WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia



Traffic & Transit

VDOT motoring traffic at Potomac Mills, Virginia Gateway to ease congestion for holiday shoppers

The Virginia Department of Transportation has help for shoppers this holiday season, and it’s out in time for Black Friday — one of the buisest shopping days of the year. 

Here’s more in a press release: 

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, the Virginia Department of Transportation will time signals to help move drivers through major shopping centers around northern Virginia.

Using traffic data gathered during last year’s holiday season, VDOT developed time- and location-specific signal-timing plans at 222 intersections.

“Each year, the goal is to accommodate the changing traffic patterns expected around the shopping centers as efficiently as possible,” said Ling Li, Operations Engineering Manager at VDOT’s Transportation Operations Center.

Engineers will also use traffic cameras and traffic sensors to monitor conditions and make adjustments in real time, even on holidays, to help keep traffic moving in especially congested areas such as Tysons, Virginia Gateway and Fair Oaks Mall areas.

Holiday signal timing will be in effect from Nov. 26, 2015 through Jan. 1, 2016 at the following shopping centers:   

  • Tysons and Galleria Shopping Centers
  • Reston Town Center
  • Fair Lakes Shopping Center
  • Fair Oaks Mall
  • Potomac Mills Mall
  • Manassas Mall
  • Springfield Mall
  • Cascades Town Center
  • Potomac Run Center
  • Dulles Town Center
  • Leesburg Outlets
  • Dulles 28 Centre
  • Virginia Gateway Shopping Center

Tysons Displays Refreshed
Also in time for Black Friday, VDOT’s travel information displays at Tysons Corner Mall have been refreshed with a revised, easier-to-read layout. The screens display real-time Metro and bus arrivals, as well as a rotating display of bus locations, travel times, traffic cameras, road conditions and incidents near Tysons.

A new screen is also in place this year near the first-floor food court that exits at parking garage C. The additional five screens are located near the movie theatres, Starbucks, Barnes and Noble and Macy’s. Shoppers are reminded of these tools to help them use Metro or Bus to avoid holiday shopping traffic and congestion in the Tysons area.

VDOT offers shoppers the following tips for staying safe and avoiding traffic:

  • Put down the cell phone, especially while exiting or entering a shopping center and angling for a parking space.

  • Avoid multiple trips to the mall. Consider getting shopping done all in one day, with an early start around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m.

E-ZPass Express Lanes to be extended south at Stafford, north to D.C.

The E-ZPass Express Lanes on Interstate 95 will be extended in Stafford County, and to Washington, D.C.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today in a press release that the express lanes in Stafford County would be extended two miles past Garrisonville Road. Two lanes will merge into one, and drivers will be able to continue past today’s final exit point at Garrisonville Road.

Drivers in the Express Lanes regularly sit in congestion at the terminus of the lanes in Stafford County. Those who don’t exit at Garrisonville Road will exit the lanes two miles south into the left travel lane of I-95, much like old traffic pattern at Dumfries before the December 2014 opening of the E-ZPass Express Lanes.

A right exit and flyover were built at Garrisonville Road so traffic exiting the Express Lanes could reenter mainline I-95 traffic into the right lane, not the left. Transit officials before the Express Lanes opening blamed heavy bottleneck traffic at Dumfries, in part on the left exiting – entering traffic pattern that existed there at the time.

The left exiting – entering ramp was closed, and a new right exit-enter ramp was built just before Joplin Road at Quantico.

Here are the full details on the governor’s plan for the Stafford terminus:

I-95 Express Lanes Southern Terminus
The project will extend 95 Express Lanes by approximately 2 miles past the point where the current flyover carries southbound traffic to Exit 143/Garrisonville Road in Stafford County. A single reversible lane would be built, eventually splitting into northbound and southbound merge ramps.

Southbound traffic in 95 Express Lanes will be able to continue driving past Exit 143 at Garrisonville Road. Southbound traffic will merge back into the mainline I-95 southbound lanes approximately 1,500 feet beyond the Garrisonville Road on-ramp to I-95 southbound. Traffic will merge into the left lane of I-95. This spacing will balance local and express lanes traffic entering I-95 southbound.

Northbound traffic can enter the 95 Express Lanes sooner. The new northbound entrance will be located approximately 1,000 ft. before the I-95 northbound off-ramp at Exit 143 to Route 1 at Aquia. Northbound traffic will merge into express lanes from the left lane.

Construction is estimated to begin in 2016 and take two years to complete. Work will primarily take place within the median and within the existing right-of-way. No personal or business property should be affected.

The Express Lanes carry drivers north toward Washington, D.C. in the mornings. The Express Lanes currently end at just before Duke Street in Alexandria. Single paying drivers must exit the lanes in the mornings, but vehicles with three one more occupants may continue using the HOV lanes to get to the 14th Street Bridge in Washington. These lanes are the last vestige of the old HOV system that spanned between Dumfries and the Pentagon.

All drivers who use the E-ZPass Express Lanes must have an electronic E-ZPass transponder in their vehicle. Single drivers pay a toll, and vehicles with three or more occupants in the car ride free with the E-ZPass.

