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Traffic & Transit

New Haymarket I-66 interchange unlike anything in region

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A new interchange to be built in Haymarket will be radically different from anything else in the region.

A “diverging diamond interchange,” or DDI, will be constructed at the intersection of Route 15 and Interstate 66.
What’s different about this interchange? Traffic will travel on the left side of road when passing through it.

“For a second, it feels like you’re driving in Brittain,” said Virginia Transportation spokesman Mike Murphy.

The DDI, will cost $59 million to build. It will eliminate the need for left turns, reducing the number of cars that line up at a signal light to enter I-66 east or west.

Traffic will move through the intersection in two phases, with vehicles traveling north on Route 15 getting a green light to move. When the light turns red, vehicles traveling south on Route 15 into Haymarket will then get a green light and then proceed.

Here’s a video of what the project will look like when completed:

Two new, longer bridges will be a part of the DDI, as well as new ramp improvements to include a spur ramp to ease traffic congestion for vehicles exiting I-66 west to Route 15 north.

Intersections at Route 15 and Route 55 in on the south side of the DDI in Haymarket, and at Route 15 and Heathcote Boulevard on the north side will be widened.

A 10-foot shared-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians will also be added on the east side of Route 15.
Construction on the DDI will begin this fall. It should take one year to build.

This will be the first interchange of its kind in Northern Virginia, and second along Route 15. Virginia’s first DDI opened at the intersection of Route 15 and I-64 near Charlottesville.

There are also plans to build a DDI at the intersection of I-95 and Courthouse Road in Stafford County. A public hearing on that project will be held in late September, according to VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.

Two more DDIs are planned in Roanoke and Blacksburg.

River Road in Stafford closed August 20

River Road in StafUntitledford will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on August 20.

More from a Stafford release:

River Road will be closed to through traffic on Thursday, August 20, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail will also be closed to through traffic at the River Road crosswalk from Pratt Park to the Historic Port of Falmouth Park.

A raised crosswalk is being installed on River Road between the two parks on the Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail. The entrance to Pratt Park on River Road will remain accessible to visitors as well as the entrance to the Historic Port of Falmouth Park. River Road will close just east of the Historic Port of Falmouth parking lot entrance and west of the Pratt Park entrance. No through traffic will be allowed on the Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail from the Pratt Park side to the Historic Port of Falmouth side.

Signs will advise motorists of detours on Chatham Heights Road and Butler Road/Route 17.

Fatal crash on I-95 in Stafford investigated

Virginia State Police are looking into the cause of a fatal crash on Interstate 95 in Stafford County early  Sunday morning. 

Here’s information from state police: 

At 5:14 am, Sunday (Aug 9), Virginia State Police Sr. Trooper H. Jaime Jr., responded to a single-vehicle crash along Interstate 95 in Stafford County at the 131 mile marker.

A car traveling south on I-95 ran off the left side of the road and caught fire. The driver, and only occupant of the vehicle, died at the scene. The driver’s remains were transported to the Office of the Medical examiner in Richmond for examination, autopsy and positive identification.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

VDOT to host meeting on I-66, Route 15 interchange in Haymarket, Aug. 12

There will be a meeting to talk about the I-66 and Route 15 interchange project this week.

The meeting will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on August 12, at Ronald Reagan Middle School in Haymarket, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

According to VDOT, work on the project will begin this summer, to handle congestion and make the interchange safer by adding a diverging diamond interchange (DDI).

More on the project improvements planned, from a VDOT release:

Two new bridges to carry U.S. 15 over I-66 with two crossover intersections;
Ramp improvements (including a spur ramp to ease traffic flow from westbound I-66 to northbound U.S. 15 to westbound Heathcote Boulevard);
Improvements on U.S. 15 from just north of the railroad tracks to just south of Heathcote Boulevard;
Improvements to the intersections on U.S. 15 at Heathcote Boulevard and Route 55; and
A 10-foot-wide shared-use path on the west side of U.S. 15 for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Rinker Design Associates were awarded the contract, according to VDOT.

VDOT stated the interchange project is scheduled to be completed in Fall 2017.

Gas main replacement underway in Manassas

Updated Aug. 11

The new gas main should be in place by the end of the month. Here’s more from Columbia Gas spokesman Robert Innes: 

Columbia Gas of Virginia is replacing 780′ of 4″plastic gas main on Portner Av between West St and Main St. in collaboration with the City of Manassas new storm and water project. There are four Columbia Gas of Virginia customer service lines in the 9200 and 9300 blocks of Portner Avenue which are involved in this project. Each customer will be notified in advance of the need to transfer the existing service line to the new natural gas main. The customer will be temporarily without service as we complete this work. This transfer should take a couple of hours. When the service line is transferred to the new natural gas main, Columbia Gas technicians will perform a safety check and relight the customer’s natural gas equipment. The project is expected to be completed by the end of August.

