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Traffic & Transit

Running on Empty: Prince William’s Tysons Express Bus on Chopping Block

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – It was always a possibility that one day the bus which carries commuters from Woodbridge to Tysons Corner could stop running. Not because it ran out of gas, but money.

The Tysons OmniRide bus, which provides commuter service along the newly opened 495 Express Lanes, is poised to cease when Virginia pulls funding for service. The bus started running in 2009 at the height of construction on the 495 Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway. The idea was to take more people off the highways, and the state picked up the tab.

The Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway opened in 2012, and new Express Lanes on Intestate 95 are set to open next year. When complete, they’ll connect with the lanes on the Capital Beltway, providing vehicles with three or more occupants, buses, and motorcycles a seamless, free, predictable commute from North Stafford to Tysons Corner. Single drivers or those with only one passenger may choose to pay to use the new lanes.

Now that Express Lane construction on I-95 is nearing an end, the 100% state subsidy will also end. PRTC proposes to stop operating the commuter bus route in November 2014 because the special purpose for its implementation has been fulfilled and because ridership numbers are lower than what was expected, plateauing at about 165 riders per day.

– PRTC press release 

PRTC will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 10 inside their transit center in Woodbridge to get public comments on whether the bus should stay or go. But looking at the financial climate at PRTC, and noting that Prince William County would become the majority funder of the bus route at some $200,000 annually – the decision to end the service may already be made.

“Please remember that the Tysons route was implemented specifically to relieve congestion during the construction of the I-495 Express Lanes, and the state later decided to continue its 100% sponsorship of the route during construction of the I-95 Express Lanes. The PRTC Board of Commissioners explicitly stated in 2008 when it agreed to operate the route that it was not committing to continue the route once the state’s 100% funding ended,” stated PRTC spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo in an email.

So far, there has been no new funding source identified to pay for the service. Fares cannot do it alone.

Though launched in 2009, PRTC says the Tyson’s bus didn’t hit its stride until three years later, according to statistics provided by the transit agency:

– Peak ridership was 178 per day, but average daily ridership is 163 per day. When the route started, we projected that average daily ridership would be 240. There are 4 trips to Tysons in the mornings, and 5 trips from Tysons in the afternoons/evenings, so each bus carries an average of 18 passengers.

– Peak ridership was reached in Oct 2012, dropped off over the winter and then peaked again in Nov 2013.

Talk about ending the Tysons bus comes as construction of the 95 Express Lanes – the equivalent to the little cousin of the 495 Express Lanes project – is still underway. 

So, what if PRTC decided to keep the Tysons bus and cut another service? That’s unlikely. Rodrigo put it to PotomacLocal.com in an email: 

… PRTC is facing a possible financial crisis in FY2017 when the County’s current source of public transportation funding (the reserve built up from previous years when the 2.1% fuels tax brought in more revenue than the county spent on PRTC and VRE) is exhausted. PRTC is always looking for ways to cut expenses and spend wisely, and those efforts are especially vital now with the possibility of significant cuts to service and workforce reductions if the financial crisis isn’t resolved. We could not justify changes to other routes or the delay/cancellation of projects that would impact far more passengers in order to sustain the Tysons route. Frankly there is no remaining low-hanging fruit.

Here are the details of  the public hearing in case you want to go:

The public hearing will be held on September 10 at 7 p.m. at the PRTC Transit Center in Woodbridge. Those who cannot attend the public hearing may submit written comments until 5 p.m., September 17, 2014, via email to publichearing@OmniRide.com or by mailing the comments to PRTC, Attn: Public Hearing, 14700 Potomac Mills Road, Woodbridge, VA  22192. A PowerPoint presentation with information about the route and more detailed reasons for its proposed cessation are available at PRTCtransit.org.

New Video Shows How to Use 95 Express Lanes

[Photo: VDOT]

We’re getting closer to the opening of the 95 Express Lanes.

The new lanes will carry drivers from Garrisonville Road in North Stafford to Edsall Road in Alexandria, allowing vehicles with three or more occupants to ride free while single drivers will be able to pay a toll to avoid traffic congestion.

The builders of the new lanes have created a new video to help orient users of the new lanes. You can view the video by clicking here.

While the majority of the lanes existing in the current footprint of the HOV lanes, which have been improved as part of the project, new lanes have been built and stretch from the current HOV lane terminus in Dumfries to North Stafford.

