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Traffic & Transit

Traffic
If Flooding Occurs, Expect Delayed School Buses

Triangle, Va. –– Prince William County Public School officials say two roads in the eastern portion of the county routinely flood out, preventing school buses from picking up students.

Mine Road in Dumfries and Joplin Road at U.S. 1 in Triangle are said to be some of the most problematic roads in county during heavy rain storms.

School transportation officials say they are going to make every effort to get to theses bus stops, but with three inches of rain forecast to fall on the area, it may be slow going for some Thursday and on Friday morning.

Some buses may be late because they were rerouted, and buses on other routes may be delayed because of flooding elsewhere, school officials said.

Rain is forecast to move into the area tonight and dump heavy rain across the region throughout the day Thursday and into Friday.

Traffic
With Rain, VRE Delays Could Pile Up This Week

A Virginia Railway Express train pulls into the Woodbridge station. (File Photo: Mary Davidson)

Heavy rain could mean delays on Virginia Railway Express on Thursday.

The transit agency is warning riders who use the Fredericksburg line if flood restrictions are put in place trains could be delayed anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

Flood restrictions require VRE trains on the line require trains to travel at 40 mph, and while trains may depart Fredericksburg on time they will encounter delays further up the line, said VRE spokeswoman April Maguigad.

Delays on the Manassas line tomorrow could be even worse, as flood restrictions could put commuters behind anywhere between an hour and 90 minutes.

Right now, the plan for tomorrow morning is to run trains on time. But a flood watch will go into effect at 6 p.m., and forecasters at the National Weather Service say up to three inches of rain could fall on top of saturated ground left behind by last weekend’s rainfall.

Word of delays also comes as VRE riders have already experienced long delays this week.

This morning on Fredericksburg line train 304, passengers were delayed because of speed restrictions.

On Tuesday morning, riders were slowed by signal problems and because one of VRE’s locomotives failed at VRE’s Brooke station.

Traffic
Suicidal Man, Crash Lead to U.S. 1 Delays

Fairfax Connector

Mt. Vernon, Va. –– A man who threatened to jump from an old railway bridge and car crash caused massive delays on U.S. 1 in south Fairfax County on Monday.

At 5:30 p.m., police were called to the area of Belvoir Court and U.S. 1, just north of the Fairfax County Parkway intersection, where a man threatened to jump from an unused railroad bridge that used to serve the Ft. Belvoir garrison.

Police closed the road to traffic in both directions as crisis intervention teams worked with the man, said Fairfax police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell.

After two hours, officers were able to talk the man down from the bridge. No one was injured and no charges were filed in the incident.

Earlier that afternoon about 4:30, a two car crash on U.S. 1 at Old Mill Road in the Mt. Vernon area also snarled traffic.

No one was seriously injured and crews had the mess cleaned up shortly after 5 p.m.

But the damage to Monday’s commute had been done.

Late last night, Fairfax Connector buses were reporting long delays on the 171 line, which runs between Lorton, Franconia-Springfield and the Huntington Metro stations.

Traffic in once again moving in the area without incident.

Traffic
Fairfax Connector Buses Delayed After Crash

Update 8:40 p.m.
Fairfax Connector buses are running behind schedule in the Mt. Vernon area tonight following a crash on U.S. 1.

The Richmond Highway route 171 bus is experiencing major delays – the route that carries riders between Lorton, Franconia-Springfield Metro and the Huntington Metro stations.

Also experiencing delays at this hour are Fairfax Connector routes 151, 152, 159, 161 and 162.

All of the delays are attributed to the crash earlier this afternoon, said Fairfax County transportation spokeswoman Ellen Kamilakis.

Fairfax County police this afternoon said those involved in the two car crash suffered injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening.

We’ll bring you more on this as it develops.

Original Post 4 p.m.
Mt. Vernon, Va. ––
All lanes of U.S. 1 in the Mt. Vernon area are back open following a crash.

Police were called to investigate a two-car accident that occurred about 3:30 p.m. in the 8800 block of Richmond Highway, near Old Mill Road.

No one was injured, but the investigation prompted the closure of one southbound lane, according to Fairfax County police.

The lane was reopened just before 4 p.m. and police called for a wrecker to removed at least one of the damaged vehicles.

Traffic
Railroad Work to Force Road Closure

Crews will replace railroad ties at the crossing at Mt. Hope Church Road this month. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Stafford County, Va. –– Railroad work will force the closure of a two-lane road this month.

CSX Corporation will replace railroad ties along its tracks at the Brooke Virginia Railway Express station in Aquia.

The work will force the closure of Hope Church Road starting Wednesday March 9, from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. The work will continue the following night during the same time frame.

The road will once again close on Wednesday March 16, from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., and again the following night during the same time frame, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.

