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Traffic & Transit

Bucket Truck Hits Light Fixture, Causes Bridge Backup

The Falmouth Bridge links Stafford County with Fredericksburg via U.S. 1. Drivers closest to the camera are headed south. [Photo: Uriah Kiser  / Potomac Local News]

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.

Bill Would Send More Road Money to Northern Virginia

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

By DESTINY BRANDON
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Northern Virginia would get a bigger share of the state’s highway maintenance funds under legislation being sponsored by Delegate Jim LeMunyon, R-Fairfax County.

House Bill 1884 would allocate the funds “on the basis of vehicle miles traveled in each highway construction district compared to vehicle miles traveled in the Commonwealth as a whole.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation divides the state into nine districts. Under LeMunyon’s bill, for example, if a district represents 25 percent of all the vehicle miles traveled in Virginia, it would get roughly 25 percent of the highway maintenance funds.

“Any such allocation may vary by plus or minus 10 percent from this ratio in a particular highway construction district in a particular fiscal year, provided that a three-fiscal-year moving average of funds allocated for any given district shall be at least 100 percent of that required by the ratio for each district,” HB 1884 states.

It also says the state highway commissioner “may direct funds to any specific highway segment or other transportation facility that he determines is in need of maintenance or repair because of a significant risk to public safety, provided he has provided written notice of his determination and the specific reasons therefore in writing to all the members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.”

LeMunyon said his bill represents a fairer way to distribute highway maintenance funds.

“Right now there’s a process VDOT has to allocate that money based on need, which is just fine, except that need seems to be more focused on areas outside Northern Virginia,” LeMunyon said. “In a way, that looks like Northern Virginia is getting shortchanged.”

A subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee voted 3-2 in favor of HB 1884. The bill is awaiting a vote by the full committee.

The three subcommittee members who favored the measure are all delegates from Northern Virginia: Republicans Tom Rust of Herndon and Randy Minchew of Leesburg, and Democrat Eileen Filler-Corn of Springfield.

The two subcommittee members who voted against HB 1884 were from Republican Delegates Scott Garrett of Lynchburg and Ed Scott of Culpeper.

Tamara Rollison, communications division administrator for VDOT, said the agency works with lawmakers.

“As with any transportation legislation, VDOT provides the information and facts so lawmakers can make the best decisions possible,” she said. She said it was too early to comment on HB 1884.

Transportation is a priority for the General Assembly this legislative session. Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed a plan to provide more than $3.1 billion in transportation funding for Virginia over the next five years, including $1.8 billion for new construction. McDonnell wants to eliminate the gas tax and replace it with a higher sales tax. He says this would provide a long-term solution for funding transportation.

Transportation also is a priority for LeMunyon. Of the 15 bills he has filed this session, six involve transportation. They include:

? HB 1885, which would require VDOT to rate the pavement condition of every highway in the state every five years and post the ratings on a website. The House Appropriations Committee this week unanimously approved the proposal.

? HB 1886, which would prohibit over-the-road operation of certain vehicles whose tire weights exceed guidelines. This bill has cleared the House Transportation Committee.

? HB 2020, which would prohibit the use of toll revenues “for any purpose other than the construction, reconstruction, replacement, maintenance replacement, improvement, or maintenance of the facility for the use of which the tolls were imposed and collected.” This bill is before the House Transportation Committee.

Some of LeMunyon’s other bills include:

? HB 2019, which would “require that a current copy of all school division policies and regulations must be posted on the division’s website and available to employees and to the public.” A subcommittee of the House Education Committee has recommended approval of the proposal.

? HB 2021, which would prohibit discrimination in public employment “based on race, color, religion, political affiliation, national origin, sex, age, disability, or any other reason except reasons related to skills, knowledge, or ability.” The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on General Laws.

? HB 2068, which would require school divisions to provide early intervention services to students in kindergarten and first and second grade “who demonstrate deficiencies based on their individual performance on diagnostic reading tests.” The bill also would require schools to provide extra help to students in grades six through nine who are at risk of failing the state’s Algebra I end-of-course test. The House unanimously passed the bill Tuesday and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

Bus Ridership Down in 2012; More Turn to Slugging

Many riders begin and end their commutes, or transfer to other PRTC buses at the agency’s Transit Center in Woodbridge.

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – The overall number of bus passengers on Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission services fell by 2 percent in 2012.

Transit officials at PRTC – which provides OmniRide commuter, OmniLink local, and Metro Direct bus services for Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park – compared ridership numbers with those logged in 2011 and found the decrease.

