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Traffic & Transit

Total Closures of I-95 Planned Tuesday at Quantico

Construction of the 95 Express Lanes at Quantico. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

QUANTICO, Va. — Construction crews will close a portion of Interstate 95 on Tuesday night as part of the 95 Express Lanes Project.

The closures are set to take place at Quantico.

More in a press release:

Weather permitting, beginning Tuesday, February 12, after midnight the Virginia Department of Transportation will be implementing intermittent full road closures on I-95 north and south at mile marker 147 near Marine Corps Base Quantico, Exit 148 for utility work. The closures will take place between midnight and 4 a.m. with up to six stoppages of 15 minutes each as Dominion Power removes and installs overhead electrical wires to support the future 95 Express Lanes.

Motorist may experience delays of up to ten minutes. The last exit before work zone heading north is Garrisonville Road, and heading south is Joplin Road. Signs and message boards will be posted along the corridor to inform motorist of construction activities. State police will be onsite directing traffic.

U.S. 1 runs parallel to I-95, and drivers can access it prior to the construction area at Exits 143 at Garrisonville Road in North Stafford and 150 at Jopin Road in Quantico.

The nearly $1 billion public-private project is an effort to not only convert the reversible HOV lanes to toll lanes on I-95 from Dumfries to the Pentagon, but to also build two new reversible toll lanes from Dumfries to Garrisonville Road in North Stafford.

In the extended stretch of the lanes, a new flyover ramp is being built just south of Va. 234 in Dumfries that will allow southbound traffic to leave the toll lanes and rejoin traffic on the main portion of the highway. At the terminus of the lanes at Garrisonville Road, a new flyover ramp will also carry drivers off the toll lanes back into the regular lanes of I-95 to provide access to North Stafford and areas south.

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Construction of the 95 Express Lanes at Quantico. [Photo: Uriah Kiser / Potomac Local News]

OmniLink Unveils New Bus Design

New OmniLink buses that serve Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park. The buses have a new look more aligned with the overall color scheme for the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. [Submitted photo]

Submitted News 

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — OmniLink buses will sport an updated look soon as five new local buses are expected to start serving passengers of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) by mid-February.

The new paint scheme features shades of teal above the windows and a solid teal band below the windows. The bottom half of the bus is white. Repeated through the design is the circular logo that PRTC uses to denote its various services.

“Passengers who are used to standing at the bus stop and scanning the roadway for a white bus will have to make a colorful adjustment,” said PRTC Executive Director Alfred Harf, noting that this is the first time the OmniLink paint scheme has been revamped in more than 10 years.

The 30-foot-long buses were manufactured in California and arrived at PRTC in late January and early February. Although their exterior is different, the buses continue to offer seating for 30 passengers and a bike rack for those who want to ride to and from their bus stops. The new buses will not be assigned to specific areas but will be rotated throughout the service area in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park.

When the new buses are placed into service, five OmniLink buses that were purchased in 2004 will be moved into PRTC’s contingency fleet to be called back into service as needed. This will mark the first time that PRTC has been able to create an OmniLink contingency fleet, Harf said. Older OmniLink buses in the active and contingency fleets will not be re-painted with the new design.

Later in 2013, PRTC expects to take delivery of 11 additional new OmniLink buses, replacing the remaining 2004 models. Once those new buses are in service, most of the older OmniLink buses will be sold. OmniLink-type buses have a minimum service life of 10 years or 350,000 miles (whichever comes first) by standards set by the Federal Transit Administration.

The five new OmniLink buses cost $384,000 each and are being paid for with a combination of 80% state funding and 20% local funding.

Governor’s Transportation Plan Rejected

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

By WHITNEY  SPICER and ALIX HINES
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed his disgust after his transportation funding package was derailed by Senate Democrats late Tuesday.

Although the House version of the governor’s transportation plan had passed earlier in the day, the Senate Democrats had a different idea. All 20 Democratic senators vowed to vote against the bill, blocking it for this legislative session.

“Rather than engaging in a debate on how to move forward with tackling our transportation problems, it is apparent that the Senate Democrats are once again content to risk our continued economic prosperity and our citizens’ quality of life,” McDonnell said afterward.

McDonnell’s transportation proposal would replace the state’s gasoline tax with a higher sales tax and vehicle registration fees. That was the focus of House Bill 2313 and Senate Bill 1355.

The governor’s hopes were raised when the Republican-controlled House of Delegates passed HB 2313, a step toward funding “Virginia’s Road to the Future,” McDonnell’s plan to invest $3 billion in road and transit projects over the next five years.