The $925 million project is slated to be complete early next year. When complete, the lanes will also connect with the 495 Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway, between Springfield and Tysons Corner.

Updated: Expect Road Work, Delays on U.S. 1 in Boswell’s Corner Postponed

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

Updated Thursday, Aug. 21

From the Virginia Department of Transportation:

Lane closures at Route 1 and Telegraph Road in Stafford County scheduled for this weekend have been postponed due to forecasted weather conditions. The work will be rescheduled for a later date.

All lanes of Route 1 and Telegraph Road will remain open this weekend. 

Original post Tuesday, Aug. 19

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – Drivers who take U.S. 1 on weekends should prepare for some delays in North Stafford. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation says roadwork in Boswell’s Corner area will cause minor delays this weekend: 

Motorists may experience minor travel delays Friday evening and Saturday at the Route 1 and Telegraph Road intersection in Stafford County’s Boswells Corner area due to road construction.

Between 10 p.m. Friday, August 22 and 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, southbound Route 1 will be reduced to one travel lane for several hundred feet at the Telegraph Road intersection.

Also, Telegraph Road will be reduced to one travel lane between Route 1 and the Interstate 95 overpass. Traffic will alternate driving in the remaining open lane, directed by a flagging crew.

This project is adding turn lanes at the intersection of Route 1 and Telegraph Road. It is being administered by the Federal Highway Administration-Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division. This weekend, lane closures are needed so workers can build a right turn lane from Telegraph Road to southbound Route 1.

Construction work is expected to conclude in fall 2014. For more information, please visit the EFLHD project webpage

Boswell’s Corner is just south of the Prince William County line and the rear entrance to Quantico Marine Corps Base.

Overnight I-95 Express Lanes Closures Continue

[Photo: VDOT]

Weather permitting, at 11 p.m. Friday night, August 15, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will close the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on I-395/95 from the Washington D.C., line to the end at Dumfries Road (Route 234) until 8 a.m. Saturday, August 16, and again on Saturday night at 11 p.m. until 8 a.m., Sunday morning, August 17. The closures are needed for overnight construction on the 95 Express Lanes Project.

Schedule of HOV hours of operation:

1. Saturday morning, August 16 by 8 a.m.:

  • HOV lanes open in the southbound direction from Washington, D.C. to the exit at Turkeycock (Edsall Road) where all motorists must exit the lanes and merge onto the I-395 south general purpose lanes.

  • HOV lanes closed between Turkeycock (Edsall Road) and the Franconia-Springfield Parkway (Route 289).

  • HOV lanes open to southbound traffic south of the Franconia-Springfield Parkway (Route 289) to Dumfries Road (Route 234). Traffic can re-enter the HOV lanes just after the Franconia-Springfield Parkway (Route 289) via a left lane slip ramp. 

  • During this work, there will be no direct access to I-95 south HOV lanes via the Franconia-Springfield Parkway (Route 289).

2. Saturday afternoon, August 16, by 2 p.m.: All HOV lanes will be closed for reversal    

    operations. 

3. Saturday afternoon, August 16, no later than 4 p.m.: HOV lanes open to traffic heading

    north from Turkeycock exit (Edsall Road) to Washington, D.C.

4. Saturday night, August 16, by 11 p.m.: HOV facility will close in its entirety from Dumfries
    Road (Route 234) to Washington, D.C.

5. Sunday morning, August 17, by 8 a.m.: Entire HOV facility will open northbound.

Drivers Dealing with Flash Flooding Across Area

Flash flooding is occurring on roadways across the region.

A flash flood warning from the National Weather Service is in effect until 5:15 p.m.

Here’s the latest from the weather service:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A

* FLOOD WARNING FOR URBAN AREAS AND SMALL STREAMS IN…

  CITY OF FAIRFAX IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA

  CITY OF MANASSAS IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA

  CITY OF MANASSAS PARK IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA

  FAIRFAX COUNTY IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA

  PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA

* UNTIL 515 PM EDT

* AT 115 PM EDT…RADAR INDICATED SEVERAL ROUNDS OF MODERATE RAINFALL MOVING THROUGH THE AREA. RAINFALL OF ONE TO THREE INCHES CAN BE EXPECTED…WHICH WILL CAUSE RISES ON AREA STREAMS…WITHSOME OF THEM POTENTIALLY COMING OUT OF THEIR BANKS. SOME MINOR FLOODING OF LOW LYING AREAS CAN ALSO BE EXPECTED.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR HAS BEEN REPORTED. STREAM RISES WILL BE SLOW. HOWEVER…ALL INTERESTED PARTIES SHOULD TAKE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS IMMEDIATELY.

