Traffic & Transit
GAINESVILLE, Va. – It’s happened again – a trailer that was stopped on train tracks at U.S. 29 in Gainesville was swiped by a train.
No one was injured, but the accident has forced the closure of a portion of the busy commuter route just south of Interstate 66 near the Virginia Gateway shopping center. Police said the closed portion of the roadway will remain that way for at least another two to three hours while an investigation takes place.
Police said drivers in the area will need to follow police direction to get around the road closure. Those who need to go to the area should find another route, police added.
This latest closure comes after a train collided with an SUV at the same location just before Christmas last year. No one was injured in that collision, but investigators said the SUV had come to a stop on the tracks in heavy traffic and could not clear the area as the train approached.
A project from the Virginia Department of Transportation is underway to build a grade-separated interchange that will allow drivers to pass over the train tracks. The project is expected to be completed in 2015.
By URIAH KISER
DUMIFRIES, Va. – It’ll be easy access for those who will live in the Potomac Shores neighborhood and town center being built along the Potomac River.
But for residents of Dumfries and commuters in Prince William County, a new traffic plan will mean drivers will no longer be able to make left turns at the busy intersection of U.S. 1 and Va. 234, will require drivers to use a series of new connector roads, and will force more traffic through the Route 234 Commuter Lot.
Developers of the new Potomac Shores neighborhood said the plan will bring more capacity to U.S. 1 and Va. 234 and improve traffic flow. They took questions from the Dumfries Town Council on Tuesday night, all of whom overwhelming oppose the interchange configuration that comes with a plan to extend the existing six-lane Harbor Station Parkway to U.S. 1, then renaming it Potomac Shores Parkway, and then building a cul-de-sac on Old Stage Coach Road preventing access to U.S. 1.
“This is a slow death of Dumfries,” said Councilwoman Gwen Washington. “I’ve lived here all my life, and with this new road configuration, with its loops to loops to get somewhere, if I didn’t already live here I would not come down here to visit or frequent the businesses after something like this was built.”
No left turns
As it stands, the junction at U.S. 1 and Va. 234 is a four-way intersection. Drivers headed north on U.S. 1 can turn left on Va. 234 and access Interstate 95 or travel to Manassas.
But in the new plan left turns would no longer be allowed here. Those who wanted to turn left from U.S. 1 onto Va. 234 and head north will instead have to continue on U.S. 1 north for about a block to a new signalized intersection, then turn left onto a planned connector road that would tie in with Wayside Drive at the entrance to Southbridge and the Route 234 Commuter lot, and then proceed up a hill through the commuter lot, enter a large roundabout, and then proceed to another traffic light at Va. 234 where they can turn right and continue to I-95 or Manassas.
Drivers who now use southbound Va. 234 and turn left onto U.S. 1 north would, under the new plan, follow the reverse pattern and would have to drive through the commuter lot on the Wayside Drive connector road to U.S. 1 and then turn left to proceed north into Woodbridge.
A wall and connector roads
All of this is contingent on a plan to extend Harbor Station Parkway (renamed Potomac Shores Parkway) to U.S. 1. Currently, U.S. 1, Va. 234, and the small two-lane Old Stage Coach Road all intersect. Under the plan, Old Stage Coach Road would no longer intersect and would be turned into a cul-de-sac, and a new 2,200-square foot retaining would be built to support the newly extended Potomac Shores Parkway.
It’s in this area on U.S. 1, just prior to the intersection with Va. 234 but past the junction with Wayside Drive, another four-lane connector road would be built to carry traffic from southbound U.S. 1 onto Potomac Shores Parkway. Drivers would not be able to turn left from U.S. 1 onto Potomac Shores Parkway under the new plan.
Potomac Shores developers also say this second four-lane connector road could some day be extended to rejoin U.S. 1 in the area of Tripoli Boulevard.
Truck traffic also a concern
The Potomac Shores development, now under construction, has changed owners three times since the economic recession hit in 2007. Originally, town officials said, the first owner of the project — known then as Harbor Station — was going to build a grade-separated interchange and flyover at U.S. 1 and Va. 234. All of the newly proposed improvements are at-grade fixes.
Dumfries Mayor Jerry Foreman doubts the connector road would eventually be built and extended to the area of Tripoli Boulevard.
“We’ve been talking since 1981 about improving Route 1 in the town, and in the past year we’re finally staring to get somewhere,” said a skeptical Foreman. “If this connector road is going to be built it has to happen now.”
Town officials are also concerned about a new ethanol transfer station being built on Cockpit Point Road. It’s just across the town border in Prince William County, but town officials expect at least 50 trucks a day to travel between U.S. 1 and the transfer station via Cockpit Point Road, and officials say this new road configuration could make it more difficult to get those trucks in and out.