Arlington County officials in the latter part of the last decade protested the conversion of HOV lanes to toll lanes by saying the lanes would mean more drivers would moving through the county, and more pollution from cars.

Then Virginia Transportation Secretary and former Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton struck a deal with the county, and private toll road operator Transurban to build the lanes as far north as Turkeycock Run, just before Duke Street in Alexandria.

Here’s the governor’s plan for the northbound extension:

I-395 Express Lanes Extension

The project will extend the 395 Express Lanes for eight miles north to the DC line. The project will convert and expand the existing HOV lanes on I-395 from Turkeycock Run north to the district to dynamically tolled express lanes.

An additional express lane will be built, providing three express lanes in the corridor.

There will be dedicated funding for new and enhanced transit services and carpooling incentives.

The work will be done by Transurban under the existing contract it has with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Construction is expected to begin in 2017, with the extended lanes opening to traffic in 2019.

Vehicles with three or more people will continue to use the express lanes for free. Solo drivers will have the choice to take general purpose lanes for free or use the express lanes for a variable toll.

Fewer hitting roads for Thanksgiving, but expect delays anyway

The number of Thanksgiving travelers leaving the Washington area is expected to decrease this year.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says fewer drivers will hit the road to grandma’s house for the annual holiday. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year.

It’s not a huge decrease, as AAA notes about 0.2% fewer area residents will leave home this Thanksgiving than did last year. Many area residents travel 50 miles or more to Thanksgiving destinations, and for vacations, states AAA.

Last year, roadways saw the most travelers over the Thanksgiving holiday since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007. AAA states that despite improving economy, falling unemployment rates, and fuel prices remain low, fewer people plan to travel.

“Curiously, the number of travelers departing from the Washington metro area will remain flat this Thanksgiving, despite an unemployment rate that continues to decline and the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices in seven years,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “The family car remains the preferred mode of travel for Thanksgiving. The automobile share of Thanksgiving travel has hovered near 90 percent since the recession as budget-conscious consumers have tended toward car trips.”

In 2014, eight people were killed in vehicle crashes on Virginia’s roads and highways. It was the lowest number of deaths recorded over the holiday weekend in a decade.

The number of fatalities from auto crashes in Virginia for 2015, at 652 lives lost, tops the 633 fatalities on state roads by the same time last year. Drivers can expect to see more state police patroling the highways as part of an initiative they’re calling “drive to save lives.”

“State police will have the majority of its uniformed workforce on patrol from Wednesday through Sunday of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Our goal is not to see how many summonses can be issued and traffic violators arrested over the holiday. The purpose of having our troopers out there on Virginia’s highways is to remind the motoring public of the importance of traffic safety and to deter aggressive, dangerous, reckless, and impaired driving. We are prepared to do our job to make Virginia safer, and we thank those people already driving to save lives. But, as evident by the spike in traffic deaths this year, we still need more drivers and passengers to do their part by buckling up, complying with speed limits, sharing the road, and never driving impaired or distracted.”

There is some very good news for travelers in Virginia, from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“VDOT is suspending highway work zones during the five-day peak Thanksgiving travel period to reduce congestion on interstates and major highways. Lane closures will be lifted on most major roads in Virginia from noon Wednesday, Nov. 25, until noon Monday, Nov. 30.”

What times are the best times to travel when headed out of town? In our area, the earlier you can get away Wednesday the better off you’ll be. Traditionally, congestion on Interstate 95 south begins to build between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and remains heavy through the evening, especially through Woodbridge.

Traffic is traditionally light on Thanksgiving Day, and few backups are seen on area highways during peak day hours on the day after Thanksgiving — Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Returning home from Thanksgiving, highway conditions on I-95 become congested during the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday, so you’ll want to leave early. The Virginia Department of Transportation explains this in a video posted below.

How a VRE extension to Haymarket and Gainesville could bring the closure of a popular Manassas line station

The Broad Run Station is the first stop on the Manassas commuter rail line on weekday mornings and the last each weekday afternoon.

And it could become a thing of the past.

Virginia Railway Express is conducting a study of a proposed 11-mile extension of the system’s Manassas line to Gainesville and Haymarket called the GHX. If service is expanded, trains will travel along what’s known as Norfolk-Southern’s “B line” from Haymarket to Gainesville, to Innovation Park at George Mason University Science and Technology Campus, and then travel the main line through Manassas onto Washington D.C.’s Union Station.

The 2-year GHX study will indicate how much it would cost to expand the state’s only commuter railroad, and identify any impacts to the environment that could be caused by an expansion. Up to two additional tracks could be needed to accommodate the extra passenger trains — up to two an hour during peak periods – as well as the existing freight traffic that currently uses the line.

Extra trains would mean VRE needs more placed to store them. An existing storage yard at the Broad Run / Manassas Airport station in an obvious choice. That yard would need to be expanded, leaving little room left for the rail station.

“We’re up against the airport on one side, and a flood plain on another,” said VRE CEO Doug Allen. The two-lane street Piper Lane leading to the station is often flooded out after rains when Broad Run spills its banks.