EXCESSIVE RUNOFF FROM HEAVY RAINFALL WILL CAUSE ELEVATED LEVELS ON SMALL CREEKS AND STREAMS…AND PONDING OF WATER IN URBAN AREAS… HIGHWAYS…STREETS AND UNDERPASSES AS WELL AS OTHER POOR DRAINAGE AREAS AND LOW LYING SPOTS.

 Prince William police say drivers on the following roads in the county are currently seeing flash flooding: 

East End Locations:

Old Bridge Rd/Troupe St

  • Mud covering roadway — Passable

Tanyard Hill Rd between Town of Occoquan & Old Bridge Rd

  • Water covering roadway — Passable

Neabsco Rd/Jefferson Davis Hwy

  • Water covering roadway — Passable

Old Triangle Rd/Orange St

  • High water on Old Triangle Rd — One lane not passable

West End Locations:

Wellington Rd/Vulcan Ln

  • Water covering roadway — Passable

Aden Rd/Parkgate Dr

  • Water covering roadway — One lane passable

Brentsville Rd/Bradley Forest Rd

  • Water covering roadway — Passable

If you need to report high water or impassable roadways, please call the non-emergency number at 703-792-6500.

Officials in Stafford County are seeing flooding on some streets, too:

Stafford County Sheriff’s Office is reporting road closures at Harrell Road, the intersection of Rt.1 & Kings Crest and the 100 block of Sanford Rd.

 

 

Construction of VRE Station in Spotsylvania About to Begin

121212 VRE

A week after Gov. Terry McAuliffe broke ground for a new Virginia Railway Express station in Woodbridge, construction of another station is about to begin in Spotsylvania.

Here’s the latest information form Virginia Railway Express: 

Spotsylvania County and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) have begun construction on a new VRE commuter rail station in Spotsylvania.  The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) filed a Certificate of Take on July 1, 2014 which provided legal access to the property so that VRE could begin construction on the station and Spotsylvania could proceed with issuing a competitive procurement for the construction of a 1,500 space parking lot. 

The station will be located southwest of Route 17 and Crossroads Parkway.  “We’ve been waiting a long time to acquire the land and begin the station and parking lot construction” said Spotsylvania Board Member Gary Skinner, Lee Hill District Supervisor.  “We’re thankful to VDOT for its professionalism in obtaining legal rights for us to build the station and we look forward to offering commuter rail service to our citizens.”

Doug Allen, CEO of VRE, said “The Spotsylvania station and parking will be a great addition to our Fredericksburg Line and we are looking forward to opening it in 2015.  Spotsylvania will become our southern terminus for rail operations and we look forward to our system expansion and ability to provide greater mobility and reduced traffic congestion along the I-95 corridor.” 

Work is currently proceeding on the third track and station construction and should be complete by February 2015.  Spotsylvania has done utilities relocation, and construction of the parking lot and driveways will soon commence and be ready for the start of revenue service by July 2015.

A groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. at the station site.  The public is invited to attend.

The new station in Woodbridge will be located at the developing Potomac Shores neighborhood along the Potomac River. A publc-private partnership with Potomac Shores’ developer SunCal and Virginia, the new station will cost $14 million and open in 2017.

 

Bridge over I-66 at Haymarket to be Demolished

HAYMARKET, Va. – The bridge that carries traffic over Interstate 66 at Haymarket will soon be demolished, and the Virginia Department of Transportation wants you to know what their plans are for that stretch of road.

More in a press release: 

The Virginia Department of Transportation invites drivers and residents to meet with VDOT and Shirley Contracting staff about the upcoming closure of Jefferson Street/Old Carolina Road over Interstate 66 at a “pardon our dust” meeting, 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at the Haymarket Town Hall, 15000 Washington Street.