Fewer people are using the Metro Direct and OmniLink services, which saw decreases of 2 and 3 percent, respectively.

More in a press release from PRTC:

PRTC provides commuter and local bus services for residents of Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park. In 2012, PRTC’s OmniRide and Metro Direct commuter bus services carried more than 2.2 million passengers, a 3% decrease compared with 2011. Its OmniLink and Cross County Connector local bus services transported 985,000 passengers, a 2% decrease compared with 2011.

PRTC management attributes the decline to two factors: Congress’s decision as 2011 drew to a close to reduce the maximum allowable federal commuter transit benefit from $230 to $125 per month as of January 1, 2012; and a significant reduction in gas prices that occurred on the heels of the benefit reduction.

The commuter transit benefit allows employers to financially encourage the use of transit and vanpools. The incentive is pre-tax money that an employee sets aside and/or a tax-free fringe benefit provided by the employer. While private employers can choose to provide this benefit, it is required for federal employers.

From March 2009 through December 2011, commuters could apply a maximum of $230 monthly toward their commute if they used public transportation or a vanpool. When the maximum monthly benefit was decreased to $125, approximately two-thirds of PRTC’s commuter customers faced a significant increase in bus fare. Ironically, the drop in the transit benefit coincided with an increase in the monthly parking benefit from $230 to $240. Transit agencies around the country criticized the disparity saying it would encourage people to drive. In PRTC’s service area the disparity also encouraged more slugging, since many commuters have the discretion to slug or ride transit and often do both in a single day.

An encouraging note for commuters who do use the bus: PRTC Director Alfred Harf said congress this month restored the federal commuting transit and parking benefit to $245 per month. The benefit remains in effect until the end of the year.

Also this month, PRTC announced new a Board of Directors to lead the agency that is comprised of members from Prince William, Stafford, and Spotsylvania counties, as well as the cities of Manassas, Manassas Park, and Fredericksburg.

A listing of the new Board members is below:

• Chairman Michael C. May, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors;

• Vice Chairman Francis C. Jones, Mayor of Manassas Park;

• Secretary Robert Thomas, a member of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors;

• Treasurer Matthew Kelly, a member of the Fredericksburg City Council;

• Immediate Past Chairman John D. Jenkins, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors;

• At Large Member Jonathan L. Way, a member of the Manassas City Council; and

• At Large Member Gary F. Skinner, a member of the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors.

 

Congressmen Asked to Oppose Tolls on I-95

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

WHITNEY SPICER
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Ten members of the Virginia House of Delegates have written a joint letter to the state’s congressional delegation, urging the federal legislators to join in opposing VDOT’s plans to charge tolls on Interstate 95.

Delegate John Cox, R-Ashland, one of the delegates who signed the letter, believes that placing tolls on I-95, as the Virginia Department of Transportation has proposed, is not the best option for increasing road revenue.

“Tolls are a tax that is imposed disproportionately. In other words, citizens that live the closest to the toll plazas will pay more in road taxes even though many of them may drive less miles than others living farther from the toll plazas,” Cox said, according to a legislative aide.

The letter signed by Cox and other delegates listed other reasons for opposing the tolls, including the possible environmental and economic impact.

The document stated that tolls on I-95 would cause 35-40 percent of the interstate’s traffic to divert onto local roads in an attempt to avoid the charges. It also said tolling would cost jobs and hurt businesses in Virginia.

Currently, the proposed tolling plan includes a single tolling location in Sussex County in the Tidewater area near North Carolina. But the delegates believe this will just be the first step in implementing tolling throughout the state.

“Localities along all of Virginia’s interstates should thoughtfully consider the precedent that this plan will set for future tolling facilities,” the letter stated.

Caroline County has been considered as an alternative tolling location within Virginia.

According to Cox, “There has been some discussion within VDOT that a toll plaza might be in Caroline’s future. The citizens of Caroline that commute on I-95 would pay a significant toll tax, and receive less in road maintenance funds in return.”

Cox believes there are better ways to raise road revenue than the use of tolls, such as raising the fuel tax.

“The excise tax is paid by everyone that drives a motor vehicle on the highways,” he said. “The more you drive, the more you pay. And if you don’t use the roads, you don’t pay.”

Cox considers this to be a much better source of transportation funding than the implementation of toll plazas.

“The fuel tax is much more efficient in that the revenue is already being collected by fuel retailers,” Cox said, “The state doesn’t have to establish toll plazas, or a bureaucracy to administer the collection of tolls.”