The study will examine whether or not to move the station further east along the line, to somewhere near the Prince William Chamber of Commerce building on Capital Court, or further west of the airport. The study could also suggest closing the station altogether, and that would mean those who use the station today would need to drive about three miles north to a new station that would be built at Innovation Park.

The Broad Run station is popular with not only Prince William County and Manassas residents but also those who drive in from neighboring Fauquier County and points west to access the VRE system. VRE would need to negotiate land deals for the three new stations. The commuter railroad would most likely need to buy land in which to build the stations.

Allen said a spur off of the B line into Innovation Park would be necessary to make the station more convenient for riders to access. That would allow riders to walk to nearby destinations like the University, Freedom Aquatics and Fitness, and Hylton Performing Arts centers, as well as the many life sciences labs and offices popping up in the area.

If reverse commuting service from Washington on the Manassas and Fredericksburg lines is implemented, trains could bring students and employees to Innovation Park, increasing the need for walkability.

VRE on November 16 opened up it’s first new station since the original commuter rail system opened in 1992, in Spotsylvania County. It sits on 22 acres of land — most of which is used for riders who park their cars during the day and catch the train to work.

“It’s big,” said Allen, of the Spotsylvania property.

The Gainesville-Haymarket study will determine how much land would be required for the three new proposed stations on the B line. Those stations could be the same land footprint as the Spotsylvania station.

Street improvements will help pedestrians access Potomac Mills area

Prince William transportation officials will spend $700,000 to improve the pedestrian crossing at a busy Woodbridge intersection.

New sidewalk ramps will be installed at the busy intersection of Smoketown Road, Opitz Boulevard, and Gideon Drive. The ramps will make it easier for pedestrians to cross the six-lane street to provide better access to Potomac Mills mall, said Rick Canizales, with the Prince William County Department of Transportation.

A total of $545,000 in funding for the project will come from the state, from Virginia’s Transportation Alternatives Program. The remainder of the funds will come from the Occoquan District and Neabsco District supervisors offices.

Potomac Mills mall has 1.6 million square feet of retail space and is one of Virginia’s busiest shopping destinations.

Is reverse VRE train service to Manassas in the future? Maybe by 2040 or sooner

The Virginia Railway Express has grown since its inception in the early 1990s.

Today it carries more than 18,000 passenger trips. Trains on the system’s Fredericksburg and Manassas lines are packed with commuters each weekday, headed from the Virginia exurbs to employment centers in Alexandria, and in Washington, D.C.

A new Spotsylvania station opens on the Fredericksburg line today. It’s the first expansion of the system since VRE opened in 1992.

And a study is underway that will tell VRE how much it will cost, and what will be the impacts to the environment and surrounding area if its Manassas line is extended to Gainesville and Haymarket.

The extension is part of VRE’s 2040 System Plan — a blueprint for how Virginia’s only commuter railroad will grow over the next 25 years. It includes plans, in the near term, to extend the length of trains to accommodate more riders and expand parking at stations.

Between 2021 and 2040, VRE wants to add reverse service to growing employment centers like Quantico, Fort Belvoir, and near Manassas at Innovation Park at the George Mason University Technolgy Campus. Up two two trains per hour would leave Washington and travel to Virginia, according to the plan.

Reverse VRE service is something for which riders have long asked. Residents and officials continue to cry for a Metro rail extension to Woodbridge that would provide more frequent rail service to and from Washington.

Today, when morning VRE trains reach their final stop in Washington, locomotives and cars are parked until needed again for afternoon service.

Reverse VRE service would have positive effects for businesses in the region as they would now have the ability to draw from a workforce that would commute from Washington and Maryland. Reverse service could also be a good thing for tourism.

“When you think about the 4th of July here in Manassas, we’ve got 70,000 people in town, and the option for them to take a train would save them the trouble of parking and navigating closed streets, and it could make more people inclined to come and visit,” said Manassas Economic Development Director Patrick Small.

Tourists in Washington could also hop a train to the Civil War history capital, visit the city museum, and then stroll downtown shops and restaurants, he added.

VRE is a tool in an overall package Small uses when trying to talk CEOs into locating or relocating their businesses to the city. Manassas has two VRE stations, and they can be conveniently used by executives who need to get to Arlington or Washington for a morning meeting and back again.

If a VRE station is going to be built at Innovation Park — one of three potential stations on an extension of the Manassas line to Haymarket and Gainesville — the trains are going have to come closer to the campus and businesses there.

The extension would operate on Norfolk-Southern’s B-line, used today by freight trains. The B line spurs off the Norfolk-Southern main line at Wellington Road in Manassas and heads west.

 The B line runs near Innovation Park, but the tracks are located outside what is considered by transit planning professionals and a comfortable walking distance for riders leaving the train station to their final destinations in the office, the classroom, or the gym.

“We’ve asked VRE to considering creating a loop where the train tracks would run into Innovation Park to allow for easier pedestrian access, if a station is built. The track is too far north of where you would ideally would like it to be if a station were to be built there today, and that becomes a deterrent for people,” said Rick Canizales, with the Prince William County Transportation Office.