Aug 10, 2015

Crews are working to replace a gas main on Portner Avenue in Manassas.

The new pipes are made of anti-corrosive materials, Manassas spokeswoman Patty Prince stated in an email.
Columbia Gas is overseeing the installation, we’re told. We’re awaiting more information about how long this project will take and how many customers will be affected.

Manassas police drivers would expect a portion of Portner Avenue in this residential section of Manassas to be closed today.

Motorcyclist killed in Route 1 crash outside Quantico

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12:50 p.m.

Prince William police have identified the motorcyclist killed in this morning’s crash.

Following an investigation, Prince William police stated that a 2013 Honda Accord, driven by a 47-year old Fredericksburg man, was traveling south on Route 1, when it struck the victim, 31-year old King George man Dustin Schexnayder.

According to Prince William police, Schexnayder was driving in the middle of the roadway. Officers found the damaged motorcycle – a 2007 Hyosung GT650 – in a nearby wooded area.

Prince William police stated that while Schexnayder was driving the motorcycle, going south on Route 1, it left the roadway and hit a guard rail. After being hitting the guard rail and being separated from his motorcycle, the driver of the Honda Accord struck Schexnayder, stated Prince William police.

This is allegedly not the first time that Schexnayder has had an incident while driving a motorcycle. In July of 2014, he was involved in a crash with a driver in Georgia.Untitled

Prince William police are unsure if speed or alcohol were factors in the crash, or if Schexnayder was wearing a helmet. He was pronounced dead at the site of the accident.

9:35 a.m.

All lanes of Route 1 are now open in Stafford’s Russell Road area. Southbound lanes opened shortly before 9:10 a.m, stated VDOT.

8:55 a.m. 

Route 1 northbound lanes are now open, following this morning’s accident, according to VDOT.

The southbound lanes are still closed, and drivers are being detoured to Russell Road, so they can either access Interstate 95 South or Telegraph Road, stated VDOT.

Southbound Route 1 remains closed. Southbound motorists are being detoured to Russell Road, where they can access Interstate 95 southbound or Telegraph Road to proceed south on Route 1.

Russell Road remains open to all traffic traveling to Quantico Marine Corps Base, stated VDOT.

8:04 a.m.

A motorcyclist was hit and killed by a sedan underneath the Russell Road bridge, near the back entrance of Quantico Marine Corps Base in Stafford. 

Sources stated that the motorcyclist was dead at the scene, and that the driver of the sedan stayed at the crash site, for law enforcement officers to arrive. 

Three people were in the sedan at the time of the crash.

There is no further information at this time. More as we have it.

7:45 a.m.

Parts of Route 1 just outside of the Quantico Marine Corps Base are closed during this morning’s rush.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), on the section of Route 1 between Russell Road and Corporate Drive, both north and southbound lanes will be closed for the entire morning rush.

Prince William police stated that the road would remain closed while they are doing an investigation of a car accident that took place earlier this morning.

Drivers are encouraged to take alternative routes, stated VDOT.

More from a VDOT release:

Motorists are encouraged to use Interstate 95 as an alternate route. Russell Road remains open to all traffic traveling to Quantico Marine Corps Base. Message boards are being posted at Route 610 in Stafford and Joplin Road in Prince William County to alert motorists.

Detour routes are also in place at the scene. Route 1 northbound traffic is being detoured to Telegraph Road and Russell Road, where motorists can access a ramp to northbound Route 1.

Stafford, VDOT, to pay $11M for Rt. 1, Courthouse Road improvements

Stafford and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will be paying $11.2 million to widen Route 1, and add turn lanes to Courthouse and Bells Hill roads.

Stafford will be hosting a citizen’s information meeting on the project on August 6 at 7 p.m. at the Stafford County Government Center, according to a county release.

According to county documents, Stafford will be leading the project, but VDOT will be providing oversight, and 50% of the project’s funding.

The project on the 0.65 mile stretch of road will include adding lanes to Route 1, and adding left turn lanes to Courthouse Road and Bells Hill/Hope Road, according to county documents. The project will be completed in two phases.