Cox is not the only one who oppose VDOT’s plan to toll I-95. According to the letter sent by the delegates, numerous groups and citizens have expressed opposition to tolling. They include 23 local governments, 15 statewide business associations, five economic and planning authorities, public safety organizations and private businesses, and more than 6,800 individuals, the letter said.

The letter was written after Delegate Christopher Peace, R-Hanover, submitted a bill that would require the General Assembly’s approval before charging tolls on any interstate highway. Two other bills in the House also would prohibit tolling in Virginia without the General Assembly’s approval.

Besides Cox and Peace, the letter was signed by Delegates Bob Brink, John O’Bannon, Rosalyn Dance, Roslyn Tyler, Tommy Wright, Roxann Robinson, Gordon Helsel and Lee Ware.

Schools Close Early; Snow Could Make for Messy Afternoon Commute

Road conditions deteriorated fast was snow fell fast on Jan. 26, 2011, on  Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) in North Stafford. [File Photo: Mary Davidson/Potomac Local News]

Update 

Prince William County Public Schools closing one hour early:

Today, January 25, all Prince William County Public Schools will close one hour early due to inclement weather in certain areas.

All scheduled Thursday HS Exams will be given today.

Originally scheduled Friday exams are moved to Monday.

All Schools will be open Monday, January 28 & closed Tuesday, January 29 for Teacher Workday.

Elementary schools will have a half day on Wednesday, January 30, for Teacher Conferences.

Manassas Public Schools will also close one hour early today:

Due to impending inclement weather, Manassas City Public Schools will be closing one hour early today, Thursday, January 25th. Parents should take note of the following early dismissal schedule:

Metz Middle School will dismiss at 1:30 p.m.,

Mayfield Intermediate School will dismiss at 2:00 p.m.

All Elementary schools will dismiss at 2:30 p.m.

Also note, that Monday, January 28th is a teacher workday and there will be no school for students.

Manassas Park Public Schools will also close early:

Manassas Park City Schools will close early today; Friday, January 25th

due to predicted inclement weather.

Secondary students will be dismissed at 1:00 pm.

Elementary students will be dismissed at 1:45 pm.

11 a.m. 

Snow – it’s already falling across southwest Virginia and is expected to make it to our region by 3 p.m.

A winter weather advisory has been issued for Prince William, Stafford, and many other counties in the region, and Fairfax County Public Schools said they will close early to the impending winter weather. Stafford County schools are closed today and, so far, there’s no on if Prince William County will change their school day today.

Forecasters said this won’t be a big storm – about an inch to two, if we’re lucky. But, as we all know, it doesn’t take much to mess up the evening rush hour commute.

Here’s some tips for this afternoon’s drive home from Virginia State Police:

State police are advising residents to delay their travels if possible until later Saturday, once the storm has moved through the state. This will provide VDOT the chance to treat and clear roadways, and will greatly reduce drivers’ chances of being stuck in backed up traffic and/or being involved in a traffic crash.

Virginia State Police offer the following safe travel tips for motorists to keep in mind before heading out –

-Leave early…so you have extra time to safely reach your travel destination

-Slow your speed for road conditions

-Buckle up and don’t drive distracted

–Use your headlights…to increase your visibility and to help other motorists see you

Completely clear all windows and head/taillights of snow/ice before traveling

-Increase driving distances between vehicles for increased stopping distance

-Call 511 for road conditions or click on 511virginia.org – not 911 or #77, as these are for emergency calls only

The snow won’t hang around long, forecasters said, as it’s supposed to clear out by 9 p.m. But cold temperatures: That’s a different story. Expect sunny skies during the day and clear skies at night with high temps in the mid 30s and lows in the mid 20s both Saturday and Sunday.

State Police Called to Multiple Crashes on I-95 in Prince William

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. –Virginia State Police have been called to several crashes this morning on Interstate 95 in Prince William County.

More in a press release:

Shortly before 8:30 a.m., Virginia State Police Trooper J.A. Dixon was investigating a three-vehicle crash that had occurred in the southbound lanes of I-95 near Exit 150A in Prince William County. Also stopped out at the scene was a second trooper and a VDOT Safety Services Patrol vehicle. No one was injured in this crash.

