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Traffic & Transit

New Tysons Corner Express Service Starting in Lorton

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FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – Headed to Tysons Corner during the week?

Fairfax Connector has some new express transportation options for you, but you’ll have to plan to catch the bus in areas of southeast Fairfax like Lorton and Springfield.

All of the new routes will use the 495 Express Lanes to bypass congestion on the Capital Beltway.

More in a press release:

Effective Monday, March 18, 2013, Fairfax Connector will start two new express routes, modify three existing routes and increase the number of bus stops served on an existing route. Modifications are being made to better serve passenger needs and improve on-time performance. Routes affected are: 333, 334, 372, 493(F, G, J, M), 494(F, G, J, M) and 495(F, G, J, M).

The new express routes are Route 493(F, G, J, M) from Lorton VRE Station and Saratoga Park and Ride to Tysons, and Route 494(F, G, J, M) from Franconia-Springfield Metro Station and Greater Springfield to Tysons. Bus routes will use the 495 Express Lanes and have four circulations, serving many major employers in the Tysons area. An express fare of $3.65 SmarTrip® or $4 cash applies. An introductory free ride period is in effect between March 18 and April 12 for the two new express routes (493 and 494).

New Routes

• Route 493: Lorton VRE and Saratoga Park and Ride to Tysons

- Circulations:

>>F (Full Tysons circulation)

>> G (Greensboro circulation)

>> J (Jones Branch circulation)

>> M (McLean circulation)

• Route 494: Franconia-Springfield Metro Station to Tysons

- Circulations:

>> F (Full Tysons circulation)

>> G (Greensboro circulation)

>>J (Jones Branch circulation)

>> M (McLean circulation)

Modified Routes

• Route 333: Modifies routing to use the Franconia-Springfield Parkway during rush hour, reducing travel time and improving on-time performance

• Route 334: Modified morning routing to travel southbound along Cinder Bed Road and northbound along Fairfax County Parkway; and afternoon routing to travel southbound along the Fairfax County Parkway and northbound along Cinder Bed Road.

• Route 372: Adds rush-hour service to the Patriot Ridge Office Campus on morning southbound trips and afternoon northbound trips.

• Route 495(F, G, J, M): Adds service to all bus stops along route between Burke VRE Station and Wakefield Chapel Road.

 

Ask Mega Mike: Who Needs an E-Z Pass to Use the Express Lanes?

Dear Mega Mike,

I slug to work and ride in carpools. Will everyone in my carpool need an EZ Pass, or is the just the driver who needs one? How will they work?

Michael Leviathan
Stafford, Va.

Dear Michael,  

Only one E-Zpass per car will be required for carpools. The E-ZPass Flex works like a regular E-ZPass, but lets you switch between HOV and toll paying modes.

If your E-ZPass Flex is switched to HOV mode and you have three or more passengers in the car, you will not be charged a toll. The switchable E-ZPass Flex pays tolls on any other road that accepts E-ZPass, regardless of the position of the switch.

State Troopers funded by the project will be stationed in the Express Lanes to make sure those travelers who have switched to carpool mode have three people in the car.

Mike Salmon
Virginia Megaprojects 

Hearing on VRE Fare Increase Set for Wednesday

121212 VRE

STAFFORD, Va. – The fare you pay to ride Virginia Railway Express could be going up.

A public hearing is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Stafford County Government Center’s conference room ABC where commuter railroad officials will gauge reaction to plans to hike fares as much as 4% staring in July.

The meeting was rescheduled from last Wednesday because of the storm that brought seven inches of snow to Stafford County.

VRE cites rising contract costs with service providers Keolis Rail Services of America, Amtrak, and CSX, as for the need to increase fares. The fare increase was recommended as a part of a budget review that will keep trains running at current levels, add an additional 10-car train to the system’s crowded Fredericksburg line, fund the purchase of new rail cars, and fund the opening of a new train station in Spotsylvania County.

If the new fares are approved for both of VRE’s train lines from Fredericksburg and Manassas, those riding from Fredericksburg to Washington’s Union Station would pay $11.10 for a one-way fare, $305.90 for a monthly pass. Those riding from Manassas to Union Station would pay $9.10 for a single ride, $250.80 for a monthly pass.