“Phase 1 will improve the Route 1 and Courthouse Road intersection. Phase 2 will improve the Route 1 and Bells Hill/Hope Road intersection,” stated a county presentation.

A county presentation on the project stated that the reason for the project is the frequent backup and delay, as well as a projection that traffic will increase at the Route 1 and Courthouse Road intersection by 500% by 2035.

Before construction can begin, Stafford will need to submit plans to VDOT, and host public hearings for residents to speak about the project.

According to a county presentation, construction on the project is set to begin in 2018, and be completed in 2019.

Cars explode on Prince William roads

A mother pulled her two children from a burning minivan this afternoon.

Their 2001 Nissan Quest caught fire at the intersection of Cardinal Drive and George Fyre Circle just before 4 p.m. in Woodbridge.

No one was injured in the blaze, but the children’s mother India Cutler was visibly shaken. Cutler was taking her children out to eat and was waiting to make a left turn from George Frye Circle on the Cardinal Drive. That’s when her minivan exploded. Flames engulfed the front of the vehicle and the front seats. Fire also damaged the middle of the vehicle where her children were sitting.

Fire crews were called to douse the blaze. They were able to save some of Cutler’s personal items including a notebook and purse.

“I guess we’ll eat in tonight,” said Cutler.

In a separate incident earlier in the day, at PT Cruiser caught fire near the intersection of Hoadly Road and Route 234. About noon Friday, 22-year-old Karina Freeman had nearly pulled into her driveway at her home at 13617 Dumfries Road when flames started shooting from the inside air vents, she said. Fire then engulf the front of the car.

Freeman escaped without injury and ran into her house afraid her car was going to explode.

She called fire and rescue crews who came to douse the blaze.

The PT Cruiser was in a Fredericksburg repair shop just last week because the car had been overheating, said Freeman. She had plans to travel to Emerald Isle Beach in North Carolina tomorrow. She must now put off that trip.
“I don’t even want to think about getting another car right now,” said Freeman.

While not as humid as the day before, temperatures on Friday climbed into the low 90’s. It was the latest in a string of days in what has been a summertime heat wave.

Police closed portions of Cardinal Drive, and Route to 234, respectively, were closed during each incident as fire crews mopped up the mess.

I-95 lane closures expected overnight next week

These lane closures are canceled, according to a VDOT spokesman.

Original post.

Get ready for some lane closuvdotlogo600pixelsres on Interstate 95 next week.

Overnight on August 3 and August 4, there will be multiple lane closures on I-95 North near Exit 158 (Prince William Parkway).

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) stated that the lanes will be closed at 9 a.m. each night, and then there will be more closures overnight that will last for around 30 minutes.

All of the lanes will be fully reopened at 4 a.m., stated a VDOT release.

If there are any delays due to weather, the work will be completed overnight on August 5.

A VDOT release stated that the closures are being done to install a new overhead sign, as part of the 95 Shoulder Improvement Project.

The project is working to build auxiliary lanes, new guardrails, additional lighting, and widened road shoulders on I-95 between Dumfries Road and Prince William Parkway, according to VDOT.

VDOT announces $18M project to make two I-95 exits safer

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) plans to make changes to I-95 exits in Stafford and Fredericksburg.

Using $18 million from VDOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Program, improvements will be made to Exit 130 (Route 3/Fredericksburg) and Exit 133 (Route 17/Falmouth).

“Last fall, VDOT reviewed crash data on Interstates 64, 81 and 95 to find spot locations with elevated crash rates where these federal funds could be applied,” said Stafford spokeswoman Shannon Howell.

These two highway exits had crash rates above the statewide average, stated VDOT Communications Manager Kelly Hannon.

During the project, VDOT would make four major changes.

More on the proposed changes, from Kelly Hannon:

Extend the acceleration lane on the interstate for Interstate 95 northbound traffic entering from Route 3 westbound, giving them more time to merge.

Extend the ramp entrance lane on Route 3 westbound for traffic entering the I-95 northbound cloverleaf ramp.

Increases the number of lanes exiting Interstate 95 southbound to Route 3 westbound

Separate, free-flowing ramp lane (divided) leading to the Carl D. Silver Parkway entrance at Central Park. This seeks to reduce the vehicle weaving and conflict point at the end of the ramp today.

Triple (3) lanes on the remainder of I-95 southbound exit ramp to Route 3 westbound.

These lanes would make a slight right turn onto westbound Route 3, controlled by a traffic signal. On a green light, this would give traffic exiting the opportunity to enter Route 3 westbound without any traffic conflict, eliminating the weaving. We have a similar pattern in place for traffic exiting I-95 SB at Exit 143/Aquia.