Impacts to McDonalds
Intersection improvements will also impact a busy strip of businesses along the south side of Va. 234, where a McDonalds, Taco Bell, a 7-Eleven, Shell gas station, and a dry cleaner all sit. Dumfries Town Manager Daniel Taber said those businesses bring in a significant chunk of revenue for town coffers – up to $450,000 per year.
It’s here a new service road would be constructed under the new plan, where drivers would only be able to access these shops at a signal at the Wayside Drive connector road and the commuter lot.
Councilman Charles Brewer said business owners don’t approve of the plan, and he fears they’ll move elsewhere if the service road is constructed.
Potomac Shores developers said all plans for the intersection improvements have been vetted through the Virginia Department of Transportation.
News from Content Partner PRTC
WOODBRIDGE, Va. – The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) has revised its OmniRide Tysons Express schedules now that the I-495 Express Lanes have opened and personnel have had an opportunity to gather new data about travel times.
By using the new Express toll lanes, which are free for buses and HOV 3+, PRTC has been able to reduce the travel time on its commuter bus service between Woodbridge and Tysons by an average of 20 minutes. That means Tysons Express riders can get to and from work even faster while still having “found time” during their commute – the time to do things one can’t do while driving such as snoozing, checking emails, reading a book and maybe even getting some work done through the free Wi-Fi available on the bus.
The new schedules, which took effect on February 18, are available in print and online at PRTCtransit.org.
Tysons Express buses serve two local stops: at the Woodbridge VRE station and the Route 123/ I-95 commuter lot, before taking the HOV lanes on I-95 and the Express Lanes on I-495 to Tysons. There, commuters have their choice of 16 destinations and also can connect to a shuttle serving eastern Tysons.
There are four Tysons Express trips in the mornings and five return trips in the afternoons. Easy transfers are available at the Woodbridge VRE station for those who ride VRE and live south of Prince William County. In fact, VRE monthly pass holders ride for free in the mornings when boarding the bus at the Woodbridge VRE station and only have to pay a bus fare for the evening commute. To encourage people to try Tysons Express, promotional fares are offered at $2.65 with a SmarTrip card or $3.30 cash.
The Tysons Express service is funded by Virginia Megaprojects – a partnership between the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
To learn more about Tysons Express or the other commuting options available through PRTC, call our Customer Service Office at (703) 730-6664 or visit PRTCtransit.org.
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Expect more closures this upcoming week on Interstate 95.
A large crane will be moved across a portion of the highway as part of work on the 95 Express Lane Project. The Virginia MegaProjects office said a portion of the highway at the Telegraph Road overpass in North Stafford will close for up to 30 minutes at time Wednesday night into early Thursday morning.
A good work around route to avoid the closures would be to use U.S. 1 between Joplin Road at Quantico and Garrisonville Road in Stafford.
The latest round of closures comes after a portion of the highway closed last week as power poles were installed at exit 148, near the back entrance to Quantico Marine Corps Base.
STAFFORD, Va. – The public will have a chance to hear a proposal to widen Courthouse Road in Stafford County west of Interstate 95.
The meeting takes place Wednesday, Feb. 20 from 5 to 8 p.m. Plans from the Virginia Department of Transportation include widening the road from two to four lanes between Cedar Lane and Winding Creek Road. The widening would make way for a traffic headed in and out of the new Embry Mill housing development, and comes as the transportation agency is looking to improve the interchange at I-95.
More about the meeting in a press release:
The public is invited to attend a public hearing on Wednesday, February 20 to view the proposed design for the widening of Route 630 (Courthouse Road) west of Interstate 95 in Stafford County.
The hearing will be held:
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013
Colonial Forge High School
550 Courthouse Road
Stafford, VA 22554
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) staff and consultants will be available continuously from 5-8 p.m. at Colonial Forge High School to share proposed design plans and maps, answer questions, and accept written and oral comments on the project.
There will be no formal presentation at the hearing.
This project proposes widening approximately 2 miles of Route 630 from Route 732 (Cedar Lane) to 0.2 miles west of Route 628 (Ramoth Church Road/Winding Creek Road). This project would connect with the proposed I-95/Route 630 interchange modification project.
For anyone unable to attend the hearing, comments may also be submitted through the close of business on Monday, March 4, 2013.
Comments can be sent by email to: fredericksburginfo[at]VDOT.Virginia.Gov. Please reference “Route 630 widening project” in the subject line.Comments sent by mail, which must be postmarked by March 4, may be addressed to:
Mr. Kevin Northridge
Virginia Department of Transportation
87 Deacon Road
Stafford, VA 22405
LORTON, Va. – A crash has stalled traffic on Interstate 95 south at exit 163 in Lorton.
