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Traffic & Transit

Tanker Truck Driver Dies in Fiery Crash

The charred remains of a tanker truck lies on a highway entrance ramp at Fairfax County Parkway and Interstate 95 (the remnants of the truck’s cab on the left). (Virginia State Police)

Photo: Douglas Browning

UPDATE 

The driver, Edwin H. Hall, 59, of Charles Town, W.Va., died at the scene. His remains have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas for examination and autopsy.

-Virginia State Police

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – The driver of an overturned tanker truck was killed this morning when it crashed at Fairfax County Parkway and Interstate 95.

All lanes of the I-95 reopened at 6:25 a.m. but ramps from the highway to Fairfax County Parkway northbound and southbound toward U.S. 1 remain closed. As you might expect, traffic on I-95 north is delayed.

More now from Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller:

At about 2:14 a.m., a tanker truck overturned on the cloverleaf ramp of Rt. 286 (Fairfax County Parkway) while attempting to merge onto I-95 north. The tanker truck was fully engulfed by fire. Be 5 a.m., the fire was contained to where troopers and Fairfax County firefighters could finally safely approach the vehicle. The driver was located inside the vehicle deceased.

The far right lane of I-95NB remains closed but the 3 other lanes and HOV lanes remain open. Also, Exit 166B which is the entrance ramp to Rt. 286NB remains closed as does the ramp from south Rt. 286 to Rt. 1.

The VA State Police Motor Carrier is on scene and the VA State Police Crash Reconstruction Team are assisting with the investigation. The tanker truck was loaded with approximately 9,000 gallons of fuel. Cause of crash is still under investigation. State Police are still in the process of notifying next of kin of the deceased driver.

 

Retrofits to Save PRTC $133,000 Annually

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

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – A pilot test designed to improve commuter bus fuel efficiency was so successful that the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, PRTC, is now proceeding to retrofit more than two dozen buses with the technology.

Pilot testing began last fall, when PRTC agreed to partner with Engineered Machined Products Inc., EMP, on a first-ever test in which EMP engineered and installed its Mini-Hybrid radiator cooling equipment on one of PRTC’s commuter buses. EMP’s equipment was previously tested on conventional transit buses, (those that travel at relatively low speeds and make frequent stops), yielding such impressive fuel efficiency savings that the cooling system is now used by a number of transit systems that operate conventional transit buses, including PRTC. But the cooling system had never been tested on a motor coach that typically operates at higher speeds for longer distances, such as the buses that make up the majority of PRTC’s fleet.

After the pilot cooling system was installed at EMP’s expense, the bus was returned to PRTC and placed back into regular service. During the next several months, PRTC compared the bus’s fuel efficiency with statistics for the same bus that were recorded before the equipment installation.

The test results, completed in July, showed that the retrofitted bus is now 15 percent more fuel efficient. By retrofitting 29 more buses, PRTC will save approximately $133,000 per year in fuel costs. With savings of that magnitude, the cost of the cooling system retrofit will be recovered in less than three years.

“All of the buses slated for the retrofit will remain in service for significantly longer than three years, thus yielding additional savings to benefit local taxpayers,” said PRTC Executive Director Al Harf.

The retrofits will be done while the buses are undergoing already-scheduled mid-life overhauls. The on-going mid-life overhaul program rebuilds buses manufactured between 2002-2006, outfitting them with new engines, transmissions, suspension systems, brakes, seats and more. Only buses that have not yet been overhauled will be outfitted with the new fuel-efficiency equipment.

By the end of 2013, more than 1/3 of PRTC’s fleet will have the Mini-Hybrid equipment either installed originally at the factory as part of a new bus manufacture or retrofitted under this program. Among the new buses are 13 funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation through its discretionary Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, six of which have already been delivered.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, PRTC, provides commuter and local bus services as well as rideshare services in the Prince William County area of Northern Virginia, about 25 miles west of Washington, D.C.

-Press release

Transit Partners Funding New Vanpool Program

021711 Around Town

By LAURA CIRILLO

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – For the first time, regional transit agencies are partnering to bring more vanpool options to the region.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transit Commission (PRTC), George Washington Regional Commission (GWRC) and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) are all working together to create a new vanpool service that will begin in January.

PRTC chief Alfred Harf said the three organizations have drawn inspiration from similar programs in other metro areas, while at the same time, recognizing the unique regional attributes of vanpooling.

The program envisions each vanpool owner or operator being paid $200 per month as consideration for providing statistical information from their riders. PRTC will collect the information and then submit it to the Federal Transit Administration as part of a National Transit Database.

The information will be used to determine how much federal funding the region will get to maintain and grow the vanpool program.

The $3.2 million program was approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in July, and it will fund all but $1.6 million of the total cost. The remaining $1.6 million will be supplemented through a two-and-a-half year loan from PRTC and NVTC, which will be used to fund the program through its initial phases until federal funding kicks in.

The vanpool incentive program aims to not only introduce new vanpools, but also to encourage existing vanpoolers to become program participants, said Harf. Currently, there are over 800 existing vanpools in the region, and it is estimated that half of them will opt into the new program. PRTC estimates the program will grow up to 10 percent per year.