See the full proposed fare schedule for the Fredericksburg Line

See the full proposed fare schedule for the Manassas Line

 

131-Year-Old Bridge Getting Face Lift, Adjacent Span

>>Aden Road Truss Bridge 

By URIAH KISER

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va.  – A 131-year-old bridge is about to get a face lift and a new companion.

Big plans are in store for the single-lane Aden Road truss bridge that carries cars over the Norfolk Southern Railroad in Nokesville. Soon, a new bridge span will be built next to the old one and, for the first time, two lanes of traffic will be able to cross over the railroad tracks at once and connect with Va. 28 to head to north Manassas or south to Fauquier County.

The project is expected to cost $4.6 million, and building a new bridge next to the old one is one of 10 options the Virginia Department of Transportation considered when coming up with a new traffic plan for the area.

After the new bridge span is built, traffic on to Aden Road coming from Va. 28 will cross the old 1882 truss bridge, while traffic on Aden Road headed to Va. 28 will use the new span.

The wrought-iron truss bridge is structurally deficient and inefficient, as only one car can cross the bridge at a time. And because the steel is ridden with corrosion, it’ll have to rehabilitated with new steel shapes, cables, and bolts so it can accommodate legal heavy truck loads. VDOT said they cannot use wrought-iron because it simply isn’t widely available anymore, and is now mostly used in ornamental displays.

The bridge, which was placed on the National Historic Register in 1977, has a wooden deck that was the center of concern when the bridge was closed for a little over a month in 2007. Timber became loose, and the owner of the bridge – Norfolk Southern Railroad –replaced the wood which allowed vehicles to cross it once more.

The wooden bridge deck was also repaired again in 2011, the second repair since the 2007 closing, according to VDOT documents. VDOT is charged with monitoring and inspecting the bridge.

Norfolk Southern would like to donate the bridge to another locality as it limits the height of trains that can pass underneath, as well as prohibits the addition of new track underneath in railroad right of way, VDOT documents state.

There was talk of moving the bridge to another location nearby Nokesville Community Park, but it appears that plan is no longer in the cards.

It wouldn’t be the first time the bridge has been moved, either. It was moved to its current location sometime between 1904 and 1928, according to VDOT.

And the bridge is dangerous: 19 crashes have been reported at the bridge since 2000, with eight injuries and no fatalities. Many of the crashes involved either head on or rear end collisions.

A public hearing on the new bridge is scheduled this spring, said VDOT Transportation and Land Use Director Maria Sinner. Construction of the new bridge and rehab of the old truss crossing should begin in early 2014 with a completion slated for later that summer.

Questions on Metro to Woodbridge Can’t Be Answered Without Study

By MARK DUDENHEFER
Delegate, 2nd District 

On Tuesday, March 5, Congressman Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran introduced legislation to study the extension of Metrorail from Franconia-Springfield to eastern Prince William County. The extension would include an addition to the Blue Line along Interstate 95 through Woodbridge to Potomac Mills, and the Yellow Line down the U.s. 1 corridor in Prince William County.

I am proud to support their efforts to authorize a project development analysis on the extension.

This study would allow us to analyze the long term economic impact, value for taxpayers, questions over costs, and other information to make well informed decisions on the extension. It is a practical common sense endeavor. The Metrorail extension may not be a solution, and funding road construction is always the first priority. However, we can’t firmly answered the questions without a study.

Recently, I also sat down with the Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton to outline potential mass transit projects, lane additions, and widening of major traffic veins in the area. We have voted for and addressed the funding gaps at the state level.

It is now time to work at all levels of government to prioritize projects and investments that benefit Virginia citizens. With funding from the transportation bill, we will concentrate on widening of U.s. 1 and I-95, needed repairs and safety improvements on secondary roads, using technology to improve traffic flow at peak hours, and exploring alternative transportation resources. With growth in the region expected to continue I am ready join and be a leader in that conversation.