We don’t have much in the way of details on the crash, but traffic is delayed on the highway in the area of Lorton back to the Fairfax County Parkway.
The crash comes as delays on I-95 are building early on a busy Friday afternoon.
Virginia’s 511 website shows serious delays on the highway between Dale Boulevard and Dumfries, but the pace picks up as you head south into Stafford County.
By WHITNEY SPICER
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – A conference committee of 10 legislators has less than a week and a half to hammer out a compromise between the House and Senate versions of a bill to increase transportation funding in Virginia.
The committee was named after the Senate on Wednesday passed a version of House Bill 2313 that differs greatly from the document approved by delegates last week.
As approved by the Senate on a 26-14 vote, HB 2313 would raise Virginia’s gasoline tax from 17.5 cents per gallon to 22.5 cents per gallon. In contrast, the House version of HB 2313 would get rid of the gas tax entirely and raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.
The House version reflects Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposals for pumping more than $3 billion in road and transit projects over the next five years.
The Senate’s version of the bill would not provide transportation as much money from the state’s general fund as McDonnell originally proposed. Both the House and Senate versions would raise vehicle registration fees.
“The takeaway from today’s action by the Senate of Virginia on House Bill 2313 is that the discussion over transportation will continue right up until the end of the 2013 session,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg.
Norment was one of the 14 Republicans who voted against the Senate substitute for HB 2313.
After the Senate approved its version of HB 2313, the bill went back to the House for consideration. Delegates rejected the Senate version on a 19-78 vote.
As a result, the two chambers appointed a conference committee to try to put together a bill both side can agree on before the General Assembly’s session ends on Feb. 23.
McDonnell said that if the committee can agree upon “a fiscally responsible plan,” he will sign it into law.
Although most Republican senators voted against the Senate version of HB 2313, six voted for it. They were joined by all 20 Democratic senators.
“In casting their votes on the Senate substitute to House Bill 2313 today, Republican senators represented the best interests of the people of their respective districts,” Norment said. “For most, that meant opposing this plan. For others, it meant a favorable vote, in some cases in the expressed interest of getting a bill into conference.”
The conference committee will have eight Republicans and two Democrats.
The House appointed as its conferees Republican Delegates John O’Bannon of Henrico, Chris Jones of Suffolk, Beverly Sherwood of Frederick, and Dave Albo of Fairfax, as well as Democratic Delegate Onzlee Ware of Roanoke.
The Senate appointed at its conferences Republican Sens. Norment, Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach, Walter Stosch of Henrico, and John Watkins of Powhatan, as well as Democratic Sen. Janet Howell of Fairfax.
“The task before these conferees will not be easy,” said House Speaker William Howell. “But I know they are committed to addressing Virginia’s long-term transportation needs.”
With only10 days remaining in the session, McDonnell urged the conferees to work hard to reach common ground, laying out specifically what that would entail.
“That common ground must include a significant commitment of the projected future growth in the general fund revenues, greater reliance on sustainable revenue sources which grow with economic activity, as opposed to gasoline tax increases, and sufficient revenues to address maintenance crossover, construction, passenger rail, and transit needs without over burdening our citizens and businesses with taxes,” McDonnell said.
“We must act now. We must pass a plan this session. To do so will ensure that Virginia remains the top state in which to live, work, and raise a family.”
STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Route 637 (Telegraph Road) in Stafford County will be closed to all traffic next week between Route 1 and Route 639 (Woodstock Lane) so workers can relocate a water line.
The half-mile stretch of road will be closed to traffic from Tuesday, Feb. 19 through Friday, Feb. 22. The road will close at approximately 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning, and will remain closed through approximately 5 p.m. Friday.
Telegraph Road intersects with Route 1 at two locations. The section that is closing next week is located at the southern intersection with Route 1.
Motorists will be directed to use Woodstock Lane to reach Route 1. Detour signs and electronic message boards will be posted on Monday, Feb. 18 to direct drivers.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and its contractor, Corman Construction, Inc., are replacing an 88-year-old bridge on Route 1 over Aquia Creek to improve the infrastructure on this primary road.
Workers must move a nearby water line as part of this project. Telegraph Road must be closed next week so workers can access the tie-in point to the water system.
The $5.5 million bridge project began in December, and will conclude in August 2015. Although single-lane closures will be needed for brief periods of construction, all four lanes of Route 1 will be maintained for the majority of this project.
FALMOUTH, Va. – Demolition work is proceeding at the Falmouth Intersection Improvement Project in Stafford County, as the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) clears the way for construction of new turn lanes and through lanes.