Once the program kicks off, commuters will have the ability to sign up for vanpools online.

Like slugging, the informal carpooling system that exists almost exclusively in and Northern Virginia, vanpooling has grown in the region with little government involvement, though many area vanpoolers receive the same employer-sponsored commuter monetary benefits that other transit riders who use buses or trains.

Though both PRTC and GWRC have a long history of providing vanpool services and has helped to start-up and sustain vanpools, this new Vanpool Incentive Program marks the first time that PRTC will manage such a large effort.

In other metro areas, most vanpools are largely publicly-owned or publicly-leased vans, which vanpoolers use at below-market rates, subsidized by the public agencies that run the programs to increase vanpool usage, according to Harf.

Manassas Civil War Street Closures Start Today

MANASSAS, Va. – Manassas will celebrate the second coming of the Civil War this weekend with several events to mark the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Manassas.

The three-day event kicks Friday off this weekend in Old Town Manassas with re-enactors, living history demonstrations, a parade, and a Blue and Gray Ball.

Running through Sunday, the event comes after history buffs flocked to the Manassas area last year to commemorate the first Battle of Manassas during a large re-enactment on a field west of Interstate 66.

This weekend’s events will bring street closures to Old Town, which is fresh off an appearance by probable Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Aug. 11.

More in a press release from the city:

Below is a list of street closings as part of the Commemoration of the Second Battle of Manassas/Bull Run. For a full list of events being held this weekend in the City of Manassas visitmanassascivilwar.org.

• West Street (from Center Street to Prince William Street) will be closed to vehicle traffic from 1 p.m. on Aug. 22 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 26.

• Battle Street (from Center Street to Prince William Street) will be closed from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day from Aug. 23 to Aug. 26.

• Prince William Street (from Liberty Street to the Parking Garage) will be closed from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26.

• Manassas Museum Lot will be closed Aug. 23 – Aug. 26.

• Lot F will be designated handicapped parking

• Diagonal parking spaces in front of the Museum will be closed Aug. 23 – Aug. 26.

• The Water Tower Lot will be closed Saturday, Aug. 25, for the Farmer’s Market, which will take place on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• The Visitors Center lot will be closed Aug. 22 at 11 p.m. to Aug. 26 at 10 p.m. On Aug. 25, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., parking will be restricted Main Street between Center Street and Prince William Street for the Re-enactor Parade.

 

Few Quantico Workers Use Transit

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

By MIKE DiCICCO
Quantico Sentry  

QUANTICO, Va. – A survey of Quantico commuters found that 82 percent of them drive to and from work alone. That is the number the base’s updated transportation management plan, to be released in September, will try to bring down in an attempt to reduce congestion on and around the base.

“Basically, we’re trying to get people to use other modes of travel when it’s convenient,” said transportation planner Joe Winterer.

The commuter survey, conducted online in June and July and compiled in the first week of this month, received almost 1,500 useable responses, Winterer said.

Among the results was the finding that only about 6 percent of respondents use public transportation, and 6 percent carpool. Another 6 percent either walk or ride a bicycle, motorcycle or moped. Winterer noted that these numbers are probably a little high, as those who use alternative modes of transport are more likely to respond to a commuter survey.

About 3 percent responded that they regularly telework. Winterer said increasing telework hours will be a major initiative in coming years. However, more than half of respondents said their job was ineligible for telework, and the next-largest demographic was the 17.5 percent who don’t know if they’re allowed to telework.

Respondents were also asked what they considered the biggest commuting challenges they face. “The most frequent response was that the biggest problem was congestion outside the base,” Winterer said. “The next one was congestion at the gates.”

Asked what would encourage them to reduce their personal trips in single-occupancy vehicles, more than half of respondents said they would like to see a reliable, regular bus shuttle they could use to make short trips for lunch or meetings during the day, he said.

“When asked what improvements they’d like to see, most — about 75 percent of their answers — were related to non-motorist improvements,” Winterer said, adding that these included sidewalks, bike lanes, better crosswalks and improved lighting. He said this was not so surprising, considering the number of people who do their physical training on base, often in the dark, early hours.

For the most part, Winterer said, the results were not unexpected but did serve to validate planners’ belief that congestion needs to be reduced by encouraging carpooling, use of public transportation and telework, as well as securing funding to rebuild the base’s front gate to look more like the five-lane back gate.

“Those survey results will be coupled with other data we collected over the last six months to develop a transportation management plan,” he said. The plan will consist of two major parts — an analysis of the area’s transportation network to prioritize new construction projects, and a transportation demand management plan aimed at reducing congestion by decreasing single-occupancy vehicle trips.

The survey will especially support the latter effort, while capital construction projects will be determined more by vehicle counts at various intersections, conducted last fall, and traffic forecasting and simulations.

The new transportation management plan’s release next month will coincide with revisions to the installation-wide Quantico Master Plan, which is also currently being updated. The base is paying Naval Facilities Engineering Command $103,000 to help bring the transportation plan up to date, and a first draft is already under review.

“The plan we’ve been operating under is 10 or 12 years old, so it’s definitely in need of an update,” Winterer said.

 

Driver Killed on I-95

Traffic is reduced down to two lanes on Interstate 95 north at mile marker 162 after a pedestrian was struck and killed.