Beginning mid-September 2014, VDOT will be closing the bridge to begin demolition as part of the ongoing project to widen I-66 from Haymarket to Gainesville. The demolition work will require some nighttime operations and lane closures, and is anticipated to take six to eight weeks to complete, weather permitting. The bridge is located 0.4 miles east of the I-66/Route 15 interchange (Exit 40).

During this closure, traffic will be detoured onto Heathcote Boulevard, Catharpin Road and Washington Street.

A new bridge with traffic lanes and 10-foot pedestrian paths will be erected in place of the old bridge.

The work is part of the effort to widen I-66 by adding one HOV lane in each direction from U.S. 15 in Haymarket to U.S. 29 in Gainesville. The project is expected to cost $73.5 million and should be complete in 2016.

Stuck Truck Closes Portion of Shelton Shop Road

080714 shelton shop

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – Drivers on Shelton Shop Road in North Stafford were turned around by sheriff’s authorities on Wednesday. 

The driver of a tractor trailer apparently misjudged how much space he had on the small two-lane road when he tried to turn around. 

The portion of Shelton Shop Road between Oakwood Drive and Winding Creek Road was closed to traffic about 3 p.m. Sheriff’s authorities were seen assisting the driver. 

No injuries were reported. 

Get Ready for a Detour at HOV Entrance in Springfield

Photo: Mary Davidson

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – If your commute takes you to the Franconia-Springfield Parkway in Fairfax County, get ready for some changes to be made near the entrance to the HOV lanes entrance over the next few weeks. 

Here’s more in a press release from VDOT:

Beginning on or about Friday, August 8, VDOT is planning to close all left turns connecting the Franconia-Springfield Parkway (Route 289) and the I-95 North and South High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes for up to four weeks. Motorists should follow the signed detour and allow extra time while traveling in this area, as they could experience delays of up to five minutes during peak a.m. and p.m. rush hours. These closures are necessary for crews to safely access the construction area and minimize delays. Critical work that will occur includes:

  • Accessing the exiting median and removing the concrete barrier
  • Adding new stormwater drainage and conduit underneath the bridge
  • Widening the ramps and adding new turn lanes
  • Installing new gates, Express Lanes signage and a new traffic signal
  • Placing new pavement and lane markings

Click here for more details and a detour map.

The 95 Express Lanes are more than 80 percent complete, and on-track to be completed by the end of the year and open in early 2015. The 95 Express Lanes will use dynamic tolls to keep traffic flowing and provide a more predictable travel option on I-95/395 between Route 610 in Stafford County to just north of I-495. The 95 Express Lanes are being delivered through a public-private partnership between VDOT and Transurban-Fluor.

Metro Stations on Blue Line Open Later for Redskins Pre-Season Game

Metro's “Rush Plus” service allows riders on Blue line trains from the Franconia-Springfield station the option of boarding a train that will take them across the Yellow line bridge crossing the Potomac River.

The Washington Redskins will take on the New England Patriots on Thursday at FedEx Field in Maryland.

The pre-season game will undoubtedly draw fans from across the region, and those fans will be able to take Metro to and from the game. The public transit service says trains on the Blue line that serves the Franconia-Springfield Metro stop, will run an hour longer Thursday night.

Here’s the latest information in a press release from WMATA:

Metrorail will stay open an additional hour following the Redskins preseason game on Thursday, Aug. 7 at FedEx Field. Riders traveling during the additional hour should enter the system at Morgan Boulevard or Largo Town Center stations no later than 12:20 a.m. to ensure that they make the last Blue or Silver Line trains in the direction of Franconia-Springfield or Wiehle-Reston East, respectively. 

Station entrances at all other Metro stations will close at their normal times, but riders will be able to exit at all stations during the additional hour of service.

Trucks Banned from U.S. 1 Cut-Through Route

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – Trucks have been banned on a neighborhood street in the Falmouth area of Stafford County.

Here’s the latest information from the Virginia Department of Transportation: 

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has approved a through truck restriction for two residential streets in the Falmouth area of Stafford County, Route 1040 (Spring Valley Drive) and Route 1042 (Springknoll Circle).

Through trucks will no longer be permitted to use Spring Valley Drive and Springknoll Circle to travel between Route 1 and Route 627 (Forbes Street).

Spring Valley Drive and Springknoll Circle have a posted 25 mph speed limit. Due to the narrow width of these roads, and the limited turning radius at each intersection, trucks must exercise caution at intersections. Under this restriction, only trucks with business along these routes will be permitted to travel these streets.