At 8:34 a.m., a Nissan Frontier ran off the road and struck Trooper Dixon’s vehicle and two of the three vehicles in the original crash. Trooper Dixon was seated inside his vehicle at the time of the crash. Both the trooper and driver of the Nissan Frontier have gone to [Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center]l for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

At 8:40 a.m., a southbound 2004 Ford Ranger was making a lane change when the driver lost control and slid sideways into the VDOT Safety Services vehicle. The impact of that crash caused the VDOT truck to strike the Safety Services Patroller who was standing outside his vehicle. The Ranger then struck the other trooper’s patrol car. The Safety Services Patroller has been transported to Potomac Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the Ranger, Robert Craig, 65, of Fredericksburg, was not injured in the crash. Craig has been charged with reckless driving.

Traffic backups extend on northbound I-95 from Dumfries back into Stafford County.

Closings & Delays Jan. 24, 2013

Schools Closed

Prince William County Public Schools

Stafford County Public Schools

Fredericksburg Public Schools

Fauquier County Public Schools

Manassas Public Schools closed as of 8:30 a.m. Thursday 

Two Hour Delay

Manassas Park Public Schools

Fairfax County Public Schools

Arlington County Public Schools

Alexandria Public Schools

Government

Open with unscheduled leave or telework

Stafford County government offices open with liberal leave in effect

Prince William County government open with unscheduled leave

Transit 

PRTC OmniRide / OmniLink operating normal service today. Some stops along U.S. 1 not being served because of poor road conditions. 

Virginia Railway Express opens Metro option for riders after train breaks down on Fredericksburg line

 

One Killed in I-95 Crash at Fairfax County Parkway

Photo: Mary Davidson

Update 5:30 p.m Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013

A Maryland woman was killed Tuesday morning (Jan. 22) in a two-vehicle traffic crash in Fairfax County. The crash occurred at 7:12 a.m. in the southbound lanes of I-95 less than a mile from Route 286/Fairfax County Parkway.

A flatbed truck was stopped for traffic preparing to take the exit ramp onto Route 286 south, when it was rear-ended by a 2007 Kia Sedona. The driver of the Kia, Ellen S. Linder, 65, of Kensington, Md., died at the scene. The driver of the truck was not injured in the crash.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

-Virginia State Police 

10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013

Police are investigating a fatal crash that occurred this morning on Intestate 95 at Fairfax County Parkway.

More in a statement from Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller:

At 6:44 a.m., Virginia State Police Trooper M.S. Ratliff was called to the scene of a fatal crash in the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 near Route 286. A minivan ran into the rear of a 3-axle truck. The driver of the minivan died at the scene. State police are still investigating the cause of the crash and in the process of notifying the next of kin of the deceased.

 

Fleeing Suspect Leads to Friday’s Commotion on I-95, Child Neglect Charges

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – We know more about what led to a commotion on Interstate 95 on Friday afternoon, when traffic nearly came to a halt during a police investigation at Prince William Parkway.

Here’s more in a press release from Prince William police:

Felony Child Neglect | Felony Eluding – On January 18th at 3:20PM, a Prince William County police officer attempted to stop a vehicle in the area of Jefferson Davis Hwy and Dumfries Rd in Dumfries (22026) for a traffic violation.

The driver ignored the officer’s emergency equipment and proceeded onto I-95 northbound. Officers followed the vehicle as the driver proceeded onto the HOV flyover ramp, near the Opitz Blvd interchange, and towards oncoming HOV southbound traffic.

The driver was stopped by lowered barriers at the end of the ramp. At that point, the driver, identified as the accused, fled on foot across northbound interstate traffic and into the wooded area adjacent to the interstate.

A police K-9 was utilized in the search for the accused, who was not located. Inside the vehicle were 3 other adults and 2 small children, two 2 year old boys, all were unharmed.

Following the investigation, warrants were obtained against the accused. The accused was arrested on January 20th in Fairfax County.

Arrested on January 20th:

Daejon Tyrie JONES, 19, of 3107 Chesapeake Dr in Dumfries

Charged with 2 counts of felony child neglect, felony eluding, reckless driving, driving on a suspended license and failure to secure a child in a safety restraint

Court date and bond information unavailable

One Pulled from SUV, Dale Boulevard Traffic Rerouted

Update Monday 

The driver involved in a crash on Dale Boulevard has died from injuries stemming from a broken neck, according to information obtained by Potomac Local News. 

FROM POLICE REPORTS:

Crash – Fatality – On January 19th at 9:27AM, police responded to the 4100 block of Dale Blvd in Woodbridge (22193) for a crash. The investigation revealed that the driver, and only occupant, of a 1995 Nissan Pathfinder was leaving the bank in the area above when he suffered an apparent medical emergency. The vehicle continued forward and ran off the side of the parking lot and into an embankment. The driver was transported to an area hospital where he died later that afternoon.