UPDATE Monday, Aug. 20

Clarence E. Alston, 42, of Washington, D.C., was standing outside his car that was stopped on the right shoulder of northbound I-95 at the 162 mile marker. A northbound Hyundai Santa Fe struck Alston. The Hyundai then fled the scene. The vehicle and its driver, Carol Rood-Johnson, 19, of Woodbridge, Va., were located later Saturday morning in Prince Georges County, Md.

-Press release

UPDATE Saturday noon

Charges are filed against a 19-year-old woman from Woodbridge in the hit and run death of a driver on Interstate 95 early this morning. More from the Virginia State Police: 

All northbound lanes were re-opened by 9:15 a.m. Saturday
 
Virginia State Police have charged Carol Rood-Johnson, 19, of Woodbridge, Va.,with DUI. Additional charges are pending at this time. State police have determined that Rood-Johnson was driving the Hyundai Santa Fe that struck a man who was standing next to his vehicle on the right shoulder of I-95 at the 162 mile marker in Fairfax County early Saturday morning. The man died at the scene. The Hyundai fled the scene. Through the course of the investigation, State Police were able to locate the Hyundai in Prince Georges County, Md. later Saturday morning.
 
Rood-Johnson has been taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
 
The Office fo the Medical Examiner is still in the process of making a positive identification of the deceased male victim.

ORIGINAL POST 9 a.m. 

LORTON, Va. – A pedestrian was killed this morning on Interstate 95 and police are now investigating the incident.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said a vehicle stopped on the shoulder of I-95 north just south of Lorton, and the male driver stepped outside of their vehicle was struck and killed by a passing car. That car fled the scene, and now an accident reconstruction team is on the scene.

Traffic delays are the busy highway have mounted following the incident, A five-mile back up extends from the crash scene south into Prince William County. The right lane and shoulder have been closed for the investigation, but they should be reopening soon, said Geller.s

Here’s more from a Virginia State Police press release: 

Just before midnight, a vehicle had pulled off onto the right shoulder of I-95 at the 162 mile marker in Fairfax County. The male driver was standing next the vehicle when a Hyundai Santa Fe SUV struck the man and then fled the scene at 12:02 a.m. The man died at the scene. The hit-and-run vehicle was recovered later Saturday morning in Maryland and Virginia State Police are in the process of interviewing its female driver. Charges are pending.

The man’s body was transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner for positive identification. (Once positive identification is made and next of kin is notified, we will release his name).

The northbound lanes of I-95 remain closed at this time, as clean up from the incident continues. I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as the NB lanes are re-opened.

 

Blackburn Road Bridge Reopening

A new bridge carries traffic over Neabsco Creek on Blackburn Road in Woodbridge. (VDOT)

WOODBRIDGE, Va.  –  The Virginia Department of Transportation has completed replacement of the Blackburn Road bridge over Neabsco Creek in Woodbridge and will re-open the road on Wednesday, Aug. 22, weather permitting.

VDOT closed the bridge on Jan. 9 after a routine inspection revealed severe vertical cracks on the bridge abutments.

VDOT bridge engineer Nicholas Roper noted, “The new bridge has a deeper foundation and a larger opening for the waterway that will improve overall durability and performance during high-water events.” A sidewalk has also been added to allow pedestrians to safely walk across the bridge.

Over the next several days, crews will pave the roadway and install guardrail. The new bridge (pictured right) cost about $2.7 million.

The bridge carries about 6,000 vehicles a day.

-Press release 

Trees Fall, HOV Lanes Narrowing

Crews clear some of the first trees at Triangle to make way for new High Occupancy Toll lanes on Interstate 95. (Virginia Department of Transportation)

TRIANGLE, Va. – The work to expand commuting options and add toll lanes to Interstate 95 is underway.

Trees are already falling in the Triangle area where the High Occupancy Toll lanes are being extended nine miles south from Dumfries to Va. 610 in Stafford County.

From North Stafford to Edsall Road in Alexandria, the new lanes will be a part of what will be 29 miles of the new 95 Express Lanes that will allow drivers to pay a toll to avoid traffic or continue to ride free in vehicles of three or more.

One hundred acres of trees will fall to make way for the project. Fluor-Transurban, the private operators of the lanes, said they are replacing the trees by planting 1,000 new trees in 1,000 days. The first tree was planted at a highway rest stop in Dale City after the groundbreaking of the 95 Express Lanes Project.

The express lanes are also known as High Occupancy Toll, or HOT lanes, and construction will bring some changes to drivers’ commutes. The HOV lanes north of Prince William Parkway will be completely realigned, narrowed, traffic shifted slightly to the right, and concrete barriers erected to allow crews work in the shoulder.

Older barriers that separate the HOV lanes from the travel lanes of I-95 will be replaced, new signage installed, and new drains put in during the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. during construction, according to a newsletter from Prince William Coles District Supervisor Mary Nohe.

The $1 billion project is expected to be complete in 2014 and employ 500 construction workers. The lanes will link with the 495 Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway which are slated to open later this year.