Three structures will be demolished at the intersection (Route 1/Route 17 Business/Route 218) in February, starting this past Monday.
On Monday, Feb. 11, demolition work will begin on the structure on the southwest corner of the intersection, and will conclude by Wednesday, Feb. 13.
On Thursday, Feb. 14 and Friday, Feb. 15, a structure at 20 Butler Road will be demolished.
Demolition will begin on the southeast corner of the intersection on Monday, Feb. 18. Due to the size of this structure, demolition is expected to take several weeks.
No lane closures are required for this work, which will occur during daytime hours.
Demolition contractor S.B. Cox, Inc., of Richmond is submitting final demolition plans for the remaining four structures to be removed at the intersection.
All historic documentation work is now complete, and all asbestos inspections are complete, a federal requirement prior to demolition.
The next project phase is utility relocation, which will occur from March to November 2013.
VDOT has approved all necessary planning and engineering studies needed to start utility relocation. Work to co-locate several utilities in a key central duct bank will begin by Friday, March 1.
The project will be advertised to bidders for construction in November 2013, with construction activity at the intersection beginning in early 2014. The project will be completed in 2015.
By PAIGE BAXTER
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – A Senate bill that would have banned smoking in cars carrying children under age 15 was tabled Friday by a House committee.
Senate Bill 975, proposed by Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, had passed the Senate on Jan. 31 on a vote of 30-10. It then “crossed over” to the House for consideration.
Initially, the bill was assigned to the House Courts of Justice Committee. On Wednesday, that panel sent the bill to the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.
On Friday, the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee tabled the legislation by voice vote. That likely kills the issue for this legislative session.
SB 975 sought to prohibit adults from smoking in a motor vehicle when a minor under 15 is present. Violators would have been subject to a $100 civil penalty.
By WHITNEY SPICER
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – Three days after Senate Democrats derailed his transportation funding plan, Gov. Bob McDonnell urged two key Democratic senators to support the House version of his proposal.
McDonnell sent a letter Friday to Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw of Fairfax and Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico. McDonnell encouraged them to pass House Bill 2313, which contains his proposals to eliminate the state’s gasoline tax, increase the sales tax and raise vehicle registration fees to fund billions of dollars in road and transit projects.
“While we can disagree on the specific mechanisms for addressing our growing transportation challenges, we cannot disagree on the fact that the problems must be addressed this session, without excuse,” McDonnell said in the three-page letter.
On Tuesday, Democrats in the evenly divided Senate blocked the Senate version of McDonnell’s transportation funding plan. However, since the HB 2313 cleared the House, it now goes to the Senate. It has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
The governor stated that although he was dismayed by the Democrats’ actions, he felt heartened by their recent indications that they would work to reach a common ground.
“Successfully navigating a solution through the General Assembly requires reasonable compromise,” McDonnell said. “While I prefer the elements of our original approach, I am willing to discuss other options, provided we stay reasonably within the overall goals proposed in our bill.”
“It will take cooperation among all of us to get this done,” he added.
McDonnell commended the House for passing HB 2313 (the vote was 53-46) and encouraged the Senate to do the same.
It’s likely the Senate will modify HB 2313, according to Delegate Margaret Ransone, R-Kinsale, who voted for the bill.
“It is my opinion the legislation will alter a bit, but this is an important step to help the commonwealth solve a major crisis,” Ransone said.
In his letter, McDonnell addressed Democratic opposition to the use of general funds for transportation. He said no bill is likely to pass the General Assembly without that provision. He labeled as “simply inaccurate” the contention that this provision would take funding away from programs such as public education and health care.
According to McDonnell, more than 80 percent of Virginians support passing a transportation plan this year.
“We are on the precipice of enacting the first significant sustainable transportation funding bill in a generation,” McDonnell said. “Failure will be a great disserve to the people of Virginia.”
QUANTICO, Va. – Construction crews will close a portion of Interstate 95 on Tuesday night as part of the 95 Express Lanes Project.
The closures are set to take place at Quantico.
More in a press release:
Weather permitting, beginning Tuesday, February 12, after midnight the Virginia Department of Transportation will be implementing intermittent full road closures on I-95 north and south at mile marker 147 near Marine Corps Base Quantico, Exit 148 for utility work. The closures will take place between midnight and 4 a.m. with up to six stoppages of 15 minutes each as Dominion Power removes and installs overhead electrical wires to support the future 95 Express Lanes.
Motorist may experience delays of up to ten minutes. The last exit before work zone heading north is Garrisonville Road, and heading south is Joplin Road. Signs and message boards will be posted along the corridor to inform motorist of construction activities. State police will be onsite directing traffic.