Transportation congestion and safety are issues that we can no longer avoid in the Second District and Northern Virginia. That is why it is necessary to study each alternative and invest in our infrastructure. Virginians are tired of politics as usual and are looking for efficient, cost effective, and cooperative ways to alleviate these issues.

 

Ask Mega Mike: On and Off Points for the 95 Express Lanes?

In his Potomac Local News debut, Virginia Megaprojects Mike “Mega Mike” Salmon takes your questions on all things Megaprojects – from the 95 Express Lanes Project to Metro rail to Dulles Airport – he’ll help you understand what’s happening to improve your commute, and to tell you what you need to know before you go.

Send your questions to the Virginia Megaprojects Mega Man and find out what’s new with your commute! Be sure to include your full name and town.

Dear Megaprojects Mega Mike,

I heard they’re building new on and off ramps for the 95 Express Lanes. Where will I be able to get on and off of the lanes?

Crissy Smith 
Woodbridge, Va. 

Dear Crissy, 
That’s easy, take a look at this updated 95 Express Lanes map that shows all of the access points that will be built along the highway facility’s span, from Va. 610 in Garrisonville to Edsall Road in Alexandria.

Mike Salmon
Virginia Megaprojects 

030613-mega-man-man-map

 

‘Rogue Drivers’ Prompt Stafford Cab Companies to Ask for Government Regulation

[Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

STAFFORD, Va. – At least two cab companies in Stafford want to be regulated by the county government.

Owners of Global Cab and Airport Taxi told elected officials on the Stafford Board of County Supervisors they run reputable operations with drivers who work as independent contractors. But they say with no rules governing prices or how fares are metered, there are so-called rogue drivers who can quickly set up shop, pick up passengers, and charge unexpected high fares.

“I cannot run a biz in this kind business when anyone can come in…and then open a taxi business,” said Airport Taxi owner Bashir Malik.

He added that some of the drivers he has hired have split off to start their own companies, and they charge whatever they fare they deem fit. Owners said it all comes without any rules set forth by the county to govern fares – rules that are in place in area jurisdictions like Fredericksburg, Fairfax, and Alexandria.

“The owners and operators of cab companies in Stafford came and asked to be regulated, which I find a bit odd because most companies don’t want to be regulated by the government,” said Stafford County Griffis-Widewater Supervisor Jack Cavalier.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to ask county staff, as well as committees on public safety and roads, to review any policies in place that regulate cabs in the county, as well as come up with any new polices that could crack down on drivers who charge too much.

“We need to look at some sort of regulation that prevents passengers from being picked up late at night and being charged $50 for what normally would have been a $10 fare,” said Cavalier.

Global Cab owner Doug Overvolt said he wants to see the county’s sheriff’s office stop cabs that might be operating without a proper permit. Board of Supervisors Chairman Susan Stimpson said Sheriff Charles E. Jett should be brought into the conversation on whether or not to regulate taxi cabs in the county.

Rockhill Supervisor Cord Sterling said he is hesitant to put more government regulation in place.

“I ride in taxis quite a bit, but I don’t know the first thing about regulating them. My experience with regulation is the government telling [cab owners] what prices to charge, and I tend to lean toward the free market,” said Sterling.

As the county grows, Cavalier said he’s convinced some sort of regulation will be needed to govern fares, as ridership to and from places like restaurants, shopping centers, bars, and to airports like Regan Washington National and Dulles is on the upswing.

General Assembly Blocks I-95 Tolls

Commuters use the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on I-95 in Woodbridge. (Uriah Kiser/PotomacLocal.com)

By STEPHEN NIELSEN
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – There will be no tolling on the southern end of Interstate 95 without the General Assembly’s say-so, thanks to approval of the transportation funding bill during the recently concluded legislative session.

A plan to toll the stretch of I-95 in Sussex County, which was part of a larger federal pilot program, will be blocked by language added to the transportation bill: “No tolls shall be imposed or collected on Interstate 95 south of Fredericksburg pursuant to the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program without the prior approval of the General Assembly.”