“Our citizens have told us loud and clear that now is the time to get something done on transportation. They deserve a modern, well-funded transportation system that will get them to work and home on time, without delay,” McDonnell said after the 53-46 vote in the House.

HB 2313 would eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax. At the same time, it would raise the sales tax in Virginia from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. The bill also would raise the registration fee for private vehicles from $33 a year to $48.

Delegates amended HB 2313 to delete an additional fee for hybrid car owners and to prohibit tolls on Interstate 95.

House Democrats criticized the legislation.

“It patches potholes instead of dealing with the severe congestion that cost Virginia our coveted ranking as the best state to do business. It eliminates the gas tax and lets snowbirds traveling to Florida for the winter ride free, while seniors shopping at K-Mart pay a bigger sales tax,” said Delegate Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax.

In the evenly divided Senate, the Democratic opposition doomed SB 1355, raising the specter of a 20-20 tie vote. And because the matter involved revenue, Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who presides over the Senate, could not break the tie in the GOP’s favor.

Sen. Stephen D. Newman, R-Lynchburg, offered a substitute that would ditch the proposed increases in sales tax and vehicle registration fees. Senate Democrats voted as a whole to scrap that idea as well. They were joined by two Republican senators – Emmett Hanger of Mount Solon and John Watkins of Midlothian.

Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr., R-James City, criticized Democrats for their refusal to pass SB 1355.

“Senate Democrats have been absent throughout the process, and that has been their choice,” Norment said. “Their vote today put an exclamation point on their position regarding transportation: They have no plan other than to say ‘no’ to every plan presented.”

McDonnell echoed Norment’s sentiments.

Democratic senators “chose to vote on strictly partisan lines,” the governor said. “The Democratic caucus repeatedly said no to improving transportation in Virginia.”

The Senate’s vote sent SB 1355 back to the Senate Finance Committee. That means it is dead for the session, because Tuesday was the deadline for bills to win approval from their originating chamber.

All is not lost for McDonnell’s plan, however. After clearing the House, HB 2313 now moves to the Senate; it has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

McDonnell praised House members for keeping his plan alive.

“Thankfully, their action means a transportation bill is still advancing this session, despite today’s partisan blockade by Democrats in the State Senate. It is now past time that the Senate Democrats support their constituents and get serious about tackling the challenges facing Virginia’s transportation system,” the governor said.

More than 50 business, labor and transportation groups have endorsed McDonnell’s plan. However, it has drawn opposition not only from Democrats but also from some conservative organizations.

For instance, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, issued a statement shortly after the Senate’s rejection of SB 1355. He called the action a “victory for Virginia taxpayers.”

“The defeat of SB 1355 demonstrates that the state Senate understands that the governor’s transportation proposal was not the best solution to Virginia’s transportation needs,” Norquist said.

Cold Weather, Time Crunch Weighs on Those in Slug Lines

Slug Tales

By LAURA CIRILLO

 Man, I hate the cold.

That taste of 70-degree weather was such a tease, just to be followed by a dusting of snow at the end of the week. And unless the snow is significant enough to close the government, or at least get us a telework day, I’m not interested.

I hate walking our puppy in the snow; it’s too distracting for him and he only wants to eat the snow or play in it. I hate cleaning my car off in the morning, and I don’t drive well in icy conditions (really, does anyone?). But more than anything else, I dread slugging in the cold.

Learn more about PRTCThe walk from my car to the slug line in the morning and back in the evening seems so much longer in the cold, especially with that biting wind and all the nasty rain and snow we’ve had lately. It’s almost painful just to stand in the slug line, counting down the number of riders in front of you before you’re in a warm car.

As much as I love slugging, cold, dreary weather can make it pretty miserable. And the unpredictability of slugging, of not knowing how long you’ll be waiting in the slug line, freezing and shivering and pathetic, well, that’s pretty much the worst.

If you don’t slug, you may think I’m being overly dramatic. And if you do slug, and you hate the cold as much as I do, you know just how right I am about this.

Yesterday evening, I left my office just after 5 p.m. and, much to my dismay, walked out the door to find a very long slug line filled with people headed for the Horner Road Commuter lot in Woodbridge. My heart sank, as it usually does when this happens, and I trudged to the end of the line. Five minutes passed and then 10, then 20. It seemed the slug line was barely moving, and I silently cursed each car that created any sort of obstruction in the road, preventing slug drivers from possibly getting to us faster.