Parking Relief Coming Post Labor Day

A new commuter lot on Telegraph Road in Woodbridge is scheduled to open next month. (Laura Cirillo/PotomacLocal.com)

By LAURA CIRILLO

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Parking relief for Woodbridge commuters is coming in early September.

A new commuter lot on Telegraph Road near Interstate 95 and Prince William Parkway is scheduled to open after Labor Day. Commuters have been anxiously looking forward to the additional 700 commuter parking spaces at the new Telegraph Road Lot.

Although the adjacent Horner Road Lot is the largest commuter lot in the Virginia with more than 2,300 parking spaces, it is typically filled to capacity before 7:30 a.m., leaving many commuters arriving later to find parking at other area commuter lots.

In December, Prince William County officials awarded a $2.4 million contract to Tavares Concrete as part of the first phase of construction, resulting in 700 new parking spaces. The second phase of the project will include roadway and entrance improvements, according to county transportation officials.

County transportation officials say they are working with Dominion Virginia Power to confirm when power will be delivered to the lot. Provided there are no related setbacks, the first phase is expected to open as scheduled on Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day.

There has been much discussion among commuters as to how the additional spaces should be utilized, some suggesting that the vanpools and OmniRide bus lines be relocated to the new lot in order to free up parking for Slug lines at the Horner Road lot.

However, according to OmniRide spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo, bus service will not be available at the Telegraph Road lot until early November, when PRTC’s fall schedule change takes effect. Though it is proximate to the Horner Road lot, the new lot has both routing and scheduling implications that must be worked out before the lot can be served by commuter buses.

 How do you think the new Telegraph Road Commuter Lot should be utilized? Tweet Laura Cirillo @SlugTales on Twitter with your suggestions!

HOV Lanes Closing Nightly This Week

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

The Virginia Department of Transportation will close the I-95/395 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes from Dumfries Road, Exit 152 to Duke Street, Exit 3, Monday-Thursday nights, August 13-16, 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., Friday morning and again on Friday night, August 17, 11 p.m. to 9 a.m., Saturday morning, August 18 for paving, lane markings, barrier placement, and other related construction work on the new 95 Express Lanes project.

During night work hours, motorists will be able to access the I-395 HOV lanes north to Washington, D.C. at Seminary Road and Shirlington.

HOV lanes will reopen at 9 a.m. on Saturday August 18, heading north toward Washington, D.C.

Visit VAmegaprojects.com for all closures and to sign-up for alerts.

-Press release 

Land Deals Underway as Falmouth Junction Expands

Traffic on U.S. 1 north crosses the Falmouth Bridge over the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg into Stafford County, at the Falmouth intersection which will soon be expanded. (Photo: Jim Lawrence/For PotomacLocal.com)

By JIM LAWRENCE
For PotomacLocal.com

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — George Schwartz represented the Falmouth District on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors from 2006 until 2009. One of his chief goals was to upgrade the spot where Cambridge Street (U.S. 1) Warrenton Road (U.S. 17), and Butler Road (Va. 218) converge.

It’s known as the infamous Falmouth intersection just across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg in Stafford County.

“I persevered,” he said, in talking with the Board, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Commonwealth Transportation Board to make the project happen.

Now, the Virginia Department of Transportation is making that upgrade a reality.

“I am pleased that my number one goal as supervisor is coming to fruition,” he said.

The project will see the addition of separate turn and through lanes at the intersection. It’ll also increase vehicle capacity and give pedestrians new places to walk with the addition of new sidewalks.

Average wait times at a traffic light in the center of the intersection – notoriously known for backing up traffic during peak afternoon travel times, and when drivers exit a congested Interstate 95 to use U.S. 1 as an alternate route – will reduce from about four minutes down to 56 seconds when the project is completed.

According to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hannon, discussions of the project have been ongoing since the 1990s. Having kicked around different ideas for a design of the project over the years, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration approved an environmentally-friendly design plan in 2011.

From there VDOT went into the right-of-way acquisition phase, where they negotiate with landowners in the work zone for each parcel of property they will need to take to improve the road. Hannon says each negotiation is on a “very individual” basis, and that negotiations are underway right now.

All told, there are 26 parcels of land involved and offers have been made to 24 of the property owners. Buildings on each corner of the intersection will be demolished, said Hannon.

As the $24.8 million project moves forward, VDOT will request bids in December 2013 for a construction company to complete the improvements. The actual improvements will begin during the first half of 2014, and completion of the project is expected in 2016, said Hannon.

While a newly improved intersection means a better ride for drivers, it will result in some inconveniences for businesses in the neighborhood.

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

A.C. Glover

A.C. Glover sells hearth and patio products and is located at the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17. The business has been there about 35 years, according to employee Rich Morrison. The small wood building with no indoor plumbing the company calls home has been there much longer.

Morrison says the looming construction of the intersection has precluded any plan to install plumbing there. Harrison said a move to nearby Earl’s Shopping Center, located at Butler and Chatham Heights roads in Falmouth, is likely.

But they cannot move until the VDOT finalizes land negotiations with them. Morrison said he’s heard about the planned intersection improvements for years, and were originally told construction would begin this month. Now he’ll have to wait a bit longer for the start of construction in 2014.