The ISRRPP was created to test tolling as a possible way to “fund needed reconstruction or rehabilitation on Interstate highway corridors that could not otherwise be adequately maintained or functionally improved without the collection of tolls,” according to the Federal Highway Administration’s website.

The Virginia Department of Transportation reserved one of three slots for the pilot program, and plans were under way to establish a tolling facility to test the idea. Involvement in the ISRRPP will now require approval from the General Assembly, effectively halting such plans.

“Although I wasn’t pleased with the overall transportation plan, the elimination of tolls was one of the few bright spots in the bill,” said Delegate Chris Peace, R-Mechanicsville.

“I’m pleased that we were able to send a clear message that imposing tolls on I-95 in Sussex County was a bad idea, and more importantly, that the Virginia General Assembly will now serve as a barrier to tolls on this important transportation corridor.”

Peace sponsored a bill to require approval by the General Assembly prior to any tolling on any part of an interstate highway in operation before July 2013. His proposal died in committee, but the transportation bill is a partial win.

“While it is not a ban on tolling, it is a clear indication that the General Assembly does not support tolling I-95,” said Dale Bennett, president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Trucking Association.

The association is part of Toll Free 95 in Virginia, an organization opposing all tolls on the interstate. Twenty-three localities, 13 business associations, five economic and planning organizations and other groups have signed Toll Free’s online petition against tolling on I-95. More than 7,000 individuals also have signed the petition.

“From the beginning, residents of Southside Virginia knew the devastating impact that tolls on I-95 would have on public safety and our business environment,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt. “A tolling facility in Sussex would unfairly single out the hardworking people of Southside Virginia, and we are glad that it will not come to fruition.

“Collectively, we can claim victory.”

The restrictions on tolling are contained in House Bill 2313, which cleared the Senate on Feb. 23, the final day of the legislative session. The bill, which is awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature, raises sales taxes and overhauls fuels taxes to raise money for road and transit projects.

2 New Specialty License Plates for Virginians

I-95 south in Woodbridge. (Photo: Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

By STEFFANIE ATKINS 
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginians will soon have two new options for specialty license plates: one for fans of the Washington Nationals baseball team, and the other sporting the words “Peace Begins at Home.”

The specialty plates, approved by the General Assembly during its just-concluded session, would fund charitable causes.

Two identical proposals – House Bill 1387, introduced by Delegate Michael J. Webert, R-Marshall, and Senate Bill 837, by Sen. George L. Barker, D-Alexandria – allow the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to offer license plates supporting the Washington Nationals baseball team.

The plates will cost $25 above normal registration fees. After the first 1,000 plates have been sold, $15 of the $25 will go to the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. The foundation’s goals are to improve the lives of children in the community based on three principles: education, health and recreation.

The “Peace Begins at Home” license plate was authorized by SB 1368, introduced by Sen. Mark Herring, D-Leesburg.

These plates also will cost an additional $25. After 1,000 plates have been purchased, $15 of the $25 registration fee will be sent to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. The alliance is a 30-year-old coalition of people and agencies committed to ending sexual and domestic violence.

The legislation creating the two new specialty plates is awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature.

Before the DMV can start manufacturing the specialty plates, the agency must receive at least 450 prepaid orders.

Virginia has more than 200 specialty plates. For information on how to purchase one, visit a DMV office or www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/#plate_search.asp.

VRE Expanding Capacity by Lowering Amtrak Step-Up Fare

121212 VRE

Virginia Railway Express is adding more capacity for riders via their Amtrak Step-Up ticket, the price of which will be lowered from $5 to $3 starting Friday.

The Step-Up fare allows would-be riders of Virginia Railway Express trains to instead board Amtrak trains that serve VRE riders. Those trains are listed on VRE schedules.

“It is another travel option and could potentially reduce crowding on some of our more popular trains,” said VRE CEO Doug Allen in a press release.

The Step-Up fare tickets are sold at VRE stations and in bulk from VRE off-site vendors.