I tried counting all of the people waiting ahead of me in line, but stopped after about 12. It seemed hopeless. What if it gets too close to 6 p.m. when the restrictions are lifted in the HOV lanes, and I end up on the bus again? I stayed pretty calm when that happened last week, but I may not be able to handle it again tonight.

Finally, I got closer to the front of the line, but I refused to get my hopes up. I made that mistake last week, and then waited at the very front of the line until after 6 p.m. but wound up taking the Metro back to the Pentagon to take the commuter bus to my car to drive home. Yeah, it’s a trip.

I just couldn’t do it again.

Checking the time again, I continued to worry. After 5:30 p.m., and still no ride. And I wasn’t even next in line! Tomorrow, I need to bring gloves, I reminded myself. My hands were nearly frozen and I could picture them sitting in the passenger seat of my car, right where I left them that morning.

Next thing I knew, we were moving up again. Two people were in a car, with another car waiting behind them, and there went the next two. Finally, I was at the front of the line, and a few minutes later, there was my sweet, sweet chariot (or Ford Explorer, but whatever).

It was about 35 minutes of unpleasantly cold, sheer torture overall, but getting into that warm and toasty SUV and napping on the way back to the commuter lot was just what I needed. Of course, the bus runs on a more predictable timetable, but when something throws that schedule off, you can be stuck waiting, or worse – standing in the aisle the whole ride home. My preference is almost always to slug. Besides the possible wait time, it’s just faster than any other alternative.

As much as I hate the cold weather, I don’t love sweating in the scorching hot sun in the summertime, either. I’m sure I’ll be complaining about that in a few months, but for now, I’m just so over winter. Bring on the heat!

 Laura Cirillo works for the federal government and lives in Prince William County

Texting While Driving Bills from Anderson, Barker Show Promise

Virginia State Senator George Barker and Delegate Rich Anderson meet in Lake Ridge to discuss legislative priorities for 2013. [Uriah Kiser/Potomac Local News]

By SAM ISAACS
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Members of the House and Senate are optimistic that at least some of the 10 bills to crack down on texting while driving will make it past the legislative deadline called crossover day.

At the start of the session, three such bills were filed in the Senate bills and seven in the House. If a bill has not made it out of the House or Senate by Tuesday, it is left on table for the year. Beginning Wednesday, the House can consider only bills approved by the Senate, and the Senate can consider only legislation passed by the House.

Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, is the chief patron of two of the Senate bills. He is hopeful the legislation will make it past crossover.

“We have been trying this for a few years and have been gradually making progress. I think the odds look good this year,” Barker said.

Last year, his bill to increase the penalties for texting while driving passed the Senate but died in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

This year, Barker is sponsoring Senate Bill 1160, which would increase the fine for texting while driving to $200 for a first offense and $500 dollars for a second offense. (The existing penalties are $20 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offense. They were set in 2009 when the General Assembly passed the current law against texting while driving.)

SB 1160 also would make texting while driving a primary offense. Currently, it is a secondary offense, meaning drivers can be charged only if they have been stopped for another violation.

Barker’s other bill, SB 1238, would make texting while driving punishable as reckless driving. Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, has a similar proposal, SB 1222.

All three Senate bills will be heard in Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Monday [Feb. 4]. If approved by the committee, they will go to the full Senate.

The seven House bills have been folded into one – HB 1907, proposed by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge.

HB 1907 mirrors Barker’s bill: It would make texting while driving a primary offense and drastically increase the fines for an infraction. Anderson said this could be the year such a bill passes.

“It has a strong support, and a lot of people are committed to it. In prior years, there wasn’t as much focus on how much of a real danger this is,” he said.

Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax, said a recent event had a strong influence on the General Assembly’s attitude toward texting – a “tragedy to the highest extreme.”

In May 2011, Kyle Rowley, a college student, was killed by man presumed to be texting while driving in Fairfax County. When the case went to trial this past September, the judged dropped the reckless driving charge against the driver.

The reason: The penalty for texting while driving is $20, and the offense counts as a minor traffic infraction. The judge ruled that it could not count as reckless driving.

“The situation was shocking to the General Assembly. We were appalled,” Bulova said. “You could see why the judge would rule that way. He wasn’t wrong; we were.”

On Friday, the House Courts of Justice Committee unanimously approved HB 1907. It is now before the full House of Delegates.

Bulova hopes the bipartisan support in the House and Senate will make 2013 the year Virginia targets texting while driving.

“We want to send a strong message that it is the driver’s primary responsibility to pay attention and monitor themselves while they drive,” she said.

The Status of Anti-texting Bills

Here are the bills that would increase the penalties for texting while driving.