Moving the business to Earls Shopping Center has its upsides and downsides. A shopping center means more parking and an accessible location. It also means more overhead. The company owns the land and building for its present location.

However, until the deal for their land is finalized with VDOT, they will go nowhere.

Blazes

Sitting across from A.C. Glover is Blazes, another store specializing in hearth products at this location since 1990. Lance Foshee, a U.S. Marine, moved his business here from the Olde Forge neighborhood just right up the street at U.S. 17 and I-95 about six months after purchasing it.

“He wanted out,” he said of the former owner. “I wanted in. It worked out.”

He does not see the improvement of the intersection as necessary.

“Is it worth $30 million just to save commuters ten minutes?” he asked.

He realizes that construction of the intersection is to facilitate further development, but he questions its long term efficiency.

“Will it be obsolete before they extend it on down?” he asked.

His grandson, David, said uncertainty of when construction on the intersection would begin has impacted his business. Having previously been told construction was imminent they chose stock up on in-store items and have reduced their business to a special order operation. Without an inventory they lose the benefit of bulk discounts. They pay more for freight.

“It’s hurt,” said David Foshee. It’s hard to run a business when you’re told you have to move.”

They too are in negotiations with VDOT for the property their business sits on. Once they move they will reopen from their present warehouse location in Baron Park, located near White Oak and Deacon roads in Stafford County.

“After the present location closes and I’ll hang a sign on the door that said any more government help and I won’t survive,” said Lance Foshee.

 

Koons Auto

John Koons opened used his car dealership on a corner of Cambridge Street and Butler Road in 2007. Besides the dealership, he owns the building that houses it.

“It’s a great location, said Koons. It’s located at a traffic light so everyone sees it. It’s a landmark and it’s near the Falmouth bridge. It makes giving directions easy. Business has been great,” he said.

He was aware of possible construction of the intersection and how it might affect his business when he moved in. But, he said, there had been talk of improving the intersection for five to 20 years, so there seemed a strong possibility that they might never do anything with it, he said.

Once the plan became reality, he discussed alternate plans with VDOT in an effort to get the transportation authority to leave his business alone while still improving the intersection. However, as they business was so close to the road, there were no alternatives.

Koons plans to stay in the area. “I love the people of Fredericksburg. I love the area,” he said.

Koon employs 25 people at the dealership. Though he is disappointed at the thought of relocating, he is not bitter and is looking to move to another location in the area. He will be taking his employees with him.

“God has a purpose for everything,’ he said. “We will keep moving forward and we are not leaving Fredericksburg.”

Stafford Junction

Across Butler Road is and old bank building that once housed the Stafford County Republican Party, and has been home to Stafford Junction since 2005. Originally known as Olde Forge junction, the faith-based non-profit program that works with children started in 2003.

A 2002 assessment of the area cited “numerous challenges including poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse, unsupervised children, and an influx of non-English speaking Hispanic and refugee families,” according to their website.

According to the website, crime in the Olde Forge neighborhood dropped 50 percent within two years of the program’s inception. The program has since expanded throughout the county and helps with programs focusing on education, nutrition, and healthy living. It is looking to continue the expansion.

According to Linda A. Hill, executive director of Stafford Junction, the program works closely with Stafford County Public Schools and the sheriff’s office. The program has occupied the building since 2005 and has done so rent free courtesy of local late philanthropist Carl D. Silver, who was responsible for Fredericksburg’s mega Central Park shopping district.

Now they will have to move and start paying rent.

“Having the building has been a blessing,” said Hill. “It’s a huge issue that we have to relocate. The program will need to secure funding to pay for rent.”

Occoquan Bridge Built with Defective Grout

OCCOQUAN, Va. – A bridge that carries commuters over the Occoquan River is one of two in the area constructed with defective grout.

The Occoquan River Bridge and Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which carries east coast traffic on I-95 over the Potomac River, were identified as two of at least 34 bridges constructed with grout contaminated with chloride making it prone to rust. The grout was manufactured in Ohio between 2002 and 2010, according to the Baltimore Sun which first broke the story.

Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Joan Morris said the grout does not pose and immediate safety threat, and said VDOT will continue to monitor and check the bridges for signs of rust or cracking — neither of which has been found on the Occoquan or Wilson bridges.

The Occoquan River Bridge, often referred to as the Route 123 Bridge, was completed in 2007. The new bridge was built to accommodate six lanes of traffic, and was constructed 44 feet higher to allow for taller sailboats to pass underneath.

The new Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River in Alexandria opened the following year.

 

Slug Tales: I Slug, Therefore I’m Fast

For most people, living close to work means a shorter commute. Unless, that is, you live anywhere in the National Capital Region.

When I purchased my first home earlier this summer, I considered the distance between home and work. Initially, I had been looking for homes outside of Prince William County, further north along Interstate 95, where I could ride the Metro to work every day. However, considering my utter hatred for the Metro system, it’s probably best that I’m not stuck riding the train every day.

And my friends and colleagues who drive into Washington aren’t necessarily getting to work much quicker than I am from Dumfries, anyway. I’ve heard people complain about commutes less than 10 miles taking close to an hour. By slugging, I can usually get from my front door to my desk in that same amount of time! Plus, I save a ton of gas by only driving to nearby commuter lots. If that’s not a win-win situation, then I don’t know what is.