Identified:

The driver has been identified as Herman GOODWIN, 87, of Woodbridge

Update 11:45 a.m.

Police said the driver of an SUV that crashed on Dale Boulevard today may have had a medical emergency behind the wheel.

The unidentified victim has been taken to a hospital where they are being treated, according to police.

Initially, emergency crews thought they had lost their patient. But first responders were able to once again find a pulse and then took the victim to a hospital, according to information obtained by Potomac Local News.

Traffic along Dale Boulevard is moving once again. The crash remains under investigation, Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok said.

10 a.m.

DALE CITY, Va. – A red SUV ran off Dale Boulevard, over an embankment and into woods near Forestdale Plaza and Bank of America in Dale City about 9:30 a.m. today.

Rescue crews pulled at least one occupant from the vehicle and then performed CPR on the victim, initial reports stated.

It’s not clear the extent of the victim’s injuries or what caused the crash.

The eastbound portion of Dale Boulevard had been closed by emergency crews and traffic redirected down Forestdale Avenue, according to initial reports.

 

Police Activity Slows Traffic on I-95 at Prince William Parkway

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Police activity is slowing traffic along Interstate 95 in Woodbridge at milepost 158, at Prince William Parkway.

Police say they received a call about a man who ran across the northbound side of the highway and then into a nearby wooded area, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. There is no crash and no injuries have been reported, she added.

Emergency crews have reportedly been told to plan for delays in the area.

Major delays have formed on the northbound side of the highway. Delays appear to ease after Prince William Parkway, according to va511.org.

We’ll have more on this as it develops.

VRE Extends Parking Lease at Rippon Station

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – What’s the going rate to rent a parking space these days? At Virginia’s Railway Express’ Rippon station, it’s $42.10 per space.

The commuter railroad today extended a contract to keep 320 spaces at the popular commuter station for another three years, at a cost of $162,000. The additional spaces are located on land owned by the Kettler land development firm and are a temporary solution help to ease overcrowding at the station and are necessary until a permanent parking garage is built, states information provided by VRE.

This is one-year agreement is between VRE and Kettler, and a VRE statement said the price per space is comparable to current market value, and that Kettler has an option to increase the rent cost by 2 % if the agreement is extended.

Last month, the same VRE Operations Board that approved this measure also approved an agreement with Prince William County to allow pedestrians to pass through the Rippon station to gain access to the nearby Featherstone Wildlife Refuge.

VDOT will use 650 Trucks in Northern Virginia to Treat Roads During Storm

With snow in the forecast today, road crews with the Virginia Department of Transportation are getting ready to treat the roads.

More in a press release from VDOT:

This morning, 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.

Up to about 650 trucks will be on hand to treat roads in northern Virginia throughout the storm.

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

Anderson: Expect Hybrid Proposal to Emerge from Gov.’s Transportation Plan

Del. Richard Anderson, R – Prince William (Submitted photo)

By DELEGATE RICH ANDERSON 

The first week of the 2013 legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly is now history.

Catching my breath in my Capitol Square office on Monday morning after a busy first week in Richmond, followed by town hall meeting that I hosted with Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, Prince William, for Prince William County constituents, and it’s apparent that we are in for a fast ride in the Virginia State Capitol over the next five weeks.

Our 2013 session opened on Wednesday, January 9, when House Speaker William J. Howell gaveled us into session for the next six weeks. This year is designated as the “short session” of the General Assembly, during which we meet for a fast and furious six weeks. Next year is designated as the “long session” when we meet for a full eight weeks. The long session is typically dominated by the budget process that results in debate and approval of the biennial (two-year) Virginia state budget. The budget cycle in which we’re now operating is at the $85 billion level and can be viewed at governor.virginia.gov. Most agree that unprecedented fiscal uncertainties drive a need for a cautious budget over the coming year.

After a number of meetings on the opening day, members of the General Assembly gathered in the House of Delegates chamber in a joint legislative session to hear Gov. Bob McDonnell’s annual State of the Commonwealth Address. During his presentation, the governor outlined his proposals for the final year of his administration and reported on the state of affairs in the Commonwealth.

As expected, Gov. McDonnell’s address centered on matters of reform initiatives and monetary investments in transportation and K-12 education. Both are critical issues for the Commonwealth and will consume much of our attention over the next five weeks.