If you drew a concentric circle around a new VRE station, people would be willing to walk about a half a mile distance away from the station. Not much further.

The frequency of the reverse train service also matters.

“If the reverse commute happens, it’s going to take a while to build,” added Canizales. “Public transit service is built on accessibility, frequency, and reliability. It’s that’s not there immediately, it’s going to take a while to build it up.”

Manassas will also begin development of its Gateway project — a mixed use center to include office, retail, a hotel, and homes near Innovation Park. Shuttle services could be started to get visitors or employees to and from an Innovation Station, or an existing VRE end-line station at Broad Run, at the Manassas Regional Airport.

Part of the Haymarket – Gainesville extension study will examine what to do with the Broad Run station. If the Manassas line is extended more train storage will be needed in the area, and the Broad Run station could be relocated or closed, forcing riders to use a new station at Innovation Park.

The Manassas Regional Airport is one of three major employment hubs in Manassas, to include Novant Prince William Hospital, Micron, and the BAE complex on Wellington Road.

“It would be a shame of workers couldn’t use a reverse train to get to the airport,” said Small.

How VDOT will use a jet snow melter to fight Old Man Winter

Coming to a commuter lot near you this winter (if it snows): A jet-powered snow melter.

The Virginia Department of Transportation gave us an annual look at how they plan to do battle with Old Man Winter this year. It’s the agency’s job to keep more than 17,000 lane miles in Prince William, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties clear of snow and ice. About half of those roads are major highways and heavily-traveled arterials while the other half is neighborhood streets.

VDOT last year spent $128.5 million on snow removal in Northern Virginia — more than double the $50.5 million budget. This year, VDOT has $70.7 million to spend on snow removal. A series of winter weather outlooks published this week, including one on Capital Weather Gang, indicate at least one major winter storm for our region this season.

The state has an online website that tracks what streets have been plowed after it snows. It’s a popular feature that VDOT continues to urge residents to use.

“Each year, we strive to improve our winter operations both on the road and behind the scenes,” said Branco Vlacich, VDOT’s maintenance engineer for northern Virginia in a statement. “We continue to encourage residents to use the website for real-time information on their neighborhoods during snow storms. Over two years, we’ve seen hits to the site increase while customer calls decrease, as residents check road conditions, locations of our trucks and the progress of our crews.”

Residents in Prince William, Fairfax, and Loudoun may go to the site, enter their address, and see whether or not plowing in their neighborhood has begun or has been completed. They can also track the locations of snow plows.

The agency also listed some tools in the snow removal fight to be used this year:

A jet-powered snow melter for park-n-ride lots where snow piles can block spaces.

Seven high-pressure flush trucks clear snow and ice around the bollards separating the I-495 Express Lanes and regular lanes.

Two front loaders with 20-foot blades plow interstates during severe storms.

Speed-activated anti-icing equipment puts the right amount of material on the road.

VDOT will also continue to pre-treat 850 miles of highway before the first snowflake falls.

350 lane miles on interstates—including bridges and ramps prone to freezing such as the Springfield interchange and Capital Beltway at Route 1—with liquid magnesium chloride.

500 lane miles on major roads, such as Fairfax County Parkway, routes 1, 7, 28, 29, and 50, are pre-treated with salt brine. Brine (77 percent water, 23 percent salt) prevents ice from bonding to the road surface, reduces the need for salt to melt ice, is kinder to the environment and can lower snow removal time and costs.

The agency will also deploy more employees to monitor snow plowing operations, and will continue a 2-year test a brine mixture that is used to pre-treat roads. Using brine to treat roads has been successful in western U.S. states and it could reduce the need for salt use here in Virginia, according to a VDOT statement.

Ashton Avenue reopens to traffic


Update Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015

Repairs to a culvert on Ashton Avenue are complete. The road reopened to traffic this afternoon, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Original post

Ashton Avenue near Manassas will stay closed for about week longer than planned. 

Crews are working to repair a culvert near the intersection of Ashton Avenue and Sudley Manor Drive. 

Here’s more in a press release: 

Ashton Avenue will remain closed to through traffic between Crestwood Drive and Lomond Drive through about Nov. 18 as crews finish replacing a damaged culvert, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The road was originally scheduled to re-open after two weeks with work continuing under daily lane closures. Extending the closure for a little more than a week will allow remaining work to be completed faster and more safely. The road has been closed to through traffic since Oct. 26.

Drivers are asked to continue to avoid the area, take alternate routes to minimize impacts or use the posted detour:

Traffic on Ashton Avenue is detoured via Lomond Drive, Route 234 Business onto Crestwood Drive (see map). Detour signs are in place to guide motorists. Drivers still have access to local residences and businesses.

VDOT signal engineers are monitoring traffic and adjusting signal timing as needed.


New bridge would carry drivers over Haymarket train tracks

If you could drive over train tracks on Route 15 in Haymarket rather, would that improve your commute?