Radio personality Rocky Parrish, of 106.7 The Fan’s Kevin and Rock Show, fondly remembers his time spent slugging, recently recounting his days of meeting clients in Arlington and Washington. On mornings where he had to drive from his home in Alexandria into Washington or Arlington, he says he preferred to stay the night before at a friend’s place in Woodbridge, just so that he could pick up Slugs to access the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, getting him into the city faster.

Parrish laughs as he recalls pulling up to the slug lines in his SUV later during the morning commute at the Horner Road commuter lot, or in the evening at the Pentagon, and seeing the excited looks on the slugs’ faces, knowing there would be room in his vehicle for everyone waiting. I know exactly how that feels!

Experienced slugs or drivers like Parrish have seen just how quickly you can drive from the commuter lots in Prince William County to areas in and around Washington, but some people don’t seem to believe it. When I tell people where I live and where I commute every day, they ask me how I do it and why I haven’t moved closer to my office. In fact, if I could afford to live comfortably in Arlington and have the same amount of space that I have now, maybe I would – but hey, that’s another story.

The fact of the matter is, although I certainly don’t live very close to where I work, my commute really isn’t so bad when things go smoothly. Of course, there is the occasional major traffic incident that backs everything up from here to Timbuktu.

But luckily, those incidents are typically few and far between (knock on wood!), and with social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, slugs can easily check out the current traffic situation and any potential obstacles in the commute before ever leaving home.

It may seem unbelievable to think that my 30-mile commute from Prince William County could take the same amount of time or less than commutes from areas further north in Virginia, but I’d say that’s a true testament to the slugging system and a big part of the reason it tends to work so well.

And it’s a good thing the system is working so well for me, because now that I’m a homeowner, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon!

 

I-95 HOT Lanes Construction Underway

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell joins elected officials in breaking ground for a new project that will add HOT lanes to Interstate 95. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

By URIAH KISER

DALE CITY, Va. – It’s going to take two years and about $1 billon, but the effort to put toll lanes on Interstate 95 in Virginia is underway.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was in Dale City today for the kick off of the 95 Express Lanes project. The public-private effort between the state and road builder Transurban-Fluor will see the conversion of the High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes on I-95 between Dumfries and Edsall Road in Alexandria to toll lanes. The lanes will be extended an additional nine miles south to Va. 610 in North Stafford, and will include two new flyover ramps at Joplin Road in Triangle and Va. 610. The ramps should alleviate one of the the region’s worst bottlenecks on I-95 at the HOV merge in Dumfries, officials said.

It’ll cost about $5 per vehicle to use the lanes on the entire express lane span on I-95 once they’re completed in 2014, and they’ll be built in sections. The tolls single drivers will pay will change depending upon the amount of traffic in each section – the higher the traffic volume the higher the toll.

Drivers who enter the toll lanes at one price will be able to bail out of the express lanes if they later deem the posted price for the next section is set too high.

Buses and vehicles with three or more occupants will be able to use the lanes for free as they have on the HOV lanes for years, but when the new HOT lanes open, every vehicle will be required to have an E-Z Pass or E-Z Pass Flex in order to use them.

“We are one of the most business-friendly states in America and we’ve got challenges that we’re trying to overcome, and transportation infrastructure is at the top of the list. If you can’t move people and you can’t move goods quickly to market you’re not going to get the businesses to come here…and it’s going to affect the quality of life for all of us,” said McDonnell.

A toll lane network

Once completed in 2014, the 95 Express Lanes (High Occupancy Toll lanes or HOT lanes) will join HOT lanes on I-495 in Virginia that should open later this year. It’ll be the first time carpoolers and bus riders will be able to travel on a dedicated span of express lanes from the Potomac Communities in Stafford and Woodbridge to Tysons Corner, said Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton.

The first phase of construction, which Connaughton urged officials to begin today, will entail clearing brush and trees from the median at the current HOV merge at Dumfries south to Stafford County. That’s where new asphalt will be laid to make way for two new lanes that will take drivers to Va. 610 in North Stafford.

The portion of HOT lanes between Dumfries and Prince William Parkway will remain two lanes, however, the section of lanes between Prince William Parkway and Edsall Road will be restriped to accommodate a third lane of traffic.

A 76-year operating agreement with Transurban-Fluor and the mandates vehicles must maintain a speed of 55 mph at all times in the lanes, said Connaughton.

Jobs

Officials said the new lanes will not only ensure employers will want to come to the area, the project to build the lanes will also create new jobs. Of the nearly 8,000 jobs expected to come as part of the project, 2,600 of them will be in Prince William County and 900 will come to Stafford County.

With these new lanes, toll lanes opening soon on I-495, and talk of adding new HOT lanes on I-64 in Hampton Roads, transportation crews from around the world have come to Virginia to learn more about these public-private partnerships.

“This is going to be the model for transportation projects all over the world,” said Connaughton. “It’s not just Hampton Roads that’s considering adding HOT lanes, leaders from many international countries have come to Virginia to see what were doing with transportation.”