Extends length of deceleration lane for I-95 southbound traffic exiting at Route 3 westbound.

 Route 17 – Extends acceleration ramp on the interstate for I-95 southbound traffic entering from Exit 133, prior to the Rappahannock River Bridge.

Currently the design for the project’s improvements is being drafted. Construction will begin in 2016, and will finish in late 2017, stated Hannon.

Haymarket bridge replacement underway

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Work to replace the Old Carolina Road overpass bridge is well underway in Haymarket.

The new $2.7 million bridge will carry drivers on Old Carolina Road onto Jefferson Street in the town, over Interstate 66.

It will be two lanes, and will have shared use paths for bicycling and hiking to connect Piedmont and Somerset Crossing communities on the north side of I-66.

The bridge replaces an old two-lane bridge of the same name.

The new bridge is part of the Interstate 66 widening project that will add one new high occupancy vehicle lane on each direction on I-66, between Route 29 in Gainesville and Route 15 in Haymarket.

“This bridge is a critical artery to our town, and businesses in our town have been impacted since its closure,” said Haymarket Mayor David Leake.

Shops in the town have seen about a 30% reduction in revenue since the old bridge was closed and work on the new bridge began, said Leake.

During construction, drivers must use a the Route 15 bridge over I-66.  That route is congested during the morning and evening rush hours.

Haymarket will also maintain the new lighting that will be installed on the bridge. The lighting will be similar to the lighting scheme in the town, said Leake.

The new bridge is expected to be complete in spring 2016.

Also part of the I-66 HOV lane project, the Catharpin Road overpass is also being reconstructed as part of the project. Virginia transportation officials also estimate a spring 2016 completion date for that project.

Heavy traffic expected for Quicken Loans tournament in Gainesville

The Quicken Loans National Tournament kicks off today at Robert Trent Jones Golf Course in Gainesville.

More than 100 PGA players, including Tiger Woods, were invited to come participate in the event.

The event is expected to bring traffic congestion on Route 29 in Gainesville.

Prince William police issued this statement:

Quicken Loans National Golf Tournament | Gainesville;
Motorists traveling in and around the area of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club off Lee Hwy and Jiffy Lube Live off Wellington Rd can expect increased traffic and possible delays starting Tuesday in through the weekend during the morning and afternoon commute. Officers will be on site at multiple intersections between both locations to assist with traffic issues. Golf tournament attendees will be directed to park at Jiffy Lube Live via Lee Hwy to University Blvd where shuttle buses will be used to carry them to the venue. Non-event attendees are encouraged to find an alternate route if possible to avoid delays in their commute. Use caution when traveling in the area and follow police direction.

New homes could equal fixing a dangerous curve in Stafford

A home developer has offered to fix one of Stafford County’s sharpest curves.

Winding Creek Road is a two-lane street that links Shelton Shop and Courthouse roads. It’s a back way for most drivers, and the street weaves through a series of neighborhoods.

There’s a sharp curve just east of where Winding Creek meets Walpole Street. The developer, Winding Creek Property Owner, LCC, has agreed to widnen Winding Creek Road at the dangerous curve.

The developer offered Stafford County nearly an acre of the right of way along Winding Creek Road for the widening. It amounts to 60 feet of space for the widened road, according to county documents that date back to January.

The street widening would come with 97 new homes on Winding Creek Road. The developer has applied for a special use permit from Stafford County for the project that would clear the way for the homes to be built.

The new development — with the road widening as a condition — must be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

The addition of 97 new homes also means the existing Fireberry Boulveard in the adjacent Autum Ridge neighborhood will be extended. The street was accepted into the state network of streets maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2006.


The plan has always been to to extend Fireberry Boulevard, according to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hanon who provided this information on the project:

· The proposed Winding Creek subdivision is required to connect to Fireberry Boulevard under VDOT standards for new subdivision streets that are planned for state maintenance in the future.

· Fireberry Boulevard is an existing state-maintained road. The road was accepted into Virginia’s network of state-maintained roads in 2006 with the intention of being extended in the future. A sign noting the ultimate extension of this street has been present at the road’s future connection point, referred to as a stub, since 2006.

· The proposed Winding Creek subdivision is subject to Stafford County Subdivision Ordinance (Sec. 22-179, 186), which requires subdivisions to contain public roads that are built in accordance with VDOT standards, making them eligible for acceptance into the state maintenance system. The ordinance also requires (Sec. 22-190) streets to connect with adjacent properties.