In the area of transportation, our primary challenge is to stop the movement of some $500 million each year from Virginia’s road construction account to the road maintenance account. To do so, we must identify sources of revenue that replenish regularly and are dependable funding sources for Virginia’s large system of roads and highways.

Gov. McDonnell has proposed a transportation package that consists of a number of elements, including repeal of the gas tax of 17.5 cents per gallon. This would be replaced by an increase in the state sales tax from 5% to 5.8%, with the additional 0.8% devoted to transportation needs and start the process of new funding for transportation. His proposal also includes increases in vehicle-related fees.

Both parties will discuss the governor’s transportation proposals in depth over the next several weeks. Delegates and senators from both parties have proposed several alternative proposals, and I predict at this early point that we will see some sort of hybrid proposal emerge from the committee process.

In the area of K-12 education reform, the governor has proposed a state-supported pay raise of 2% for teachers and educators, along with reforms to teacher employment contracts and the development of local incentives for teachers who help students make academic progress.

We are seeing a greater emphasis on programs that recruit and retain high-quality teachers in subjects that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math. They also include creation of a Governor’s Center for Excellence in Teaching for the professional development of our best teachers.

This session, I am patroning comprehensive legislation on protocols to be followed in suspected concussions sustained by youth athletes. I am also carrying a bill to reauthorize the Virginia Commission on Civics Education that I chair to encourage youth participation in civic and public activities in their communities.

This year, Senator Barker and I are teaming together on a bill to ban texting while driving. The bill makes texting a primary driving offense and carries a $250 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for each successive offense. It’s time to put teeth into state law to dissuade this dangerous activity behind the steering wheel.

As chair of the General Assembly Military and Veteran Caucus, I am joining forces with Sen. Toddy Puller (D-36th) to move a bill to formalize the Virginia Veterans Values (V3) program, which will increase employment of military veterans by Virginia businesses. Also, I have joined forces with House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, to start the process for constructing the next Virginia Veterans Care Center in Northern Virginia. From my perspective, Prince William County is an ideal venue for such a center.

In short, the 2013 legislative session of the General Assembly is shaping up as a breathtaking event between now and when we adjourn on February 23. If any residents of the 51st House District are in Richmond, please stop by our office in Room 406 of the General Assembly Building where our offices are located. I may be reached at DelRAnderson@house.virginia.gov, or at our office number, 804-698-1051. You may also reach my legislative assistant, Ryan M. Galloway, at the same number or at RGalloway@house.virginia.gov. Regardless of your opinion on an issue or bill, and regardless of your party affiliation, we value your views and are pleased to represent you in Richmond.

Del. Rich Anderson, a retired 30-year Air Force colonel, represents Prince William County’s 51st House District in the Virginia General Assembly. The district runs from Occoquan in the east to Nokesville in the west. He sits on four standing House committees: Finance, Transportation, General Laws, and Science and Technology. He also chairs the General Assembly Military and Veterans Caucus and the Virginia Commission on Civics Education.

Businesses, Residents Along Furnace Road in Lorton Told to Expect Noise

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

LORTON, Va. – It’s going to get louder on a stretch of Interstate 95 at Lorton soon. 

More in a press release from the 95 Express Lanes project:

The 95 Express Lanes project will start daytime pile driving on or about January 23, on Furnace Road at I-95. This work is being done to widen the I-95 bridge above Furnace Road for an additional Express Lane that is to be added as part of the project.

Details

Crews will install new pavement along the shoulder of Furnace Road and shift traffic to create the work zone for pile driving. The pavement work is schedule to occur tomorrow, January 15, weather permitting, with a daytime flagging operation.

Crews will then return at night to place barrier along the work zone. Nighttime flagging operations will be in place during this work.

Daytime pile driving will then begin on or about January 23, and is expected to continue into mid-February 2013.

Pile driving will take place Monday through Saturday between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. During pile driving operations, a daytime flagging operation may be needed to move equipment or adjust the work zone.

What you can expect

Businesses and residents near Furnace Road and I-95 may experience elevated noise during this time. Pile driving is usually done in intervals of about 15 minutes with a similar break in between activities.

Wild Boar Causes Stir on Aden Road

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – Drivers on Aden Road have seen fallen branches or dead animals struck by cars.

But on Sunday, a large boar was reportedly standing in the middle of the two lane road obstructing traffic about two miles past Joplin Road, near the Prince William County Public Schools Headquarters at Independent Hill.

Chris Riley was headed to his farm in Remington when he saw the beast standing in the middle of the road. The animal had long hair, fur that was two inches long, and it appeared to have weighed at least 400 pounds.