 

Expect HOV Closures This Week

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

DUMFRIES, Va. – The Virginia Department of Transportation will close the I-95/395 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes from Dumfries Road, Exit 152 to Edsall Road, Exit 2, Monday-Thursday nights, August 6-9, 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., Friday morning and again on Friday night, August 10, 11 p.m. to 9 a.m., Saturday morning, August 11 for paving, lane markings, test boring and other early construction work on the new 95 Express Lanes project.

During night work hours, motorists will be able to access the I-395 HOV lanes north to Washington, D.C. at Seminary Road and Shirlington.

All HOV lanes will reopen at 9 a.m. on Saturday August 11, heading north toward Washington, D.C.

-Press release

PRTC Upgrades Phone System

PRTC Customer Service Agent Kenyetta Whitford takes a call from a customer. Whitford helps customers get where they need to go.

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – An upgrade to the phone system at the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission provides riders easier access to vital travel information without having to wait to personally speak with a Customer Service Agent.

The upgraded phone system saves some passengers from waiting on hold to speak with PRTC staff and enables PRTC Customer Service Agents to devote more time to callers who need individualized attention.

The improved phone system enables passengers to:

• Receive scheduled bus arrival times based on the bus stop number or bus route;

• Learn about bus fares and passes;

• Hear service alerts; and

• Confirm or cancel previously scheduled off-route trips on OmniLink local buses.

PRTC’s OmniLink local buses can travel up to ¾ mile off the standard route to pick up and drop off passengers who are unable to access a regular bus stop. Passengers must call Customer Service at least two hours in advance to book OmniLink off-route trips.

To access information about OmniLink off-route bus trips, callers must speak once with a Customer Service agent to get their personalized phone system ID and password. Once callers have that information, they may confirm or cancel their scheduled trip at any time of the day or night. All other information on the phone system is available without an ID or password.

PRTC provides commuter and local bus services in Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. The Customer Service office is open from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. To speak with an agent or test the new phone system, call (703) 730-6664.

-Press release 

 

Improvements at Va. 610 & Mine Rd. Complete

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – New turn lanes have opened at the intersection of  Va. 610 (Garrisonville Road) and Va. 684 (Mine Road) in Stafford County, allowing more vehicles to circulate through the area on each traffic signal cycle.

On Va. 610 westbound, a second left turn lane was built to accommodate additional traffic turning onto Mine Road.

Also, a second right turn lane was built on Mine Road for traffic turning onto Route 610 eastbound.

New sidewalk was built along the northbound side of Mine Road, which connects with the existing sidewalk along the eastbound lanes of Route 610.

Pedestrian crossing buttons were added to the existing traffic signal poles at the intersection, and are now operational.

Lane markings were re-painted throughout the intersection to reflect the new traffic pattern.

General Excavation Inc. was awarded a contract for $975,443 to build this project, which was finished on-time by the July 31, 2012 completion date. Construction began in March 2012.

-Press release

Dale City to Host I-95 HOT Lanes Kick Off

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell

By LAURA CIRILLO

DALE CITY, Va. – Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell will appear in Dale City on Tuesday to announce the start of construction for the Interstate 95 Express Lanes project.

The project, which will convert the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes between Dumfries and the Springfield Mixing Bowl to High Occupancy Toll, or HOT lanes, will forever change the way commuters travel on I-95.

Scheduled to join McDonnell at the 9:30 a.m. groundbreaking at a rest area on I-95 south is Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connnaughton, Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Rob Wittman, Delegate Bill Howell, of Stafford, and Prince William County Board of Supervisor Chairman At-large Corey Stewart.

The project will not only convert a portion of the existing HOV lanes between Dumfries and Edsall Road in Alexandria, but will extend the lanes nine miles south from Dumfries to Va. 610 (Garrisonville Road) in North Stafford. Also included in the construction will be eight new or improved access points to and from the express lanes at key interchanges, as well as the addition or expansion of commuter parking lots.

The finished project will result in 29 miles of HOT lanes which vehicles with three or more occupants can access for free. Vehicles with just one occupant can choose to pay a toll to use the lanes.

All vehicles will be required to have an E-Z Pass or E-Z Pass Flex to use the lanes, and the toll will vary depending on the amount of vehicles in the express lanes. For single drivers, the average commute is expected to cost somewhere between $5 and $6, according a press release.

The groundbreaking of the 95 Express Lanes comes as McDonnell finally announced the approval of the nearly $1 billion project on Tuesday, which for months had been the worst kept secret in transportation news.

The project in 2008 was marred in controversy and was placed on hold after Arlington County sued the state and pushed for more environmental impact studies to be done before construction could begin. Prince William County officials also opposed I-95 HOT lanes until concessions were made and a handful of new road improvement projects in the county were announced in early 2011.

Ultimately, Arlington officials dropped their lawsuit and state transportation officials redrew plans to end the I-95 HOT lanes facility at Edsall Road.

Calling it “a historical day for transportation and the economy in Virginia,” McDonnell stated that the project will provide congestion relief for Northern Virginia and will add close to 8,000 jobs during the two-year project, which is expected to be completed by 2014.

“The 95 Express Lanes combined with the nearly completed 495 Express Lanes will bring a transportation network that manages congestion efficiently, saving time and better connecting commuters with some of Virginia’s most important employment centers and military sites,” added Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton.