In the House, the main bill is HB 1907, proposed by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge. The full House of Delegates is scheduled to vote on the proposal. Six bills have been incorporated into this legislation. They are:

· HB 1357, by Delegate Thomas Rust, R-Herndon

· HB 1360, by Delegate Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst

· HB 1495, by Delegate Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg

· HB 1540, by Delegate Vivian Watts, D-Annandale

· HB 1848, by Delegate G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond

· HB 1883, by Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax

In the Senate, three bills are before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. They are SB 1160 and SB 1238, by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria; and SB 1222, by Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg.

Governor’s Transportation Plan Moves Forward

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell

By WHITNEY SPICER 
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Bob McDonnell has reason to celebrate after the House Finance Committee on Wednesday approved a key part of the transportation plan that he hopes will define his term.

“Our effort to enact a long-term solution to Virginia’s transportation funding challenges took a major step forward,” McDonnell said. “I am pleased that legislators from both parties voted in support of our plan.”

The committee voted 14-8 in favor of House Bill 2313, which would finance McDonnell’s plan, which he calls “Virginia’s Road to the Future.”

The 14 committee members who supported the plan included 10 Republicans (Delegates Richard Anderson of Woodbridge, Richard Bell of Staunton, Scott Garrett of Lynchburg, Chris Head of Roanoke, Tim Hugo of Centreville, Israel O’Quinn of Bristol, Bobby Orrock of Thornburg, Brenda Pogge of Yorktown, Harry Purkey of Virginia Beach and Ronald Villanueva of Virginia Beach) and four Democrats (Matthew James of Portsmouth, Joseph Johnson of Abingdon, Mark Keam of Vienna and Lynnwood Lewis of Accomac).

The eight committee members who opposed the plan included five Republicans (Delegates Kathy Byron of Lynchburg, Benjamin Cline of Amherst, Mark Cole of Fredericksburg, Bob Marshall of Manassas and Lee Ware of Powhatan) and three Democrats (Betsy Carr of Richmond, Eileen Filler-Corn of Springfield Vivian Watts of Annandale).

The committee’s action clears the way for the full House to vote on the bill.

“The can has been kicked for too long, and Virginians deserve a modern, well-funded transportation system that will get them to work and home on time, without delay,” McDonnell said afterward.

The transportation funding and reform package would invest more than $3.1 billion over the next five years into Virginia’s highways and transit systems. The plan also would make Virginia the first state in the nation to eliminate its 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax, which the governor said has been a declining source of revenue. Instead, the sales tax in Virginia would increase from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

“With today’s vote, we are one step closer to delivering the long-term transportation fix that Virginians both want and deserve,” said House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford.

But not everyone was satisfied with the governor’s proposal. The House Democratic Caucus said the governor’s plan focused too much on road maintenance and not enough on Virginia’s infrastructure needs.

Hugo, who carried the bill along with Howell, said that he applauded his fellow delegates for offering alternative proposals but that he believed the governor’s plan would “stop the bleeding on the transportation trust fund.”

According to the “Virginia’s Road to the Future” website, launched by the governor this week, the transportation plan would provide funding for 158 highway projects throughout the state, including improving interstate paving, secondary system bridges and unpaved roads.

Although the bill overcame a major hurdle yesterday, it still must pass the House and Senate before becoming law.

“This first vote clearly demonstrates a growing, and bipartisan, consensus that transportation is a core function of government,” McDonnell said. “I look forward to continuing to work with legislators in both chambers, and from both parties, to see this plan passed into law, and get traffic moving again in Virginia.”

VDOT Treating Roads Tonight with Snow in Forecast

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

Snow is in the forecast for tonight and the Virginia Department of Transportation is already planning to treat the roads.

About an inch of snow could fall on the region, states the National Weather Service.

More in a press release from VDOT:

With up to an inch of snow forecast for Friday morning and pavement temperatures at only 25 degrees, the Virginia Department of Transportation is urging motorists to check road conditions ahead of their commute, and to limit travel or use caution.

Today, crews are pre-treating roads in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. On interstates 66, 95, 395, and 495—including bridges and ramps prone to freezing such as the Springfield interchange, I-66 at Route 29 and the Capital Beltway interchange at Route 1—crews use liquid magnesium chloride. Problem spots on other major roads, such as the Fairfax County Parkway and routes 1, 7, 28, 29, 50 and 123, are pre-treated with salt brine.

Beginning at midnight, about 350 trucks will be on hand to treat roads in northern Virginia.