U.S. 1 runs parallel to I-95, and drivers can access it prior to the construction area at Exits 143 at Garrisonville Road in North Stafford and 150 at Jopin Road in Quantico.
The nearly $1 billion public-private project is an effort to not only convert the reversible HOV lanes to toll lanes on I-95 from Dumfries to the Pentagon, but to also build two new reversible toll lanes from Dumfries to Garrisonville Road in North Stafford.
In the extended stretch of the lanes, a new flyover ramp is being built just south of Va. 234 in Dumfries that will allow southbound traffic to leave the toll lanes and rejoin traffic on the main portion of the highway. At the terminus of the lanes at Garrisonville Road, a new flyover ramp will also carry drivers off the toll lanes back into the regular lanes of I-95 to provide access to North Stafford and areas south.
WOODBRIDGE, Va. – OmniLink buses will sport an updated look soon as five new local buses are expected to start serving passengers of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) by mid-February.
The new paint scheme features shades of teal above the windows and a solid teal band below the windows. The bottom half of the bus is white. Repeated through the design is the circular logo that PRTC uses to denote its various services.
“Passengers who are used to standing at the bus stop and scanning the roadway for a white bus will have to make a colorful adjustment,” said PRTC Executive Director Alfred Harf, noting that this is the first time the OmniLink paint scheme has been revamped in more than 10 years.
The 30-foot-long buses were manufactured in California and arrived at PRTC in late January and early February. Although their exterior is different, the buses continue to offer seating for 30 passengers and a bike rack for those who want to ride to and from their bus stops. The new buses will not be assigned to specific areas but will be rotated throughout the service area in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park.
When the new buses are placed into service, five OmniLink buses that were purchased in 2004 will be moved into PRTC’s contingency fleet to be called back into service as needed. This will mark the first time that PRTC has been able to create an OmniLink contingency fleet, Harf said. Older OmniLink buses in the active and contingency fleets will not be re-painted with the new design.
Later in 2013, PRTC expects to take delivery of 11 additional new OmniLink buses, replacing the remaining 2004 models. Once those new buses are in service, most of the older OmniLink buses will be sold. OmniLink-type buses have a minimum service life of 10 years or 350,000 miles (whichever comes first) by standards set by the Federal Transit Administration.
The five new OmniLink buses cost $384,000 each and are being paid for with a combination of 80% state funding and 20% local funding.
By WHITNEY SPICER and ALIX HINES
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed his disgust after his transportation funding package was derailed by Senate Democrats late Tuesday.
Although the House version of the governor’s transportation plan had passed earlier in the day, the Senate Democrats had a different idea. All 20 Democratic senators vowed to vote against the bill, blocking it for this legislative session.
“Rather than engaging in a debate on how to move forward with tackling our transportation problems, it is apparent that the Senate Democrats are once again content to risk our continued economic prosperity and our citizens’ quality of life,” McDonnell said afterward.
McDonnell’s transportation proposal would replace the state’s gasoline tax with a higher sales tax and vehicle registration fees. That was the focus of House Bill 2313 and Senate Bill 1355.
The governor’s hopes were raised when the Republican-controlled House of Delegates passed HB 2313, a step toward funding “Virginia’s Road to the Future,” McDonnell’s plan to invest $3 billion in road and transit projects over the next five years.
“Our citizens have told us loud and clear that now is the time to get something done on transportation. They deserve a modern, well-funded transportation system that will get them to work and home on time, without delay,” McDonnell said after the 53-46 vote in the House.
HB 2313 would eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax. At the same time, it would raise the sales tax in Virginia from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. The bill also would raise the registration fee for private vehicles from $33 a year to $48.
Delegates amended HB 2313 to delete an additional fee for hybrid car owners and to prohibit tolls on Interstate 95.
House Democrats criticized the legislation.
“It patches potholes instead of dealing with the severe congestion that cost Virginia our coveted ranking as the best state to do business. It eliminates the gas tax and lets snowbirds traveling to Florida for the winter ride free, while seniors shopping at K-Mart pay a bigger sales tax,” said Delegate Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax.
In the evenly divided Senate, the Democratic opposition doomed SB 1355, raising the specter of a 20-20 tie vote. And because the matter involved revenue, Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who presides over the Senate, could not break the tie in the GOP’s favor.
Sen. Stephen D. Newman, R-Lynchburg, offered a substitute that would ditch the proposed increases in sales tax and vehicle registration fees. Senate Democrats voted as a whole to scrap that idea as well. They were joined by two Republican senators – Emmett Hanger of Mount Solon and John Watkins of Midlothian.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr., R-James City, criticized Democrats for their refusal to pass SB 1355.
“Senate Democrats have been absent throughout the process, and that has been their choice,” Norment said. “Their vote today put an exclamation point on their position regarding transportation: They have no plan other than to say ‘no’ to every plan presented.”