· Based on the proposed 97-lot configuration, the ordinance requires Winding Creek to contain two connections to adjacent parcels. Winding Creek proposes to meet this requirement by providing connections to Fireberry Boulevard in the adjacent Autumn Ridge subdivision, and by leaving a future connection point to a separate neighboring parcel.

· VDOT regulations (24VAC30-92) require subdivision roads to connect with existing state-maintained stub roads in order to be accepted by VDOT for future state maintenance. Fireberry Boulevard qualifies as an existing state-maintained stub road.

Stafford County Garrisonville District Supervisor Luara Sellers said man of the residents who live along Fireberry Boulevard do not want to see the street extended. She said residents are petitioning VDOT not to extend the street as planned.

Hannon said an exception request not to extend the street must be submitted by residents to VDOT and approved by an agency administrator. No such request has been submitted, said Hannon.

The issue is expected to come before the Stafford County Board of Supervisors in August or early September. 

5 things that would get Route 28 traffic moving faster

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

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

2 new lanes in Fairfax County

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

Roundabout / improved intersection

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

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

Longer turn lanes at Liberia Avenue 

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

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

New sidewalks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Express Lane drivers see purple

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

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

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

Closures on Route 28 to continue this weekend in Bristow

Expect some nighttime closurevdotlogos on Route 28 this weekend.

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

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

More on closure times from a VDOT release:

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

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

Proposed towing fees higher in Prince William

Two truck companies could soon be allowed to charge you more to tow your car in Prince William County.

Here’s a breakdown the of newly proposed fees:

Proposed fee Current fee  
$135 $125 For vehicles with gross weight of 10,001 pounds
$250 $175 For vehicles with gross weight between 10,001 and 26,001 pounds
$475 $300 For vehicles with gross weight of 26,001 or more pounds

Tow companies would also be allowed to charge drivers an additional $25 if their car is towed between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. weekdays, on weekends, or holidays, according to the proposal.

Tow companies are not allowed to charge storage or impound fees for the first 24 hours. Companies may then charge $50 per each 24 hours thereafter. 

If the driver of a tow truck offers to release a vehicle before it is towed away, the owner of the car will have the option of paying a release fee up to $50 to have the vehicle released from the tow truck, according to the proposal.

A towing advisory board comprised of various towing companies and the Prince William County Police Department review towing fee on an annual basis.

The public hearing on the matter is set for 2 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Prince William County Government Center. The new fees must be approved by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

VRE could face major fines for delaying safety improvements

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

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

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

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

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

Will railroads meet the deadline?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amtrak on track to meet deadline

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

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

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

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

What happens next?

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

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

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

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

Tractor trailer, vehicle, in serious crash on Route 1 in Woodbridge

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New information from the Prince William police has been released on yesterday’s accident.

According to Prince William police, both drivers were injured. The driver in the red Honda is currently in critical condition at a local medical facility and the driver of the tractor trailer was treated for minor injuries, said Prince William police. 

More from Prince William police:

The tractor trailer was stopped at the intersection of Jefferson Davis Hwy at Mount Pleasant Dr. The Honda, straddling both lanes hit the back of the tractor trailer. Speed and alcohol appear to be factors. The investigation is continuing. The driver of the Honda is a 34 year old man from Alexandria, VA and the driver of the truck is a 48 year old man from Woodbridge, VA.

Original post

There was a serious crash this afternoon in Woodbridge, involving a car and a tractor trailer.

According to Prince William police, the crash took place on Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) near Mount Pleasant Drive. A source told Potomac Local the accident took place in the northbound lanes.

One individual was seriously injured and was flown to a local medical facility, stated Prince William police.

Officers were on the scene to close the road at East Longview Drive. The roadway is now reopened for traffic, stated Prince William police.

The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

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

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

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

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

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

Current funding is not enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRTC has a few options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Treading water”

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

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

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

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

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

Flashing school zone signs still active this summer

When you see flashing school zone signs this summer, you still need to slow down.

According to Prince William police, summer school is in session in several county schools until July 24.

More from a Prince William police release:

That means that motorists must obey the flashing lights that indicate lower speeds for school zones, even if you believe the lights are on in error.

Virginia law states that school zone lights come on 1/2-hour before the school’s first bell (AM and PM) and go off 1/2-hour after the first bell. This occurs during the regular school year, but also during summer school.

The Prince William County Police Department reminds motorists to obey all traffic signs and signals, and to use caution while driving through school zones or approaching stopped school buses that have their lights activated.

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