More in a press release from VRE:

For passengers new to the VRE system, you can ride the Amtrak trains listed on VRE schedules by purchasing an Amtrak Step-Up ticket in conjunction with a properly validated VRE Monthly, Ten-Ride, Five-Day or TLC pass for a trip into Washington, DC. Because Amtrak trains do not stop at every VRE station, please make sure that your ultimate destination is serviced by the train you choose to board. Amtrak Step-Up tickets are available from any VRE vendor location, or from the Ticket Vending Machines located on each VRE station platform. These tickets are not available for purchase onboard the Amtrak trains.

Reductions in Step-Up fares come as the 95 Express Lanes Project is underway which, by 2014, will have converted the HOV lanes from Dumfries to the Capital Beltway to HOV/toll lanes and extend them south to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County.

Transportation Deal Reached: Region Split on Higher Taxes

Va. 610 at I-95 in North Stafford. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

For the first time in 27 years there is comprehensive transportation reform in Virginia.

The state’s Senate approved a new measure during the General Assembly’s final day of regular session on Saturday that raises taxes and would ultimately raise $880 million in new transportation revenues.

Here’s how the new transportation funding plan breaks down in a partial report from Capital News Service:

Just hours before the session’s end, the Senate voted 25-15 for House Bill 2313, which will raise about $880 million a year more for roads and mass transit by increasing sales taxes while lowering the fuels tax.

The debate over how to increase revenue continued right up to the vote.

“This isn’t any bill. This is the only bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg. He said it’s the only way to provide the revenue Virginia’s transportation system needs – and to ease traffic congestion in Northern Virginia and Tidewater.

Others disagreed.

“To me, the final bill represents bad economics and bad transportation policy,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria. He said the state should raise its gasoline tax to address the problems.

HB 2313, which was negotiated by a conference committee and approved 60-40 by the House on Friday, would:

• Eliminate the 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax that consumers pay at the pump. Instead, the state would impose a 3.5 percent tax on gasoline at the wholesale level. The wholesale tax on diesel fuel would be 6 percent.

• Increase Virginia’s sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent.

• Raise the motor vehicle sales tax from 3 percent to 4.3 percent.

• Charge a $100 annual license tax for electric and alternative fuel vehicles.

• Allow a 0.7 percent sales tax increase in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia to fund transportation projects there.

HB 2313 also would boost the proportion of the state’s general fund revenue dedicated to transportation from 0.5 percent to 0.675 percent. And it would prohibit tolls on Interstate 95 south of Fredericksburg without approval from the General Assembly.

Sales taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads could be raised as high as 6% to fund transportation projects in those areas under the new law. The last time the 17.5 cents per gallon motor fuels tax – what has historically funded road construction and maintenance – had not been touched since 1986.

The Prince William Chamber of Commerce lauded the passage of the bill and issued the following statement:

With Senate passage of the transportation conference report, Virginia has its first comprehensive, long-term transportation funding solution in nearly three decades. The historic measure passed the Senate in a 25-15 vote.

Of the legislators representing the Prince William area, Senators Colgan, Puller and Barker voted in favor. Senators Black and Stuart voted against.

“Securing sustainable, comprehensive transportation funding for Virginia has long been a top priority of the Prince William Chamber. Today’s vote represents a new day for the Commonwealth,” said Prince William Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Rob Clapper. “We will now have real funding for significant road construction and maintenance of existing infrastructure, improving economic competitiveness and the quality of life in Virginia.”

When fully implemented, the funding package would generate an estimated $880 million in 2018, of which $200 million comes from existing General Funds. The five-year transportation total is estimated at $3.5 billion. The regional component for Northern Virginia is estimated to generate an additional $350 million per year for regional projects.

Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chairman and Lt. Governor candidate Susan Stimpson isn’t as enthusiastic, and over the weekend blasted Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, over the passage of the bill:

Republicans are supposed to be about cutting taxes, cutting spending and reducing the size of government—like our current leadership in Richmond promised us they would do when we were working hard to elect them.

Instead they abandoned our party’s principles by raising taxes and paving the way for Obamacare.

Do we or do we not believe that a restrained and limited government is what allows the most freedom and prosperity?

Speaker Bill Howell and Governor McDonnell are friends. But they could not be more wrong. And they could not have failed us at a more critical time.