Prince William County will request $45 million in state transportation funding to build a bridge that will carry vehicles on Route 15 over train tracks near the interseciton of Route 55 in Haymarket. Today, traffic backs up here during the morning and evening rush hours.

The four-lane bridge would be located near a stretch of Route 15 recently widened from two to four lanes, in front of the Villages at Piedmont neighborhood. County officials late last month celebrated the completion of the widening project, which was funded and constructed by the home developer — not the county or state. This highly traveled stretch of road links Routes 29 and 55.

The bridge would also be built next to a new diverging diamond interchange that will carry cars on Route 15 over Interstate 66. When completed next year the DDI will be unlike anything in the region.

Prince William County transportation planners wanted to widen the entire stretch of Route 15 between Routes 55 and 29. The county’s comprehensive plan calls for widening this stretch of road and adding a four-lane bridge. But the project proved to be too costly in the near term, said Marty Nohe, who serves on the county’s Board of Supervisors and is Chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

“It’s a very expensive project, and it did not score as well as a lot of other projects of the same magnitude,” said Nohe.

It’s the Authority’s job to award state transportation dollars to projects that reduce the largest amount of congestion relative to overall cost. On a scale of low, medium, and high, widening Route 15 in Haymarket scored on the low range of the medium scale, said Nohe.

When Prince William County transportation officials go back and request money for the project in the fiscal year 2017 budget, they will ask for enough money to fund the bridge. That could help the project score better, said Nohe.

The Route 15 bridge project would also compete with other transportation projects like widening of Routes 1 in Woodbridge and Route 28 near Manassas, as well as other transportation projects in Northern Virginia outside Prince William County, Nohe added.

Truck crashes into house on Pine Street near Manassas

A truck crashed into a house on Lake Drive about 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Rescue crews were called to the house near the intersection of Lake Drive and Pine Streets in Yorkshire. No injuries were reported in the crash, according to David Byrd who was on the scene following the crash.

The truck slammed into a the house located at 7449 Pine Street.

Byrd tells Potomac Local the driver of the truck lost control of the vehicle when turning at the intersection of Pine Street and Lake Drive. There were wet leaves on the street, and that could have led to slippery conditions on the road, added Byrd.

Neighbors came to the assistance of the homeowner who now has an unexpected pickup in the side of their home. Many offered to help the homeowners with their dogs and offered the residents of the house a place to sleep, added Byrd.

Byrd provided to the photo of the truck into the house to Potomac Local.

Road crews to work on Arkendale Road ahead of coming state park

Work will soon begin to improve Arkendale Road in a rural section of Stafford County along the Potomac River. 

The narrow road will be the main link to a new Widewater State Park once the park is developed. 

Here’s more in a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation: 

Motorists will encounter rough pavement on Route 633 (Arkendale Road) in Stafford County for three weeks while the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) repairs the roadbed and travel surface.

Message boards will be posted to alert motorists to the rough driving conditions. Repair work is estimated to be completed by late November.

During 2016, Arkendale Road will be resurfaced from Widewater Road to Brent Point Road, a distance of 2.1 miles, to improve motorist access to the future Widewater State Park.

Approximately 370 vehicles a day travel Arkendale Road.

Those who live in the Widewater area have long been concerned about the narrow roads.

Next year, the road will be slightly widened as part of the resurfacing work to be done next year, said VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Hannon. Transportation officials will then decide if they will add a double yellow line on the road after street resurfacing is complete.

Prince William Board opposes VDOT taking Heflin Farm for commuter lot


Prince William County urges parking decks over commuter parking lots 

Jeanie Heflin will sleep a bit better tonight knowing local officials don’t want to see the demise of her farm.

Now she and her husband wait to see what the Commonwealth Transportation Board does — the group in Richmond that could decide to turn her 80-year-old farm in Haymarket into a commuter lot to serve Interstate 66.

“It would destroy our farm,” said Heflin. “The parking lot would cut across the middle of our land, and would couldn’t graze cow in the parking lot.”

The Prince Wiliam County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting this morning to draft a resolution to oppose the commuter lot being located on the Heflin Farm, located on Antioch Road. The resolution will be sent to the Virginia Department of Transportation — they agency that notified the Helfin’s they wanted to take a portion of their property by eminent domain.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board meets tomorrow, October 27, where they will review the resolution.

If built, the commuter parking lot would be one of several new improvements to I-66 outside the Capital Beltway, from Route 15 in Haymarket to I-495 near Tysons Corner. Two new toll lanes are planned, along with new commuter bus service, and new and expanded park and ride lots.

Prince William County transportation officials say they have urged VDOT to built parking strucutres instead of commuter lots. As the land in the county has gone up in value, the county stands to lose more in tax revenue if that land is used for a single commuter lot, they said.

A parking structure costs nearly double what it would cost to build a commuter lot – between $15 and $20 per space. But a parking deck would lead to better, more urban development in a given area, they add.

A portion of Heathcote Boulevard in Haymarket would be extended to Antioch Road as part of the VDOT commuter lot plan. The extension of the four-lane road would better serve users of the commuter lot, as well as provide direct access to Novant Haymarket Medical Center, county transportation officials said.