Signs communicating the through truck restriction will be posted on Route 1, and at the intersection of Springknoll Circle and Forbes Street. 

Under Review: Are Politics at Play When it Comes to one of the Region’s Largest Transportation Projects?

 

080414-courthouse-road

STAFFORD, Va. – Cord Sterling is no longer on Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board where he oversaw funding for many road projects in and around Fredericksburg.

But that doesn’t mean the Stafford County Supervisor no longer thinks about transportation. In fact, the Republican is fuming mad that the once fully-funded, $184.4 million project that he championed – building a new interchange at Route 630 [Courthouse Road] in the heart of Stafford County – is now short $5 million.

House Bill 2, new legislation signed into law this year, requires highway projects to be reviewed by a newly formed committee that will ultimately recommend to the overseeing Commonwealth Transportation Board [CTB] which projects should move forward to the construction phase. The $5 million has been moved into a special trust fund and could be restored by the CTB after the committee’s recommendations are made in October.

The Courthouse Road interchange project will improve a now antiquated diamond interchange and carries drivers from Interstate 95 onto 2-lane Courthouse Road and to nearby U.S. 1.

“They cut funding in order to force it through this process of which they control,” said Cord Sterling, of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

This is one of more than 30 projects that have been placed under review since Gov. Terry McAuliffe took office in January.

A game changing project

Sterling

Sterling

A public hearing for the new interchange was held back in 2012, and the project, which has been called a game changer for Stafford County, is now in its right-of-way-acquisition phase. Transportation officials are in negotiations with property owners to take needed land for the interchange.

“It is a dramatic change is the center of the county, and it is what was needed to handle the projected traffic growth for the county,” said Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.

Futrell

Futrell

Compared to what the interchange looks like today, dramatic might be an understatement. The new interchange will separate the lanes of Courthouse Road at the interchange, converting it into a loop road for drivers exiting and entering I-95, as well as using nearby Austin Ridge Drive.

New commuter lots will be built on Austin Ridge Drive and Courthouse Road, joining a lot that already exists on Courthouse Road near the current interchange. And, Courthouse Road east of I-95 will be turned into a cul-de-sac, and drivers will use a new Hospital Center Boulevard as the main access road to U.S. 1 to central Stafford.

The improved interchange is expected to open up the area around Stafford’s iconic courthouse, the closest thing the community has to a walkable downtown, with the exception of Falmouth just outside Fredericksburg.

The new interchange was also designed with the 95 Express Lanes in mind. Though the current effort to extend the high occupancy / toll lanes south from Prince William County ends north of Courthouse Road at Route 610 in North Stafford, Hannon says the express lanes could one day reach Courthouse Road.

Politics at play?  

The Courthouse Road interchange sits just outside Delegate Michael Futrell’s 2nd House District. The Democrat represents voters in North Stafford and eastern Prince William County, and the interchange is not in Futrell’s district.

Cord Sterling, who says transportation infrastructure should be viewed as a network that serves all, has demanded that his Delegate in Richmond, Micheal Futrell, to do more to get the project back on track.

“Is it [the lack of funding] frustrating? Naturally it is, but I’m confident that when it goes through the review process it will come back fully funded,” said Futrell.

While he recognizes the interchange would serve everyone in Stafford, Futrell said Sterling should talk with Speaker of the House Bill Howell who oversees the district in which the interchange sits. But Howell has been a vocal opponent of expanding Medicaid in the state, something Governor McAuliffe has vowed to do since before taking office.

Sterling says that his pet project in Howell’s district has now become a political pawn.

“The cutting of these funds when looking at other projects, it looks a little suspicious given what is going on with Medicaid and then the conversation turned to [Route] 630. It is the speaker’s district, but it will also serve Futrell’s district,” said Sterling.

Emails urge support of project

In a series of emails sent to Futrell in June, Sterling urged the freshman Delegate to speak out in support of restoring full funding the interchange. He later goes on to chastise Futrell for what he says has been a lack of dialogue between the Delegate and officials in Stafford County and at the Commonwealth Transportation Board in Richmond. “I am no longer requesting your assistance. I am telling you,” penned Sterling.

“I have a very big district. I can’t be every place all the time… we do our best to be everywhere we can be and we accommodate every meeting we can,” said Futrell.