Stimpson’s reference to Obamacare comes after Senate Democrats went to the wall with McDonnell and agreed to support the transportation reform package in exchange for his support of an expansion of Medicare in Virginia for the working poor.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Capital News Service contributed to this report.

More Closures for I-95 Express Lanes Work Wednesday & Thursday Nights

Interstate 95 south at Dumfries [Photo: Uriah Kiser/Potomac Local News]

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Drivers headed south on Interstate 95 this upcoming Wednesday and Thursday nights face temporary closures near mile post 148 at Quantico.

A crane will be moved across the highway at the Telegraph Road overpass in Stafford County on both nights. Drivers should expect total but temporary closures of that portion of the interstate, stated the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Megaprojects office.

The work is part of the nearly $1 billion I-95 Express Lanes Project to extend high occupancy vehicle / toll lanes from Dumfries to Va. 610 Stafford, and to convert existing HOV lanes to multi-use carpool / toll lanes between Dumfries and the Capital Beltway.

The project is expected to be completed in 2014, and it will compliment Express Lanes added between Springfield and Dulles Toll Road on I-495 in Virginia. 

 

Effort to Replace 88-year-old Bridge Brings Telegraph Road Closure

U.S. 1 at Telegraph Road in Stafford County [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

Submitted News

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 road will be closed to traffic from Monday, Feb. 25 through Friday, March 1. The road will close at approximately 9 a.m. on Monday 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 are posted 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.

Click Here to learn more about the Route 1 bridge replacement project.

-VDOT

Opinions Differ on Bill to Fund Nearly $900 Million in State Transportation Revenue

Drivers on Interstate 95 south pass under Telegraph Road in North Stafford. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

While it appears Virginia’s leaders have come to an agreement on a new transportation funding bill, not all local voices agree with the new legislation awaiting approval from both the state Sentate and House of Delegates.

The new bill approved by Virginia’s General Assembly will is expected to raise nearly $900 million for transportation revenue, and would replace a 17.5 cent tax per gallon of gas – a rate not touched since 1986 – and replace it with a 3.5 cent wholesale gas tax.

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart in a statement Thursday touted his county’s road building program that independent of the state’s Virginia Department of Transportation:

While I have been Chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, the Board stepped up to the plate when the state would not by funding our own $300 million road building program. And we did so without raising taxes.

We funded our road building program by cutting spending and eliminating programs. We then put those savings into transportation.

When you make something a priority it may require you to make tough decisions, but it can be done without raising taxes.

According to the state’s own audit commission, the state budget increased 66% between 2002 and 2011, with only 5% of that growth going toward transportation.

The state must fund transportation, but it must do so by prioritizing transportation in its budget and using existing revenue sources, not by raising taxes. That is why I oppose this plan.

Stewart is also seeking  the nomination to run for Virginia’s next Lt. Governor to replace outgoing Bill Bolling.

At odds with Stewart’s statements are those of Prince William Chamber President Rob Clapper who supports passage of the bill and called it an “historic measure”:

“The lack of progress on this issue has been holding the businesses and people of the Commonwealth back. Northern Virginia faces one of the longest commute times in the nation; studies show this gridlock costs $1,398 and 67 hours per driver each year. That is money that could be spent in the local economy, time that could be spent on our businesses or in our communities,” said Clapper.

He added, “We commend the conferees for moving this funding package forward. Now, we urge the General Assembly to take action and avoid a transportation crisis for the Commonwealth. It is critical that we get the people and businesses of Northern Virginia moving again.”

The apporoved measure is not what Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell initially proposed. Under the Republican’s original plan, the state’s gas tax would have been abolished altogether and the state sales tax raised from five to 5.8 percent.

House, Senate Reach Transportation Compromise

Traffic headed south on U.S. 1 toward the Falmouth intersection frequently backs up due to a traffic signal where U.S. 1, U.S. 17, and Va. 218 converge. (Photo: Jim Lawrence/For PotomacLocal.com)

By WHITNEY SPICER
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va.  – Negotiators from both the House and Senate came to an agreement Wednesday on a transportation plan that, if passed, would be the first transportation funding overhaul in Virginia since 1986.

