It seemed like a long time coming but a French company is now in charge of operating of Virginia’s commuter railroad.

Keolis Rail Services of America began operating Virginia Railway Express trains on the system’s Fredericksburg and Manassas lines today as part of a five year, $85 million contract. After months of wrangling between VRE, Federal Rail Administration officials and Amtrak managers – who did not want their employees persuaded to work for the French firm – Keolis hired more than 80 new conductors, assistant conductors and engineers in May to facilitate train operations.

Offers were made to Amtrak employees to stay, but only one Amtrak worker decided to join the French firm that has never operated in the U.S. before now.

One week ago today, while many enjoyed a day off because of the observed July 4 holiday, Keolis crews made their first full test runs on the VRE system. (more…)

Exclusive: Drowning victim was looking to start new life

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va.  – It was a marriage that brought the Kangs and Ackermans together. It was a sad and unexpected accident on Thursday that brought them even closer.

Miwha Kang, 61, died early Friday morning at Mary Washington Hospital after she fell into a swimming pool at her home on Cardinal Drive in south Stafford.

Her death has been tough on her husband, Paul, who found her in the pool. It’s also been difficult on the rest of Kang’s extended family, whom are doing all they can to comfort each other during a trying time. (more…)

House removed from Beltway

A mobile home involved in a crash on the Capital Beltway is hauled away.

UDPATE: The house trailer that fell onto the Capital Beltway on Thursday afternoon and snarled traffic has been removed.

Crews were seen hauling away the prefabricated home at 5:37 p.m., about 20 minutes earlier than state police initially estimated it would be cleared from the roadway.

The house was being transported by tractor trailer when at 12:19 p.m. a car changed lanes and cut the driver of the tractor trailer off, just north of Dulles Toll Road.

The driver of the tractor trailer then swerved into another lane to avoid hitting the encroaching vehicle, but in doing so collided with a Ford F-450 pickup, a state police spokeswoman said.

The trailer flipped and the house hit the pavement.

No one was injured, and so far no charges have been filed in the crash, but the damage to traffic flow in the area was done. (more…)

75 tips gained in Harrington case

FAIRFAX, Va. – The phones have been ringing at the Virginia State Police office since investigators linked the abduction and sex assault of a woman in Fairfax and the death of a Virginia Tech student.

Investigators last week said newly discovered forensic evidence linked the death of 20-year-old Morgan Harrington, who disappeared from a Metallica concert at University of Virginia in October, to the case of a 26-year-old woman who was abducted and raped while walking home to her apartment complex on Jermantown Road in 2005.

Harrington traveled to UVA with friends to see the band perform, but later separated from her friends and then went missing.

“Since the story went national, we have received 75 credible tips from portions of the state and the country,” said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

In addition to traditional sources of media, police credit bloggers with helping to publicize this latest development in the case.

So far only a sketch of the man suspected in both crimes has been released and no arrest has been made. (more…)

HOV hours extended on I-95

Photo: Mary Davidson

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – The sun sets later during the summer and now drivers can use Interstate 95’s High Occupancy Vehicle lanes a bit later too.

Until Sept. 23, the lanes will remain open to southbound travelers until midnight Monday through Thursday, allowing drivers to skirt traffic delays that may be caused by highway construction and increased traffic on the highway, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer McCord.

The HOV lanes will then reopen to northbound traffic the following day at 2 a.m. (more…)

Residents asked to conserve power

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – The increase in temperatures prompted a local power company to demand on Wednesday that residents decrease their use of air conditioners and household appliances.

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative issued an emergency declaration to its customers at 1:30 p.m., after energy demand on its power grid soared. People in 13 states and in Washington receive electricity from the grid.

The utility asked residents to reduce the amount of electricity used in their homes between 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. That meant turning up the in-home thermostat to 78 degrees, and not using household appliances like the stove, oven, dishwasher or clothes dryer until after sunset. (more…)

Thieves target landscaping equipment

FAIRFAX COUNTY Va. — Thefts of landscaping equipment in the Newington area has been on the rise in recent weeks.

Now police and the presidents of two landscaping companies, East Coast Professional Landscaping and GMI Professional Landscaping Services, will speak to the public at noon, asking whoever is stealing their equipment to stop.

They’ll speak at 7819 Loisdale Road in Newington.

Since February, there have been 75 reports of thefts of various pieces of landscaping equipment in that area, police said.

It’s estimated the stolen equipment has cost the victim businesses about $500,000, according to Fairfax police.

Predator fish caught in Quantico Creek

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Once you catch a Snakehead fish you have to kill it immediately.

And that’s what Joey Campbell did after reeling one in July 1, while fishing on Quantico Creek and the Potomac River.

His Snakehead weighed in at 13.6 pounds, about average for a fish that can grow to be 33-inches long.

The Northern Snakehead is an invader from Asia and Korea, and since 2002 has been found in the Potomac and in Aquia Creek in Stafford County, to points north in Prince William, Fairfax and near Maryland shores.