Additionally, he doesn’t see politics at work here.

“You’ve got to realize there are 30 to 50 projects that had this happen to them, so we’re talking about up to $500 million, so this wasn’t anything that was specifically targeted at the interchange. This just happened to be one of the affected projects,” said Futrell.

Sterling says he will invite Futrell to a meeting of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors in early September in hopes to speak with him. Futrell says he will speak with members of the Board to hear their concerns.

Potomac Shores VRE Station Unlike Any Other in System

121212 VRE

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – A new Virginia Railway Express station in Woodbridge will be unlike any other in the system.

Officials broke ground on a new commuter rail station to be built below a bluff on the Potomac River, along VRE’s Fredericksburg line in the developing Potomac Shores neighborhood. Construction on the $14 million station will begin next year, and it will include two walkways, stairs, and an elevator so riders can easily get to their trains.

“The benefit of this location is that we have a beautiful view, and the tracks are down there [below the bluff]. There will be a walking bridge over to a tower, and you’ll take an elevator down to a train station,” said VRE CEO Doug Allen.

A second walking bridge and elevator will take VRE passengers to a second platform on the far side of the tracks. Private developer SunCal, which is building Potomac Shores, will pay the construction cost of the new station while Virginia taxpayer will pay for needed track improvements in the area.
A new VRE station in Woodbridge will also mean new station platforms at two VRE stations in Stafford County. Here’s a portion of a press release from officials in Stafford:

Riders at the Brooke and Leeland Virginia Railway Express (VRE) stations can expect more platform capacity as well as more efficient train service in the coming years. Thanks to a public private partnership between SunCal, a developer building a VRE station in Prince William County, the Commonwealth of Virginia and CSX Transportation, Stafford County’s two VRE stations will each receive a second platform. 

The Leeland Road station in Stafford County has more cars parked at its parking lot than any of the other seven stations with VRE-maintained parking lots on the Fredericksburg line, according to statistics from the railroad. The commnuter railroad carries just under 20,000 daily riders on its trains and has a plan to double that number by 2040.

To Attract Jobs, VRE says $2 Billion Needed to add Southbound Service from Washington

VRE Chief Doug Allen [Mary Davidson -- Potomac Local News]

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Prince William County has been slow to attract many Fortune 500 companies to the region, unlike its neighbor to the north Fairfax County which boasts many.

Part of the problem is its lack of a the Metro rail system which workers who live in the urban core of Washington, D.C., Alexandria and Arlington can use to get to job centers in Fairfax County. Employers are looking for easy access to mass transit so workers can avoid the daily peril that is commuting while driving on Interstates 95 and 66. Just this week, Springfield, and two locations in Prince Georges County, Md. – all near Metro stations – were named finalists in the search for a new headquarters for the FBI.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said a new Virginia Railway Express station in Woodbridge’s Potomac Shores neighborhood will be a new node in Northern Virginia’s transit system that hopes will help attract new companies to the region when it opens in 2017.

“The companies that I’m trying to bring to Virginia are the 21st century jobs – the cyber, the genome sequencing, all the bio life sciences… if you look at study after study, the folks who work in these industries want to be in communities that are walkable, ride a bike, that’s what they want, and this community is a place where they can do that,” said McAuliffe.

Right now, VRE is designed to ferry commuters from Northern Virginia north into Washington, D.C. on weekday mornings and then back home again in the afternoon.

These high tech, high-paying jobs that the governor wants to bring to Prince William will require VRE to rethink its service, and develop a plan to offer new trains that leave Washington on weekday mornings headed south, to bring workers from the urban center to fill these jobs.

“That is part of our plan, to run trains in both directions, so people can work out here and live in the city,” said VRE CEO Doug Allen.

The cost for this new service is expected to top more than $2 billion for the addition of new track, new rail cars, all to do what the commuter rail system is already planning to do: double it’s ridership to 50,000 riders per day by 2040. The money, Allen says, could come from federal grants.

Improvements to the Long Bridge, which carries VRE and freight trains across the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., will also need to be improved if more trains are to be added to the system, said Allen. While the new infrastructure will cost, operating costs for the system are expected to remain about the same is southbound service is added, said Allen.