“This is a huge moment for Virginia,” said Sen. Frank W. Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, a member of the conference committee. “We are on the cusp of bringing home real and lasting transportation solutions that will move Virginia forward now and in the future.”

The transportation compromise, which was hammered out by a 10-member conference committee over the past week, would potentially raise close to $900 million a year in transportation revenue.

The plan reduces the state’s gasoline tax by replacing the current 17.5-cent-per-gallon tax with a 3.5 percent wholesale gas tax. The tax on diesel would be 6 percent.

Although McDonnell had initially proposed eliminating the gas tax altogether, he expressed satisfaction with this substantial cut.

“When we launched our effort to fix transportation, we called for decreasing Virginia’s reliance on the steadily decreasing transportation revenue source of the gas tax,” the governor said. “The plan agreed to today achieves that goal.”

According to McDonnell, the new plan would reduce the amount that Virginians pay at the pump by an estimated 6 cents per gallon. He said this would add up to almost $272 million per year saved by motorists.

The plan compensates for the decrease in gas tax revenue by proposing to raise the state’s sales tax from the current 5 percent to 5.3 percent.

“Tying transportation funding to a tax that every Virginian pays is a common-sense move,” McDonnell said. “In addition, the sales tax is a less regressive tax than the gas tax.”

According to Delegate Beverly Sherwood, R-Frederick, this will help relieve the burden on families in rural areas who are affected by the gas tax.

“By reducing and replacing the current gas tax with a wholesale tax, we will reduce the gas tax burden on Virginia families,” Sherwood said. “This plan addresses the long-term needs of both rural and suburban areas of the commonwealth without unfairly increasing the burden on Virginia families.”

The negotiators also agreed to devote 0.675 percent of the state’s general-fund revenues to transportation. That is less than the 0.75 percent proposed by McDonnell and the House of Delegate; however, it is more than the 0.55 percent the Senate proposed in its previous version of the transportation overhaul plan.

Delegate Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, the only Democratic delegate on the conference committee, said Senate Democrats originally wanted to limit transportation’s share of the general fund to 0.55 percent because they worried that a higher percentage would take money from other public services, such as education and law enforcement.

“Throughout this process, it has been important to our party to develop a long-term solution that generates enough revenue to adequately address our needs without stripping funding to other core government services,” said Del. Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke.

But McDonnell maintained that transportation is vital to the prosperity of Virginia and deserves a high priority.

“Transportation must be treated like a core function of government, and it must share in our growth in general fund revenues to a greater extent than currently structured,” he said.

Throughout the legislative session, a proposal of impose tolls on interstate highways in Virginia has been at the center of the transportation debate. Although reports have stated that restrictions on imposing new tolls are included in the conference report, specific language has not been announced yet.

The conference committee’s 98-page compromise now must win approval from both the House and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the governor. With the General Assembly scheduled to adjourn on Saturday, legislators will be cutting it close to pass the transportation bill this session.

“This is a moment to find common ground and get results for the people of Virginia,” McDonnell said. “It is why they sent us here. Not to argue and posture, but to cooperate and solve problems.”

Driver Suspected in Chain Reaction Crash Turns Himself In

A serious crash on Dale Boulevard on Wednesday night left four people seriously injured. [Photo: Uriah Kiser/ Potomac Local News]

Update

The driver that police said slammed into the back of four cars causing a chain reaction crash and then fled the scene turned himself in to police.

More on that, and the victims in the crash in a press release from police:

Hit & Run Multiple Vehicle Crash – On February 20th at 8:00PM, police responded to the area of Dale Blvd and Cloverdale Rd in Woodbridge (22193) for a multi-vehicle crash. The investigation revealed that the driver of a 1989 Toyota Camry was traveling eastbound on Dale Blvd at a high rate of speed when the vehicle struck a 2005 GMC Yukon from behind.