McDonnell echoed Norment’s sentiments.
Democratic senators “chose to vote on strictly partisan lines,” the governor said. “The Democratic caucus repeatedly said no to improving transportation in Virginia.”
The Senate’s vote sent SB 1355 back to the Senate Finance Committee. That means it is dead for the session, because Tuesday was the deadline for bills to win approval from their originating chamber.
All is not lost for McDonnell’s plan, however. After clearing the House, HB 2313 now moves to the Senate; it has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
McDonnell praised House members for keeping his plan alive.
“Thankfully, their action means a transportation bill is still advancing this session, despite today’s partisan blockade by Democrats in the State Senate. It is now past time that the Senate Democrats support their constituents and get serious about tackling the challenges facing Virginia’s transportation system,” the governor said.
More than 50 business, labor and transportation groups have endorsed McDonnell’s plan. However, it has drawn opposition not only from Democrats but also from some conservative organizations.
For instance, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, issued a statement shortly after the Senate’s rejection of SB 1355. He called the action a “victory for Virginia taxpayers.”
“The defeat of SB 1355 demonstrates that the state Senate understands that the governor’s transportation proposal was not the best solution to Virginia’s transportation needs,” Norquist said.
Video By AL ALBORN
RICHMOND, Va. – Fresh from the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates, Delegate Rich Anderson,R-51, Prince William County, shares information about House Bill 1907 that bans driving while texting. Please watch this short video for Anderson’s update.
Man, I hate the cold.
That taste of 70-degree weather was such a tease, just to be followed by a dusting of snow at the end of the week. And unless the snow is significant enough to close the government, or at least get us a telework day, I’m not interested.
I hate walking our puppy in the snow; it’s too distracting for him and he only wants to eat the snow or play in it. I hate cleaning my car off in the morning, and I don’t drive well in icy conditions (really, does anyone?). But more than anything else, I dread slugging in the cold.
The walk from my car to the slug line in the morning and back in the evening seems so much longer in the cold, especially with that biting wind and all the nasty rain and snow we’ve had lately. It’s almost painful just to stand in the slug line, counting down the number of riders in front of you before you’re in a warm car.
As much as I love slugging, cold, dreary weather can make it pretty miserable. And the unpredictability of slugging, of not knowing how long you’ll be waiting in the slug line, freezing and shivering and pathetic, well, that’s pretty much the worst.
If you don’t slug, you may think I’m being overly dramatic. And if you do slug, and you hate the cold as much as I do, you know just how right I am about this.
Yesterday evening, I left my office just after 5 p.m. and, much to my dismay, walked out the door to find a very long slug line filled with people headed for the Horner Road Commuter lot in Woodbridge. My heart sank, as it usually does when this happens, and I trudged to the end of the line. Five minutes passed and then 10, then 20. It seemed the slug line was barely moving, and I silently cursed each car that created any sort of obstruction in the road, preventing slug drivers from possibly getting to us faster.
I tried counting all of the people waiting ahead of me in line, but stopped after about 12. It seemed hopeless. What if it gets too close to 6 p.m. when the restrictions are lifted in the HOV lanes, and I end up on the bus again? I stayed pretty calm when that happened last week, but I may not be able to handle it again tonight.
Finally, I got closer to the front of the line, but I refused to get my hopes up. I made that mistake last week, and then waited at the very front of the line until after 6 p.m. but wound up taking the Metro back to the Pentagon to take the commuter bus to my car to drive home. Yeah, it’s a trip.
I just couldn’t do it again.
Checking the time again, I continued to worry. After 5:30 p.m., and still no ride. And I wasn’t even next in line! Tomorrow, I need to bring gloves, I reminded myself. My hands were nearly frozen and I could picture them sitting in the passenger seat of my car, right where I left them that morning.
Next thing I knew, we were moving up again. Two people were in a car, with another car waiting behind them, and there went the next two. Finally, I was at the front of the line, and a few minutes later, there was my sweet, sweet chariot (or Ford Explorer, but whatever).
It was about 35 minutes of unpleasantly cold, sheer torture overall, but getting into that warm and toasty SUV and napping on the way back to the commuter lot was just what I needed. Of course, the bus runs on a more predictable timetable, but when something throws that schedule off, you can be stuck waiting, or worse – standing in the aisle the whole ride home. My preference is almost always to slug. Besides the possible wait time, it’s just faster than any other alternative.
As much as I hate the cold weather, I don’t love sweating in the scorching hot sun in the summertime, either. I’m sure I’ll be complaining about that in a few months, but for now, I’m just so over winter. Bring on the heat!