The Heathcote extension was removed from the county’s long-range plans by the Board of Supervisors. Only recently did VDOT put the road project back on the books to the surprise of residents.

“How did this end up on a map that no one had seen,” asked Elena Schlossberg, a Prince William County resident.

Heflin met with VDOT officials at her property Oct. 23. She said the meeting went well, and that officials told her the agency tried to locate the proposed commuter lot on two other properties in the area, but the landowners opposed.

Heflin said VDOT identified her property for the emindent domain in June but said she didn’t find out until Sept. 2.

“To want to take our property and not tell us up front… it’s illegal…it’s offensive,” said Heflin.

VDOT continues to look at all of their options in the corridor, and no final decision as to where the commuter lot will be located has been made, spokeswoman Michelle Holland told Potomac Local on Oct. 22.

I-66 inside Beltway toll plan unpopular at town hall

Republican state legislators said Northern Virginia residents are being treated like the state’s “ATM” for a plan to toll all lanes of Interstate 66 inside the Beltway.

Republican leaders from Richmond and locally elected GOP leaders in Prince William County gathered on stage Oct. 22 for a town hall meeting at Battlefield High School in Haymarket to protest the Virginia Department of Transportation Plan plan backed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

“These tolls will affect the value of your home and the number of businesses that will locate here,” said Delegate Robert G. Marshall.

All four lanes of I-66 inside the Beltway would be converted to toll lanes from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m., and 3 to 7 p.m. daily as part of the plan. Drivers would use an EZ-Pass, as drivers on the I-495 and I-95 Express lanes do, to electronically pay tolls of up to $17 per day starting in 2017.

Initially, cars with two or more occupants would ride free on the toll lanes with an EZ-Pass, but a change in the rules expected by 2017 would require vehicles with an EZ-Pass to have three or more occupants inside the car to ride free. I-66 is currently the only Interstate highway in the U.S. that allows vehicles with just two our more occupants to use HOV lanes.

Buses would ride the lanes for free at all times. VDOT says the plan would move 40,000 more people in the corridor, and raise cash for much-needed transit improvements along the corridor to include new commuter bus service, more park and ride lots, and new “last mile” improvements such as bicycle paths from Metro stations to allow more people to walk or ride a bike from the train to the office.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane penned a letter to Potomac Local stating that doing nothing to improve traffic congestion along the I-66 corridor is not an option.

The plan comes after the General Assembly in Richmond passed landmark transportation reform in 2013 that raised the state sales tax in Northern Virginia, and would generate some $880 million in new transportation revenues statewide. It was the first transportation reform bill passed in 27 years, and was heralded by the state’s then Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican.

“We passed [House Bill 2313] in 2013, and it was presented to us as a piece of legislation that would fund all of these needed transportation improvements,” said Delegate Richard Anderson, a Republican who voted gainst the bill. “And here we are back here with the state asking for more money.”

Unlike like toll projects on I-495 and 95 that are privately managed and maintained by Australia-based Transurban, the I-66 project was not shopped out to private firms as a public-private partnership. VDOT plans to construct electronic toll gantries inside the beltway to collect tolls. The agency also plans to add two new lanes to I-66 outside the Beltway, from I-495 to Route 15 in Haymarket, which will also operate as toll lanes 24 hours a day, in a configuration that mirrors toll lanes on I-495 from Springfield to Dulles Toll Road.

Democrats oppose the plan, too.

“This is not a partisan issue, ” said Don Shaw, who is running against Robert G. Marshall for the 13th District House of Delegates seat. “We need [Virignia Railway Express] to Haymarket, bus rapid transit lanes on I-66, and we need to explore an extension of Metro.”

Lane’s editorial stated I-66 inside the Beltway would be widened after the new toll lanes are implemented, but only if “necessary.” Those who choose not to pay the tolls would be forced to use arterial roads Routes 29 and 50.

Residents who spoke at the meeting complained that taking a transit bus from Manassas to Tysons Corner, to federal job hub of Mark Center in Alexandria can take more than two hours one way. Others said it is nearly impossible to find a group of people to carpool with due to the lack of a major, popular online ride matching website for area commuters to use to pair riders with drivers.

“You’re going to toll me for the pleasure of going to work where I make income, and then you are going to tax me on that income anyway,” said Morris Davis, who bought his home in Haymarket 10 years ago with the promise that Virginia Railway Express would be extended to the town. He’s still waiting.

Others said VDOT’s plan to add “last mile” improvements like bikepaths would only benefit Fairfax County residents.

“We don’t need bike paths. We don’t use them to get to D.C., or to Tysons because it would take too long,” said Prince William resident Kim Simons. “And we’ve got the [Manassas] Battlefield in the way, so the Department of the Interior would need to decide if we need a ‘battlefield bypass’ for bikes.”

VDOT officials held a series of public hearings on the plan to toll I-66 inside the Beltway. Construction on the project is expected to begin in Spring 2016, and toll collection could start in 2017.

Emergency highway repair work underway at Dumfries for 2 and a half months

Transportation crews shifted lanes on Interstate 95 south to repair groundwater seepage issues on the highway.