The $925 million project is a joint venture between Transurban Drive and Fluor Enterprises, Inc. The Virginia Department of Transportation will maintain ownership of the infrastructure and will continue to manage the project. Transurban and Fluor  will provide $854 million in funding, with VDOT providing the remaining $71 million in public funds, according to the press release.

Integrated in the funding is a traffic safety and enforcement program, which will include technology and crews needed for incident detection and response, as well as more Virginia State Troopers to help reduce the number of HOV violators.

 

Device Lets Drivers Use Toll Lanes for Free

By LAURA CIRILLO

A new tool will allow drivers to access new toll lanes on the Capital Beltway without being charged.

The Virginia Department of Transportation announced the launch of EZ-Pass Flex, a new transponder that gives drivers the ability to switch between toll-free and toll-paying travel on the 495 Express lanes, which will open later this year.

Commonly known as High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, the project, when complete, will give drivers 14 miles of new lanes from the Springfield Interchange to just north of the Dulles Toll Road. Every vehicle in the lanes will need an EZ-Pass transponder.

“When it comes to reaching important destinations in Virginia, travelers now have choices,” said VDOT Chief Deputy Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick. “Travelers can take the bus or Metro, drivers can take the 495 Express Lanes or Capital Beltway general purpose lanes, and with the flip of a switch on the E-ZPass Flex and two passengers, choose to carpool toll-free on the Capital Beltway.”

The E-ZPass transponder eliminates the need for toll booths or cash, as the project is designed to make the lanes an all-electronic tolling facility.

Drivers who already have a standard E-ZPass transponder will be able to access the lanes, however, only the E-ZPass Flex transponder offers users the option to choose between a toll-paying mode as a driver, or High Occupancy Vehicle mode (three or more occupants in the car).

By switching to the HOV mode, carpoolers will have the option to access the 495 Express Lanes without paying the toll. Commuter and transit buses will also be able to use the lanes for free.

Also coming soon, the Dulles Metrorail is expected to open in 2013, with new stations in Tyson’s Corner.

The opening of the Express Lanes will be the first time Capital Beltway travelers and public transportation will have the opportunity to use carpool lanes along Interstate 495.

Currently, the HOV-3 lanes on Interstate 95 run just north of the Montclair/Dumfries exits, through the Springfield Interchange and along Interstate 395 to the 14th Street Bridge.

In addition, there are HOV-2 lanes on Interstate 66, located both inside and outside the Beltway.

Drivers can visit 495expresslanes.com to learn how to obtain an EZ-Pass Flex transponder.

 

HOV Lanes to Close 3 Nights This Week

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

The Virginia Department of Transportation will close the I-95 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes overnight starting on Wednesday, August 1 and Thursday, August 2, from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., and again on Friday, August 3 from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m., for traffic shifts.

Wednesday night August 1, and Thursday night, August 2, the I-95 HOV lanes will be closed from Exit 152, Dumfries Road (Route 234) to Exit 169, Franconia Road /Keene Mill Road (Route 644) from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. On Friday night, August 3, this closure will be in place from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m.

During night work hours the HOV lanes will be open heading north from the slip ramp on I-95 near Exit 169, Franconia Road/Keene Mill Road to the Washington, D.C. line.

On Saturday, August 4, all HOV lanes will reopen beginning at 9 a.m. heading north toward Washington, D.C.

-Virginia Megaprojects press release 

Stafford Man Clinging to Life after 5-Car Pile Up

UPDATE 7:30 p.m.

A Stafford County man suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash that closed a portion of the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes today.

Virginia State Police at 3:31 p.m. reported a Ford F-150 pickup traveling south on the HOV lanes — at mile post 153 south near Va. 234 in Dumfries — that failed to break in time to avoid a slowing Honda Civic. The truck slammed into the Civic, pushing the small car underneath a Toyota Sienna. That impact forced the Sienna to overturn and collide with a Honda Accord.

Meanwhile, the F-150 veered to the left and stuck a Hyundai Accent, said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

The driver of the Civic, a 33-year-old Stafford man, was flown to Innova Fairfax Hospital with life-threatening injuries. The driver of the F-150 was taken to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center where he was treated and released. Identified as Jason Cannon, 37, of King George, Va., he is charged with reckless driving, said Geller.

The drivers of the three other cars involved in the crash were also treated for injuries that did not appear to be life threatening.

The HOV lanes reopened about 5 p.m.

5:30 p.m. 

DUMFRIES, Va. – Traffic on Interstate 95 south is moving again – slowly.

A crash closed the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes at Dumfries about 3 p.m., according to reports.

All drivers were diverted from the HOV lanes at the slip ramp prior to the truck scales as emergency crews responded to the crash. The cars involved were loaded onto tow trucks and debris was removed from the roadway.

The lanes reopened about 5 p.m. but delays on both the north and southbound sides of the highway had already built. The Virginia Department of Transportation reported an eight-mile back up from Dumfries.

The roll was also slow through Stafford County following the reopening of the HOV lanes. After the lanes reopened, traffic was no longer diverted into the general purpose lanes of I-95.

 

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