“I’m a hunter, and I’ve lived in this area for about 40 years and I have never seen anything like that,” said Riley.

An oncoming car flashed their headlights at Riley warning him of the boar in the middle of the road. Once upon it, Riley stopped, honked his horn not once but twice, and then it finally ran off the roadway into the Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Riley has hunted Russian boar before and said they can be dangerous, as the more wild they are the longer and sharper their tusks can get. He’s even lost hunting dogs to vicious boars, he said.

It’s apparent other drivers saw the boar, too. At 12:19 p.m., Prince William County Animal Control officers were called to the area for a report of a boar. When they arrived, it ran off into the woods, said county police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

Another call came in at just before 5 p.m., but no pig was found. At 6:45 pm., police were called to the 14400 block of Aden Road where they found a dead pig. It was removed from the roadway, said Perok.

We don’t know if the pig found dead is the same boar described by Riley, who urged drivers to beware.

“Something that large, larger than a deer, it could’ve done some real damage to my car if I’d had hit it,” he said.

Black Legislators Oppose I-95 Tolls

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

By JEFFERY KNIGHT
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Opponents of tolls on Interstate 95 have a new ally: African American legislators.

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said it would fight proposals to levy tolls on the interstate – an idea Gov. Bob McDonnell has floated to finance repairs and construction costs. One suggestion has been to charge cars $4 and tractor-trailers $12.

“These tolls would kill small towns and business owners,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt. She is sponsoring House Bill 1460, which would prohibit state officials from imposing tolls on I-95 without the General Assembly’s approval.

Preventing tolls was among several priorities for the 2013 legislative session that the Black Caucus outlined at a news conference this week. The group is made up of 18 lawmakers and is headed by state Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton.

Another priority is passing a constitutional amendment to automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their prison sentences. That’s something McDonnell has called for, too.

MORE to the STORY: Dumfries and several other Virginia jurisdictions also oppose tolls on I-95

Delegate Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, urged fellow lawmakers to adopt the proposal.

“I would leave the General Assembly tomorrow if we get that bill,” Ware told caucus members to a roar of laughter. “It’s not a black or white thing; it’s a people thing.”

As caucus leader, Locke said she has her sights set on overhauling Virginia’s 21-day rule in criminal cases. The rule states that no court can review any newly discovered evidence presented 21 days or more after the initial sentencing, and that only an appellate court can consider new evidence.

The rule received scrutiny recently because of the case of Jonathan Montgomery, who had been wrongfully convicted and served more than half of a seven-year sentence for a crime he did not commit.

Montgomery, who is from Florida, was convicted of sexual assault in Hampton in 2000 based on testimony from a woman who later admitted she lied. Last fall, McDonnell issued Montgomery a pardon, and he was released from prison.

Montgomery might have been released earlier, but Virginia’s 21-day rule prevented the circuit court from acting in the case. He had to wait until the Virginia Court of Appeals issued a writ of actual innocence.

“My modification would be if the person is found not guilty, it would go back to the circuit court that heard the case,” Locke said.

Drivers Warned of Possible Delays for Ongoing Transportation Projects in Region Next Week

Virginia transportation officials warned drivers today about three construction projects that could cause delays, including a full closure of a portion of the Capital Beltway, and about a change to an ongoing repair project on interstate 95.

More about the Beltway closure in a press release from the Virginia Megaprojects office:

All lanes on I-495 South, Outer Loop, will close before Exit 50, Arlington Blvd. (Route 50) during overnight hours this Sunday night, Jan. 13, into early Monday morning, Jan. 14, to safely complete joint repair work. All traffic will be directed to use the access road adjacent to I-495 just north of the Route 50 Exit.

The closure and detour are scheduled to begin at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night until 5 a.m. Monday morning.

Drivers are advised to follow detour signs and use caution.

Commuters should also know about a project to install storm drain pipe along Seminary Road near Mark Center in Alexandria:

Beginning on or about January 14th, the left turn lane on Seminary Road (Route 420) west to Mark Center Avenue will be temporarily closed for the construction of two concrete medians and installation of storm drain pipe as part of the Mark Center transportation improvements projects.

The turn lane will be closed each day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14 thru Thursday, Jan. 17, and again each night, Monday thru Thursday, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Over that weekend, the turn lane will be closed on Friday and Saturday nights, Jan. 18 and 19, from 9:30 p.m. to 9 a.m., and Sunday night, 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday morning.