Laura Cirillo works for the federal government and lives in Prince William County
By SAM ISAACS
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – Members of the House and Senate are optimistic that at least some of the 10 bills to crack down on texting while driving will make it past the legislative deadline called crossover day.
At the start of the session, three such bills were filed in the Senate bills and seven in the House. If a bill has not made it out of the House or Senate by Tuesday, it is left on table for the year. Beginning Wednesday, the House can consider only bills approved by the Senate, and the Senate can consider only legislation passed by the House.
Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, is the chief patron of two of the Senate bills. He is hopeful the legislation will make it past crossover.
“We have been trying this for a few years and have been gradually making progress. I think the odds look good this year,” Barker said.
Last year, his bill to increase the penalties for texting while driving passed the Senate but died in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.
This year, Barker is sponsoring Senate Bill 1160, which would increase the fine for texting while driving to $200 for a first offense and $500 dollars for a second offense. (The existing penalties are $20 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offense. They were set in 2009 when the General Assembly passed the current law against texting while driving.)
SB 1160 also would make texting while driving a primary offense. Currently, it is a secondary offense, meaning drivers can be charged only if they have been stopped for another violation.
Barker’s other bill, SB 1238, would make texting while driving punishable as reckless driving. Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, has a similar proposal, SB 1222.
All three Senate bills will be heard in Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Monday [Feb. 4]. If approved by the committee, they will go to the full Senate.
The seven House bills have been folded into one – HB 1907, proposed by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge.
HB 1907 mirrors Barker’s bill: It would make texting while driving a primary offense and drastically increase the fines for an infraction. Anderson said this could be the year such a bill passes.
“It has a strong support, and a lot of people are committed to it. In prior years, there wasn’t as much focus on how much of a real danger this is,” he said.
Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax, said a recent event had a strong influence on the General Assembly’s attitude toward texting – a “tragedy to the highest extreme.”
In May 2011, Kyle Rowley, a college student, was killed by man presumed to be texting while driving in Fairfax County. When the case went to trial this past September, the judged dropped the reckless driving charge against the driver.
The reason: The penalty for texting while driving is $20, and the offense counts as a minor traffic infraction. The judge ruled that it could not count as reckless driving.
“The situation was shocking to the General Assembly. We were appalled,” Bulova said. “You could see why the judge would rule that way. He wasn’t wrong; we were.”
On Friday, the House Courts of Justice Committee unanimously approved HB 1907. It is now before the full House of Delegates.
Bulova hopes the bipartisan support in the House and Senate will make 2013 the year Virginia targets texting while driving.
“We want to send a strong message that it is the driver’s primary responsibility to pay attention and monitor themselves while they drive,” she said.
The Status of Anti-texting Bills
Here are the bills that would increase the penalties for texting while driving.
In the House, the main bill is HB 1907, proposed by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge. The full House of Delegates is scheduled to vote on the proposal. Six bills have been incorporated into this legislation. They are:
· HB 1357, by Delegate Thomas Rust, R-Herndon
· HB 1360, by Delegate Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst
· HB 1495, by Delegate Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg
· HB 1540, by Delegate Vivian Watts, D-Annandale
· HB 1848, by Delegate G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond
· HB 1883, by Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax
In the Senate, three bills are before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. They are SB 1160 and SB 1238, by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria; and SB 1222, by Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg.
By WHITNEY SPICER
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Bob McDonnell has reason to celebrate after the House Finance Committee on Wednesday approved a key part of the transportation plan that he hopes will define his term.
“Our effort to enact a long-term solution to Virginia’s transportation funding challenges took a major step forward,” McDonnell said. “I am pleased that legislators from both parties voted in support of our plan.”
The committee voted 14-8 in favor of House Bill 2313, which would finance McDonnell’s plan, which he calls “Virginia’s Road to the Future.”
The 14 committee members who supported the plan included 10 Republicans (Delegates Richard Anderson of Woodbridge, Richard Bell of Staunton, Scott Garrett of Lynchburg, Chris Head of Roanoke, Tim Hugo of Centreville, Israel O’Quinn of Bristol, Bobby Orrock of Thornburg, Brenda Pogge of Yorktown, Harry Purkey of Virginia Beach and Ronald Villanueva of Virginia Beach) and four Democrats (Matthew James of Portsmouth, Joseph Johnson of Abingdon, Mark Keam of Vienna and Lynnwood Lewis of Accomac).
The eight committee members who opposed the plan included five Republicans (Delegates Kathy Byron of Lynchburg, Benjamin Cline of Amherst, Mark Cole of Fredericksburg, Bob Marshall of Manassas and Lee Ware of Powhatan) and three Democrats (Betsy Carr of Richmond, Eileen Filler-Corn of Springfield Vivian Watts of Annandale).