VDOT reminds motorists to use caution when driving during wintry weather. Drivers should:

• Check current weather, road conditions and traffic before traveling at www.511Virginia.org or by calling 511

• Slow down and allow for extra time to reach your destination

• Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges

• Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road

Click here for more information on northern Virginia’s snow removal program, and report road problems to 1-800-FOR-ROAD or novainfo[at]vdot.virginia.gov.

Suspect Sought in Police Collision at Prince William Parkway

Photo: Mary Davidson

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Virginia State Police are searching for suspect whose car collided with a police cruiser this morning at Prince William Parkway and Interstate 95.

More in a press release:

At 9:21 a.m., Virginia State Police Trooper C. Lanfranchi Jr. stopped a 1994 Buick sedan on Route 3000/Prince William County Parkway near the I-95 interchange. The traffic stop was for expired license plates on the car. As the trooper walked up to the car, the Buick sped away. A pursuit was initiated.

Approximately 8 minutes later, the suspect vehicle and the trooper’s vehicle collided. The Buick’s driver and passenger then fled on foot. State police, with the assistance of air support and tracking canines, searched the immediate area for the two black males who ran from the scene. By noon the search efforts were discontinued as the subjects were nowhere to be found.

The trooper was not injured in the crash.

Anyone with information concerning these individuals is asked to call Virginia State Police at 703-803-0026 or #77 on their cell phone.

Bucket Truck Hits Light Fixture, Causes Bridge Backup

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

FALMOUTH, Va. — If you normally cross the Falmouth Bridge from Fredericksburg into to Stafford County during your morning commute, we don’t need to tell you traffic was snarled this morning.

It happened about 5 a.m. after a crew performing parapet work on the bridge was cleaning up from overnight work when their bucket truck struck an overhanging light fixture on the bridge.

With concern the fixture could fall, traffic was diverted off of the bridge and onto nearby River Road for about an hour, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.

The bridge was later reopened to traffic late Wednesday morning and was running without incident that afternoon.

Hannon said this morning’s incident on the bridge does not mirror one last year where a cantilever sign fell onto Interstate 66 in Fairfax County. Following the sign’s failure, many cantilever signs were inspected and in some cases, at Va. 610 and at Prince William Parkway and I-95, signs had to be taken down and relpaced with more secure ones.

The Falmouth Bridge is set to undergo a $24 million rehabilitation that should begin early next year and be complete in 2016. Right now, the sidewalk is being replaced.

Bill Would Send More Road Money to Northern Virginia

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

By DESTINY BRANDON
Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of LeMunyon’s other bills include:

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

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

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

Bus Ridership Down in 2012; More Turn to Slugging

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

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

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

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

More in a press release from PRTC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A listing of the new Board members is below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Congressmen Asked to Oppose Tolls on I-95

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

WHITNEY SPICER
Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schools Close Early; Snow Could Make for Messy Afternoon Commute

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

Update 

Prince William County Public Schools closing one hour early:

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

All scheduled Thursday HS Exams will be given today.

Originally scheduled Friday exams are moved to Monday.

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

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

Manassas Public Schools will also close one hour early today:

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

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

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

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

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

Manassas Park Public Schools will also close early:

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

due to predicted inclement weather.

Secondary students will be dismissed at 1:00 pm.

Elementary students will be dismissed at 1:45 pm.

11 a.m. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Slow your speed for road conditions

-Buckle up and don’t drive distracted

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

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

-Increase driving distances between vehicles for increased stopping distance

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

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

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

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

More in a press release:

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

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

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

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

Closings & Delays Jan. 24, 2013

Schools Closed

Prince William County Public Schools

Stafford County Public Schools

Fredericksburg Public Schools

Fauquier County Public Schools

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

Two Hour Delay

Manassas Park Public Schools

Fairfax County Public Schools

Arlington County Public Schools

Alexandria Public Schools

Government

Open with unscheduled leave or telework

Stafford County government offices open with liberal leave in effect

Prince William County government open with unscheduled leave

Transit 

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

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

 

One Killed in I-95 Crash at Fairfax County Parkway

Photo: Mary Davidson

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

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

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

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

-Virginia State Police 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrested on January 20th:

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

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

Court date and bond information unavailable

One Pulled from SUV, Dale Boulevard Traffic Rerouted

Update Monday 

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

FROM POLICE REPORTS:

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

Identified:

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

Update 11:45 a.m.

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

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

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

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

10 a.m.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll have more on this as it develops.

VRE Extends Parking Lease at Rippon Station

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

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

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

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

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