Motorists will be detoured past Mark Center Avenue to make a left turn on N. Beauregard Street, then left on Mark Center Drive, and follow signs to Mark Center Avenue.

This turn-lane improvement is part of the Mark Center Mid-Term Improvements Project. The project is expected to be complete in the summer of 2013. For more information on this project, go to markcenterroadproject.com.

In Stafford, an ongoing project to repair a slope on the side of Interstate 95 will continue. More in a press release from Virginia Department of Transportation’s Fredericksburg office:

Work to stabilize an embankment along Interstate 95 southbound in Stafford County will continue for several weeks to halt erosion near the travel lanes.

The right lane of I-95 southbound will be closed at mile marker 147 from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, just south of Exit 148/Quantico Marine Corps Base. Lane closures will be lifted whenever congestion surpasses 3 miles. No lane closures will occur Friday-Sunday.

Debris Removal to Close Harrell Road in Stafford County

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Harrell Road in Stafford County will close once to traffic once again on Friday.

The two-lane road will close at Claiborne Run, where the road often floods out after rainstorms. The road will close between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday so crews can clean debris from channels at the water crossing, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Harrell Road links Forbes Street and Deacon Road in the Falmouth area of Stafford County.

McDonnell Wants to End Gas Tax, Raise Sales Tax, Fees to Fund Transportation

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell

By MARK ROBINSON
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – With the General Assembly set to convene, Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed Tuesday increasing Virginia’s sales tax and abolishing its nearly 27-year-old gas tax, making Virginia the first state in the country to do so.

The measures are a part of the governor’s proposed $3.1 billion plan to fund improvements to Virginia’s transportation system over the next five years. The funds would supplement $14 billion of transportation projects already under way in the commonwealth, the most in Virginia’s history.

“Declining funds for infrastructure maintenance, stagnant motor fuels tax revenues, increased demand for transit and passenger rail and the growing cost of major infrastructure projects necessitate enhancing and restructuring the commonwealth’s transportation program and the way it’s funded,” McDonnell said at a press conference.

McDonnell described the state’s gas tax as “outdated” because of inflation and better fuel economy since it was last changed in 1986. He said boosting funding for transportation was the only way to ensure Virginia could continue its economic growth.

Among his proposed changes:

• The current 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax, which accounts for more than 30 percent of the state’s transportation revenues, would be eliminated; instead, the sales tax would increase from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. McDonnell predicted this would generate more than $600 million in additional transportation funds. The 17.5 cent tax on diesel would remain intact.

• To supplement the increase in sales tax, a higher percent of the state’s sales tax would go directly to transportation funds – from .5 cents to .75 cents over the five years.

• The plan would impose an increase of $15 for each vehicle registration, resulting in an average vehicle registration cost of $56 per vehicle, McDonnell said.

• The state would impose an annual $100 alternative fuel vehicle. The governor dismissed the idea that the fee would deter people from buying alternative fuel vehicles. More than 91,000 are currently registered in Virginia.

McDonnell’s plan would use new revenues and more money from the general fund – an approach he said would appease lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. In the past, Republicans have supported using money from the general fund for roads as a core function of government. Democrats, on the other hand, have rejected previous attempts to use general fund dollars for transportation.

The General Assembly will consider the governor’s proposals during the 45-day legislative session that begins Wednesday.

If passed, the measures would take effect July 1. The Republicans hold a majority in the House of Delegates and a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who presides over the Senate, expressed support for McDonnell’s plan.

I-95 Slope Work Resumes at Quantico This Week

122212-Interstate-95-traffi

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – They put it off before but it had to get going again at some point.

Virginia transportation officials are warning drivers to expect daytime closures on Interstate 95 in the area of Quantico Marine Corps Base this week. The work is to repair a slope along the highway and it’s not considered a part of the larger effort to bring I-95 Express toll lanes to North Stafford.

More in a press release:

The right lane of Interstate 95 southbound will close next week during daytime hours near mile marker 147, just south of Exit 148 at Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Beginning Monday, Jan. 7 through Thursday, Jan. 10, the right lane will be closed each day from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) continues to repair the slope of the roadway over approximately 200 yards. Due to the materials being used, this work must be performed when temperatures are warmer during daytime hours. Work on the project has been suspended since Dec. 20 to avoid congestion delays over the year-end holidays.

Real-time listings of work zones and road conditions in Virginia are available on VDOT’s 24-hour traffic information website, www.511Virginia.org. Motorists can also access 511Virginia by calling 511 from any telephone in Virginia.

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