It’s still a mystery as to how this creepy fish found its way to here. One thought is someone who owned one as a pet and then released it into the river. (more…)

Mt. Vernon welcomes new U.S. citizens July 4th

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Lance Cpl. John Ramirez knows what it’s like to have a loved one taken away.

Ten years ago, guerrilla fighters in Columbia abducted his uncle, taking him away from Ramirez and his family. It was a trying situation, one that left Ramirez thinking that he would never see his uncle again, he said.

But by the “grace of god” Ramirez’s uncle was returned to him, he said.

His family then came to the U.S. in 2000. Ramirez became a Marine in 2007.

On Sunday on the Fourth of July, at the home of this nation’s first president, he became a U.S. citizen. (more…)

Heat wave takes aim at region

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — After an Independence Day weekend with relatively low humidity, Mother Nature will drive the mercury back up across the region this week.

The National Weather Service has placed most of the Washington area, including Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties, under an excessive heat advisory until late Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to shoot above the 100-degree mark this week, up to 103 in some places, according to the weather service.

It’s going to get even hotter in places to the west, along Virginia’s Interstate 81 corridor, according to the weather service. (more…)

Fire officials warn of illegal fireworks danger

Elliott Winstel and Amanda Howland shop for fireworks in North Stafford. (Photo:Mary Davidson)

Amanda Howland and Elliott Winstel visited a roadside fireworks stand in Stafford County late last month. They asked the stand attendant, who set up shop at the corner of Va. 610 and Shelton Shop Road in North Stafford, if they had mortars.

Mortars, often used by professional pyrotechnic companies hired to produce large fireworks displays, are illegal in Virginia.

And that’s what the shop keeper told them, so they settled on buying a less powerful collection of fireworks which the shop keeper had in stock.

Fire chiefs across the region last week said the best way to see fireworks is to attend a professional display.

But if you plan on using illegal fireworks, officials say they will take your fireworks, write you a summons or both. (more…)

Bus fares to rise next week

Get ready to shell out more change to ride buses in Prince William County.

Starting July 6, fares on all Potomac and Rappahannock Transportataion Commission buses will go up, meaning that bus riders will pay more to get to work or to ride around town. (more…)

Fairfax sex assault now linked to Harrington case

Morgan Harrington, 20, disappeared last fall at a concert in Charlottesville. Her remains were found on a farm outside the city in January.

There appears to a new lead in the case of slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington.

State and local investigators say forensic evidence has linked her case to that of a woman who was abducted and raped in the City of Fairfax in 2005.

Harrington is the 20-year-old Roanoke woman who disappeared outside of a Metallica concert at the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville last October.

After a police search, her skeletal remains were found in an Albemarle County farm outside the city in January. (more…)

Update: Missing woman found near home

UPDATED AT 10 A.M.: A woman who was missing from Fairfax County was found this morning near her home.

After search and rescue teams mounted a search this morning near the woman’ s home in the 2600 block of Arlington Drive, just six miles north of Ft. Belvoir, they found her at the end of her street, according to Fairfax police.

Police were concerned because the woman has a medical condition and had not been seen since Sunday afternoon. (more…)

VRE offers free rides after massive delays

Fredericksburg line train 309, coming from Fredericksburg to Washington’s Union Station, was late making it back to pickup passengers for its 5:15 p.m. departure from the Washington rail hub.

After completing it’s midday run as train 301, which left Union Station at 12:55 p.m., the train encountered problems on its return trip south of Franconia, said VRE spokeswoman April Maguigad.

When it reached Union Station, passengers boarded, but the train and left about an hour late. (more…)

Boat sinks into Occoquan

A boat that began taking on water sank in the river.

Jeff Frederickson watched a boat sink into the Occoquan River on Wednesday morning.

“It was about 11 a.m. when we noticed its port side sinking into the water, and then the bottom of the boat lift up against the dock,” said Frederickson, the dock master at Fairfax Yacht Club.

The unattended 35-foot boat started taking on water, and then its left side tilted down allowing it to sink five feet to the bottom. No one was on board and no injuries were reported.

The boat then began leaking gasoline into the river, then Fairfax fire and rescue officials and the Coast Guard were called.

Fire officials floated booms in the water to contain the gasoline seeping from the boat, said Frederickson. They look much like the booms now being used off Louisiana’s gulf coast to contain the massive BP oil spill.

Frederickson also used “oil pads” Wednesday afternoon that float on top of the water to help soak up the gasoline. He said there were no signs of oil leaking from the boat.

 The Coast Guard also used ties to secure the right side of the boat, which was exposed from the water, to the boat dock to keep it from sinking further.

It’s estimated the sunken boat caused about $5,000 damage to slip where it was docked.

Divers will be called in Thursday to place objects described as pillows that will placed under the sunken craft. They will be inflated with air, which will help right the boat. It will will then be lifted out of the water, said Frederickson.

The sunken boat drew the attention of others at the yacht club.

“Sure the boat has sunk, but everything seems to be OK, and were glad to hear it’s not oil thats leaking out; just gas, and it’s OK because gas evaporates,” said Joe Policastro of Fairfax.

*This story originally appeared on on Wednesday June 16, 2010.

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