The work will take place between the truck scales near the Dale City exit at mile post 156 and Dumfries at mile post 152, at Route 234. 

Here’s more in a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation: 

This lane shift will be in place for approximately two and a half months while VDOT installs a drainage system to drain groundwater seeping from springs underneath the pavement. If not repaired immediately, the water seepage will be a safety issue for the traveling public during the upcoming cold weather. 

Throughout this work, drivers should expect single lane closures each weekday (Monday through Thursday) from about 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., and Friday until 11 a.m. as well as multiple lane closures during weekday overnight hours from 9:30 p.m. until about 6 a.m. on this stretch of I-95 South. Trucks exiting from the truck scales are advised to expect a shorter merge area.

Lane closures will begin on I-95 South Wednesday night, October 21, as crews begin installing barriers and implementing the lane shift. All work is weather dependent.

The Department is anticipating completing this emergency repair before the end of this year and eliminates any possibility of ensuing freezing as well as elevates any potential safety issue.  

Portion of Balls Ford Road closing for railroad repair

On Saturday, October 24 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., weather permitting, the Virginia Department of Transportation and Norfolk Southern will be closing Balls Ford Road at the railroad crossing west of Prince William Parkway (Route 234) in order to replace the at-grade crossing.

Traffic will be detoured via Prince William Parkway, Sudley Manor Drive, and Wellington Road back to Balls Ford (see map).  Detour signs will be in place to guide motorists.

Electronic message signs are in place to notify drivers of the scheduled work.

Special session of Prince William Board of Supervisors to address I-66 commuter parking lot

stewart, prince william, supervisor


The special meeting of the Board of Supervisors will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. 

Original post

Chairman Corey Stewart will call a special meeting of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors to discuss plans to build a commuter parking lot on a county farm.

The meeting is expected to be held Monday, ahead of a vote by Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board on Tuesday that could direct VDOT to claim eminent domain over a portion of a The Cedars Farm owned by Jeannie and Carl Heflin. The farm is located on Antioch Road in Haymarket and sits in the Prince William County “Rural Crescent” urban development boundary that limits development to one home per 10 acres.

Stewart intended to draft a letter from the Board of Supervisors to Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubry Lane, noting that Board was against the state taking the property for a commuter lot. Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Princpi notified Board members by email asking the letter by sent by Stewart only and not from the Board of Supervisors because the governing board had not yet met to discuss the matter.

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland said VDOT should choose another property in his district, other than the farm, to house commuter parking. The Supervisor said the construction of a more expensive commuter parking deck on a property zoned for commercial development vs. a traditional parking lot is a smarter idea, and it could also serve future development in the area.

“It’s an antiquated idea to build another commuter parking lot as we have them today,” said Candland. “You might as well have a horse and buggy out there waiting to pick up commuters when they get back.”

Prince William County is home to the state’s largest commuter lot — the Horner Road lot in Woodbridge which has 2,363 parking spaces, according to the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission website.

VDOT spokeswoman Michelle Holland said the agency is reviewing all possible options for a new commuter lot in the area, and that the agency has not made its final decision where it will build the lot. Transportation officials plan to meet with the Heflins today to discuss the matter, she added.

“We want a site that makes fewer impacts on properties, and one that sill serve to get people on and off I-66 quickly,” said Holland.

Jeanie Heflin said VDOT notified her family 44 days ago they intended to take a portion of her farm that’s been in the family since 1936. The farm continually raises cows, hogs, and crops, and will be left to the Heflin’s children upon their passing. 

“Today is our first face-to-face meeting with VDOT since we received the letter notifying us they wanted our property,” said Heflin. “We’ve been kept in the dark, and we just want to know what is going on.”

The commuter parking lot is part of a larger project to add new commuter parking facilities to the I-66 and expand old ones. The project, called “Transform I-66 Outside the Beltway” also calls for adding two new lanes to the highway between the Captial Beltway and Route 15 in Haymarket, and tolling those lanes.

The configuration of I-66 outside the Beltway would look similar to I-495 from Springfield to Dulles Toll Road. Four lanes in the center of the highway would be electronically tolled using EZ-Pass, and cars with an EZ-Pass transponder and three or more occupants inside, and transit buses would ride free.

I-66 is the only interstate in the U.S. where cars with two occupants are permitted to use the HOV lane, said VDOT’s Amanda Baxter. The HOV requirement would change to HOV-3 by 2020 as part of the new “outside the Beltway plan.”

VDOT’s “Inside the Beltway” plan calls for electronically tolling all four lanes of I-66 between the hours of 5:30 and 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. Cars with an EZ-Pass and three or more occupants would be able to use the lanes free, under the proposal.

Quantico street paving job 30 years in the making

Quantico streets are getting resurfaced for the first time in 30 years.

The Virginia Department of Transportation hired Julis Branscome Inc. to repave about 3 miles of streets in the small town. C Street, Broadway Street, Potomac Avenue, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th streets are all being repaved at a cost of $282,000.