The committee’s action clears the way for the full House to vote on the bill.
“The can has been kicked for too long, and Virginians deserve a modern, well-funded transportation system that will get them to work and home on time, without delay,” McDonnell said afterward.
The transportation funding and reform package would invest more than $3.1 billion over the next five years into Virginia’s highways and transit systems. The plan also would make Virginia the first state in the nation to eliminate its 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax, which the governor said has been a declining source of revenue. Instead, the sales tax in Virginia would increase from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.
“With today’s vote, we are one step closer to delivering the long-term transportation fix that Virginians both want and deserve,” said House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford.
But not everyone was satisfied with the governor’s proposal. The House Democratic Caucus said the governor’s plan focused too much on road maintenance and not enough on Virginia’s infrastructure needs.
Hugo, who carried the bill along with Howell, said that he applauded his fellow delegates for offering alternative proposals but that he believed the governor’s plan would “stop the bleeding on the transportation trust fund.”
According to the “Virginia’s Road to the Future” website, launched by the governor this week, the transportation plan would provide funding for 158 highway projects throughout the state, including improving interstate paving, secondary system bridges and unpaved roads.
Although the bill overcame a major hurdle yesterday, it still must pass the House and Senate before becoming law.
“This first vote clearly demonstrates a growing, and bipartisan, consensus that transportation is a core function of government,” McDonnell said. “I look forward to continuing to work with legislators in both chambers, and from both parties, to see this plan passed into law, and get traffic moving again in Virginia.”
Snow is in the forecast for tonight and the Virginia Department of Transportation is already planning to treat the roads.
About an inch of snow could fall on the region, states the National Weather Service.
More in a press release from VDOT:
With up to an inch of snow forecast for Friday morning and pavement temperatures at only 25 degrees, the Virginia Department of Transportation is urging motorists to check road conditions ahead of their commute, and to limit travel or use caution.
Today, crews are pre-treating roads in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. On interstates 66, 95, 395, and 495—including bridges and ramps prone to freezing such as the Springfield interchange, I-66 at Route 29 and the Capital Beltway interchange at Route 1—crews use liquid magnesium chloride. Problem spots on other major roads, such as the Fairfax County Parkway and routes 1, 7, 28, 29, 50 and 123, are pre-treated with salt brine.
Beginning at midnight, about 350 trucks will be on hand to treat roads in northern Virginia.
VDOT reminds motorists to use caution when driving during wintry weather. Drivers should:
• Check current weather, road conditions and traffic before traveling at www.511Virginia.org or by calling 511
• Slow down and allow for extra time to reach your destination
• Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges
• Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road
Click here for more information on northern Virginia’s snow removal program, and report road problems to 1-800-FOR-ROAD or novainfo[at]vdot.virginia.gov.
WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Virginia State Police are searching for suspect whose car collided with a police cruiser this morning at Prince William Parkway and Interstate 95.
More in a press release:
At 9:21 a.m., Virginia State Police Trooper C. Lanfranchi Jr. stopped a 1994 Buick sedan on Route 3000/Prince William County Parkway near the I-95 interchange. The traffic stop was for expired license plates on the car. As the trooper walked up to the car, the Buick sped away. A pursuit was initiated.
Approximately 8 minutes later, the suspect vehicle and the trooper’s vehicle collided. The Buick’s driver and passenger then fled on foot. State police, with the assistance of air support and tracking canines, searched the immediate area for the two black males who ran from the scene. By noon the search efforts were discontinued as the subjects were nowhere to be found.
The trooper was not injured in the crash.
Anyone with information concerning these individuals is asked to call Virginia State Police at 703-803-0026 or #77 on their cell phone.
FALMOUTH, Va. – If you normally cross the Falmouth Bridge from Fredericksburg into to Stafford County during your morning commute, we don’t need to tell you traffic was snarled this morning.
It happened about 5 a.m. after a crew performing parapet work on the bridge was cleaning up from overnight work when their bucket truck struck an overhanging light fixture on the bridge.
With concern the fixture could fall, traffic was diverted off of the bridge and onto nearby River Road for about an hour, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.
The bridge was later reopened to traffic late Wednesday morning and was running without incident that afternoon.
Hannon said this morning’s incident on the bridge does not mirror one last year where a cantilever sign fell onto Interstate 66 in Fairfax County. Following the sign’s failure, many cantilever signs were inspected and in some cases, at Va. 610 and at Prince William Parkway and I-95, signs had to be taken down and relpaced with more secure ones.
The Falmouth Bridge is set to undergo a $24 million rehabilitation that should begin early next year and be complete in 2016. Right now, the sidewalk is being replaced.