McAuliffe Breaks Ground for Potomac Shores VRE Station

Elected officials as well as the heads of local transit services join Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe at the groundbreaking of a new Virginia Railway Express station in Woodbridge. [Mary Davidson – Potomac Local News]

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – With a golden shovel and the tossing of dirt, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe broke ground for a new Virginia Railway Express station in Woodbridge.

The $14 million passenger depot will be on the commuter railroad’s Fredericksburg line, and will be built in the developing Potomac Shores neighborhood, a master-planned community already getting attention after it opened its Jack Niclaus-designed golf course in June.

With more than 100 new homes and several new developments planned for the 2,000 acre property, including a new hotel and town center to surround the rail station that will over look the Potomac River, the region’s population – and traffic congestion – is expected to only get worse.

“You cannot grow an economy if your transportation system doesn’t work,” said McAuliffe, who says he’s all too familiar with bad Northern Virginia traffic. “We normally travel [Interstate] 95 several times per week. Today, we couldn’t take the risk and we took a helicopter, to be honest with you.

The station has been a long time coming and is part of the original vision for VRE, developed more than 20 years ago. It will be constructed under a public-private partnership with Potomac Shores’ developer, California-based SunCal building the rail station and Virginia taxpayers footing the $75 million price tag for an 11-mile extension of addition track that will be needed to serve the station.

“Our traffic is terrible and is getting worse and worse in front of us,” said Stafford County Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde, who is also Chairman of the Virginia Railway Express Executive Board. “…We simply don’t have the money we need to build and maintain the miles of new lanes that are needed to unsnarl the traffic nightmare that has been associated with this county and my county, and our region has to deal with daily.”

The new station is slated to open by 2017 and will sit on below a bluff that overlooks the Potomac River. It will be the center of the development new town center that, when built out completely, will feature a hotel, restaurants, retail stores, new homes, and office space.

“This development will act as a catalyst as an economic engine to spur development in the county and this region for years and years to come,” said Prince William County Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan. “The station will take thousands of cars off the road when it’s built.”

After years of off again-on again development, SunCal purchased the foreclosed property on the Cherry Hill Peninsula on which its Potomac Shores will sit in 2011. Before its previous developer went belly up during the U.S. economic downturn, the development was known as Harbor Station.

Longtime peninsula resident and former Prince William County Woodbridge District Supervisor Hilda Barg has long anticpated the development of this project. “I have waited for much more than 20 yeasrs. I’ve seen different developers on this peninsula. I’ve watched them come and I’ve watched them go,” said Barg. “When we got SunCal we got the real deal.”

Crash on I-395 to Cause OmniRide Delays, says Transit Agency

D

Bus riders should be prepared for delays this evening.

A crash on Interstate 395 in Arlington has closed the northbound portion of the highway. The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, operators of OmniRide commuter bus service, told riders the crash will impact service tonight.

Here’s their statement:

All northbound lanes of I-395 are currently closed due to a crash at VA-402 (Exit 6/Quaker Lane), with delays beginning prior to Route 7, about 1.5 miles.

This incident will cause delays for OmniRide trips this afternoon, including for later evening trips on buses that operate double runs – serving a trip early during the rush hour and another trip later in the evening.

Effort to Add 1,000 Spaces to Commuter Lot Nears Completion

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. – Work on an expanded commuter parking lot in North Stafford, next to the popular Stafford Marketplace shopping center, is nearly complete.

Here’s the latest update from the Virginia Department of Transportation:

Construction work is 75 percent complete on a 1,000-space expansion of a Virginia Department of Transportation Park & Ride facility in Stafford County on Va. 610 near Interstate 95.

The project is on schedule for a late October 2014 opening. The expansion doubles commuter parking spaces at this location. The lot is one of the busiest and largest ride-sharing locations for carpooling, vanpooling and transit in the Fredericksburg area.

Construction work began on the $12.9 million improvement in May 2013. The project is estimated to generate 43 jobs over a three-year period, and an additional $6.7 million in personal income earnings, $469,000 in state tax revenue, and nearly $40,000 in local tax revenue, according to an economic analysis by VDOT’s Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research.

While the project was under design, VDOT invited Fredericksburg area commuters to submit suggestions to promote safe and orderly traffic flow. The expanded commuter lot will include:

·         A consolidated, central location for carpool pickup and dropoff  

·         A bus pickup and dropoff bay that can accommodate four passenger buses

·         An extended sidewalk along Staffordboro Boulevard

·         Left and right turn lanes into a new lot entrance on Staffordboro Boulevard

·         A roundabout that connects the commuter lot to Doc Stone Road, Juggins Road and Moncure Lane, improving access management to the site.