This collision caused a rear end chain reaction with a 1998 Jeep Cherokee, a 1996 Honda Civic, and a 2003 Honda Accord. The driver of the Toyota fled the scene shortly after the crash. The vehicles were originally stopped at the intersection because of a red traffic light. After the collision the drivers of the Accord and Civic exited their vehicles to check on the occupants of the other vehicles.

At that point, the driver of a 2000 Dodge Caravan was traveling eastbound, approaching the crash, and had to make an evasive maneuver to avoid colliding with the vehicles involved in the original crash. In the process, the Caravan struck the drivers of the Accord and Civic. The drivers of the Accord and Civic, in addition to, a passenger from the 1989 Toyota Camry (injury sustained in original crash) were flown to an area hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

A passenger in the GMC Yukon was ground transported to an area hospital also for non-life threatening injuries. Investigators were able to identify the driver of the Toyota who fled the scene. Following the investigation, warrants were obtained. On February 21st, the accused turned himself into police without incident.

Arrested on February 21st: (No Photo Available)

Elmer E HERNANDEZ, 37, of 4657 Whitaker Pl in Woodbridge

The driver of the 1989 Toyota Camry

Charged with hit & run, reckless driving, no seatbelt, and driving with an open container

Court date and bond information unavailable

Identified:

The passenger of the 1989 Toyota Camry was identified as a 20 year old man of Woodbridge

The driver of the 2005 GMC Yukon was identified as a 42 year man of Woodbridge

The passenger of the 2005 GMC Yukon was identified as a 40 year old woman of Woodbridge

The driver of the 1998 Jeep Cherokee was identified as a 56 year old man of Woodbridge

The driver of the 1996 Honda Civic was identified as a 20 year old woman of Woodbridge

The driver of the 2003 Honda Accord was identified as a 25 year old man of Woodbridge

The driver of the 2000 Dodge Caravan was identified as a 43 year old man of Woodbridge

10:25 p.m. 

DALE CITY, Va. – A serious crash on Dale Boulevard on Wednesday night left four people injured.

It happened just before 9 p.m. when three vehicles – a Honda car, Jeep and Chevrolet Suburban SUVs all headed east on Dale Boulevard in Dale City — were stopped at a signal light at the intersection of Cloverdale Road. Then, an older model Toyota Corolla slammed into the back of the Suburban causing a chain reaction impact, forcing the Suburban into the Jeep, and then Jeep into the Honda, said Prince William police 1st Sgt. Martin Douglas.

Police were unclear early into the investigation if the signal light was green or red at the time of the crash.

Driver of the Toyota fled the scene leaving behind a passenger, who along with the other occupants of the stricken vehicles, got out to check on the condition of everyone involved in the crash.

About the same time, a Dodge minivan cane up from behind, and when the driver saw the pedestrians in the middle of the road, the driver then swerved into a left turn lane to avoid hitting the pedestrians, said Douglas.

At least two people were standing in the turn land and were struck, and so were two others on the scene. Two victims were flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital and two others were taken to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. Their conditions were not released.

Police put out a search for the driver of the Toyota but had not located him as of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Douglas said the passenger in that car was one of the people flown to a hospital, and police suspect he had been drinking prior to the crash.

Police closed a portion of Dale Boulevard between Darbydale Avenue and Cloverdale Road headed east, and Benita Fitzgerald Drive and Cloverdale Road during crash investigation.

The westbound portion of Dale Boulevard was reopened to traffic shortly after 9:30 p.m.

Police did not immediately have information on charges in this case.

The incident was one of several pedestrian-involved crashes in Prince William on Wednesday night. Another crash was reported in the Manassas area at the intersection of Lomond and Garner drives. We’ll bring you more information on that crash once we have it.

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Train Hits Trailer in Gainesville: Portion of U.S. 29 Closed

122111 PWC police

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.

New Traffic Plan: No Left Turns at U.S. 1 Junction in Dumfries

A plat showing of planned intersection improvements at U.S. 1 and Va. 234.

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.

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Tysons Buses Retimed after Opening of 495 Express Lanes

Dozens of OmniRide busses are lined up ready to go out on the afternoon runs at PRTC in Woodbridge.

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.

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