Milling work began on Monday, October. 12, while patching work began October 16. Paving should begin Monday and be completed by midweek, stated VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord in an email.

River Road serves traffic to and from Hospital Point on Quantico Marine Corps Base. The road is not part of the project because it is maintained by the base, said Quantico Town Clerk Rita Frazier.

The last time the town’s streets were paved at this scale was in 1985, added Frazier.

Culvert replacement to cause detour on Ashton Avenue near Manassas

Beginning Tuesday, October 20, Ashton Avenue will be closed between Crestwood Drive and Lomond Drive for emergency culvert replacement. The work is expected to take about two weeks, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Drivers are asked to avoid the area and take alternate routes to minimize impacts.

Traffic on Ashton Avenue will be detoured via Lomond Drive, Route 234 Business onto Crestwood Drive (see map). Detour signs will be in place to guide motorists.

VDOT signal engineers will monitor traffic and adjust signal timing as needed.

Ashton Avenue carries about 20,000 vehicles per day.

What $22 million got drivers who pass through Falmouth


The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Falmouth intersection will have to wait, according to a statement from the Virginia Department of Transportation: 

Due to heavy rain forecast for tomorrow, and preparations for the potential landfall of Hurricane Joaquin, the Falmouth Intersection Improvement Project Ribbon-Cutting event scheduled for Thursday, October 1 has been canceled.

We regret any inconvenience this may cause.

Original post

The Falmouth Intersection Improvement Project is complete.

Stafford County officials will cut the ribbon the $22 million project. The intersection was widened to make room for new turn lanes and through lanes. New sidewalks were added, as well as new traffic signal equipment.

Emergency vehicles will now be able to pass through the intersection more quickly now, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The intersection is where Routes 1, 17, and 218 meet just north of Fredericksburg in Falmouth. The intersection, for years, has been plagued by traffic backups at a signal light at the intersection.
Traffic is known to back up regularly at the intersection during times of heavy traffic on adjacent Interstate 95.

There was a talk of building a bypass around the intersection, just north of Falmouth in 2008, but the project never materialized.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday. The new intersection officially opens to traffic Wednesday, Sept. 30.

New landscaping will be installed at the intersection between October 15 and December 1 “when temperatures are cooler and ideal for planting,” according to VDOT.

Pollinator plants to be placed at Dale City rest stop on I-95

Over 8,000 plants to be planted Tuesday, Sept. 29

Why: Pollinator habitat is dwindling, and so are pollinators. We rely heavily on pollinators for our food production in the U.S. and recreating habitat for these animals and insects is a way we can assist in bringing back some of the most threatened, like the Monarch Butterfly.

All of the plants used in this project are native to Virginia and the goal of the site is for it to become naturalized in a few years so that intervention by humans is not necessary. There will also be two small areas near the rest station building planted as education stations, so visitors can learn about the project that VDOT intends to implement statewide.

VDOT, Dominion Virginia Power, Virginia Native Plant Society, Plant NOVA Natives, and others will place pollinator-friendly plants at the I-95 northbound rest area at Dale City (car only) in Northern Virginia on Sept. 29. The site will serve as a “way station,” or refuge, for monarch butterflies and other threatened pollinators by providing nectar and shelter to protect and boost populations.

Dominion is providing a cadre of volunteers; Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, the Virginia Native Plant Society, and the Plant NOVA Natives Campaign are providing additional technical expertise; and VDOT is providing the project management, site preparation, the land, volunteers, and staff to plant the new habitat. 

Public info session scheduled for I-95 Stafford Courthouse Road interchange

The public is invited to learn more about upcoming Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) road improvements in the Courthouse Road area of Stafford County on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

A design public hearing will be held on the proposed Interstate 95/Courthouse Road Interchange Relocation project. This project would reconstruct the existing interchange at Exit 140 as a diverging diamond interchange (DDI). The intersection of Courthouse Road and Route 1 would be moved south to align with Hospital Center Boulevard.

At the same time, VDOT will hold a citizen information meeting on the Courthouse Road widening project. Courthouse Road will be widened from two lanes to four lanes west of I-95, between Cedar Lane and Ramoth Church Road/Winding Creek Road. VDOT is holding an information meeting to update the public on its status.

The design public hearing and citizen information meeting will be held together:

Tuesday, Sept. 29
5-8 p.m.
Colonial Forge High School
550 Courthouse Road
Stafford, VA 22554
A brief presentation will be delivered at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The meeting will be an open house format. Stop by anytime between 5-8 p.m. to review project maps and ask questions. Staff will be available to answer questions and address concerns.

Public comment

Written or oral comments may be submitted at the design public hearing on the proposed I-95/Courthouse Road Interchange Relocation project.

After the hearing, comments will be accepted through close of business on Oct. 15, 2015. Comments can be emailed to VDOT at fredericksburginfo@VDOT.Virginia.Gov with “I95/Route 630 Interchange Project” in the subject line.

Comments may be mailed to:

Ms. Michelle Shropshire
Project Manager
Virginia Department of Transportation
87 Deacon Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22405

Mailed comments must be postmarked no later than Oct. 15, 2015.

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