Improvements to the existing parking lot are also planned. The existing lot will be re-paved, and new lane and space markings will be painted to clearly define traffic patterns in the lot.

Upcoming Traffic Shifts

Later this week, traffic will start to be transitioned to the newly constructed section of the parking lot.

VDOT will close the triangle-shaped portion of the existing commuter lot at 7 p.m., on Thursday, July 24. This portion of the lot contains approximately 130 parking spaces.

Click Here to view a map of the lot.

At the same time, 280 new parking spaces will open. The new spaces are located in the northernmost corner of the lot, near the Stafford County water tower. Signs will be posted to guide lot users to these parking spaces.

 

In addition, motorists should be on alert for a new traffic pattern at the roundabout at Doc Stone Road, Moncure Lane, Juggins Road and the commuter lot access road.

 

Workers are completing the curb in the roundabout and building raised islands on each roadway approach over the next two weeks. Motorists should stay alert for signs and barrels guiding traffic through the work zone. 

Anderson Wants Hands-Free Law in Virginia, Crackdown on Distracted Driving

101512-Telework-andersonWOODBRIDGE, Va. – After the success of his bill that banned texting while driving, a Virginia lawmaker has cell phones in his sights once again.

Delegate Richard Anderson (R-Prince William) says he’s exploring legislation that would require drivers in Virginia to talk on their cell phones hands free. If the bill was passed, Virginia would join its neighbors in Maryland, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. that all have hands free law on the books, and where not using a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth headset is a primary offense.

“If we don’t institute a hands-free phone ban, then we should allow someone to drink from a straw from a bottle Jim Beam while behind the wheel,” said Anderson.

If Anderson moves is legislation forward it would be reviewed during the 2015 General Assembly session in January in Richmond. The Delegate’s travel between Prince William County and the state capital via Interstate 95 is one of the impetuses of his desire to push such a ban. He says he often is made to swerve out of his travel lane on the highway to avoid someone using their cell phone.

Because of Anderson’s bill passed in 2013, texting while driving is now a primary offense and is enforced by police throughout the state. The law doesn’t address phone users who enter directional information into a phone’s GPS system, or drivers who use their phones to perform web searches while behind the wheel.

Anderson’s new legislation would require drivers to input directional information into GPS systems prior to pull onto the road, he said.

A report released in May from the builders of the 95 Express Lanes states there have been nearly 355,000 crashes on highways nationwide that have involved drivers distracted by texts on cell phones. That report, Anderson says, is another primary driver in his desire to push for a hands-free law.

Express Lanes Work Enters Final Laps

Construction of express lanes on Interstate 95 in Fairfax County, Va. [Photo: Virginia Megaprojects]

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. – The effort to add toll lanes to a 29-mile stretch of highway in Northern Virginia is entering its final phase.

Construction crews plan to work day and night over the next six months to put the finishing touches on the 95 Express Lanes, converting the High Occupany Vehicle lanes from Dumfries to the Pentagon to toll lanes, and adding new lanes from Dumfries south to North Stafford.

The express lanes run in the center of Interstate 95 and are slated to open in early 2015. They will allow drivers with three or occupants in their cars to ride free while single drivers will be able to pay a toll by using an EZ-Pass transponder.

Here’s more in a press release from Virginia Megaprojects:

To accommodate remaining construction activities, drivers should expect all lanes within the current I-95/395 HOV system, from the Washington, D.C. line to Dumfries Road, Route 234, to be closed during overnight periods and weekends. Critical work that will occur involves the installation of the Express Lanes’ tolling and traffic management equipment including 3.7 million linear feet of cabling and wire, 30 overhead toll gantries, more than 200 cameras used for detecting traffic incidents, over 220 gates, 190 lane control signals and more than 100 electronic message signs. Altogether, more than 950 tolling and traffic management devices will be deployed along the 95 Express Lanes corridor.

When all of the hardware is in place, crews will have to test it to ensure it works. Crews will also complete final paving and lane markings, as well as install guardrails, sound walls, and make sure all work on bridges is completed.

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