While cars won’t be able to traverse the road during  those time frames emergency vehicles will be granted access to the road, said Hannon.

VDOT plans to place warning signs in the area to alert drivers of the closure.

The affected road sits less than mile from VRE’s Brooke station.

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Gas Prices Rise Amid Overseas Worries

Stafford resident Jerome Thomas filled up his V8 Toyota Tundra at the WaWa station on Garrisonville Road, and said he was not happy about rising gas prices. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

The last time gas prices spiked like this was following Hurricane Katrina, AAA Mid Atlantic says.

Fuel prices in the region continued their upward climb over the weekend forcing drivers to pay more to get where they’re going.

Today, the price to fill up a 15-gallon gallon gas tank at stations in North Stafford will cost you $51.21 on average.

Most gas prices in North Stafford average $3.41 per gallon, but according to AAA Mid Atlantic’s Gas Price Finder, the most expensive gas in the Stafford area is at the Shell station on Courthouse Road (Va. 630).

In Woodbridge, the price goes up an average of $52.72 to fill a 15-gallon gas tank.

Fuel prices in the area are averaging $3.51 per gallon, but the most expensive gas in Woodbridge is at a BP station at 13400 Jefferson Davis Highway, at $3.55 per gallon, according to the Gas Price Finder.

In Lorton, the price rises again to $53.15 to fill up a 15-gallon gas tank.

The average price for fuel here is $3.54 per gallon, but the most expensive gas is at Southern Maryland Oil at 8225 Gunston Cove Road.

This time last year, the average price to fill a 15-gallon tank in the Potomac Communities cost residents $39.71.

The high prices at the pump come as the price of a barrel of oil broke the $100 mark last week, settling at $102.23 a barrel.

“The national average gas price jumped 18 cents this week and 31 cents over the past two weeks, driven by soaring crude oil prices in response to continued unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as speculation that such uprisings will spread to other oil heavyweights in the region. Prices at the pump are in a state of flux right now, surpassing the $3.50 a gallon benchmark this weekend and heading higher as crude oil prices continue to climb, said AAA Mid Atlantic spokesman John Townsend.”

And it’s not going to get any easier at the pump any time soon.

Gas prices are projected to rise above $3.75 per gallon by April, AAA predicts.

Traffic
PRTC Says $1.9 million Would Lessen Fare Increase Impact

OmniLink riders transfer buses at the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Center in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. –– More money will offset the impact of proposed fare increases for OmniRide commuter buses, transit officials say.

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission has presented its proposed 2012 operating budget, which has the agency spending $36.2 million dollars to maintain service. No new services will be added as part of the proposed budget.

Of the annual subsidies PRTC receives, Prince William taxpayers will be responsible for $9.85 million of the transit agency’s operating cost in the coming year, according to proposed budget documents filed with the county.

In addition to the 2012 proposed budget, the transit agency also filed two six-year plans with the county. One budgets for a $1.9 million one-time supplement from the county’s general fund and the other doesn’t budget for the additional funding.

With the supplement, fares on PRTC buses are anticipated to go up by eight percent in 2013, 2015 and 2017, respectively, and most buses could be retired after 14 years in service, said PRTC Director Alfred H. Harf.

Without the supplement, fares would increase by 10 percent every other year between 2013 and 2017 and buses would have an average of 15 years in service.

Transit officials point to some recent accomplishments in recent years, like the completion of a park and ride lot outside PTRC’s Woodbridge headquarters, overhauling buses and purchasing 17 new ones, adding surveillance cameras on their entire bus fleet, and new roadside bus shelters.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amount of local subsidy PRTC receives from Prince William County.

Traffic
Flood Restrictions Lifted After Slow VRE Commute

Update 7:30 a.m. Monday
Woodbirdge, Va. –– All flash flood restrictions on have been lifted on Virginia Railway Express lines.

But passengers this morning from Fredericksburg to Manassas had to deal with problems created by yesterday’s rain.

About 4:30 a.m., drivers headed to the Bull Run station at Manassas Regional Airport found out the access road to the station, Piper Lane, had been flooded out. The transit agency told drivers to find an alternate route to the station.

On the Fredericksburg line, flood restrictions would slow trains from Woodbridge to Washington.

Riders at the Woodbridge station would also have to contend with a non-working elevator at the station.

Special needs passengers who needed to find alternate means of transportation were asked to call a taxi to take them to work, to save the receipt, and then to give it to VRE for reimbursement.

The transit agency warned last night Sunday’s rains could create delays, as the rail lines run along creeks and stream beds.

Initially this morning VRE anticipated no delays, but as time wore on they issued more and more emails to riders detailing each new found situation and reason for delay.

Original Post 9:10 p.m. Sunday
Virginia Railway Express officials are watching weather conditions closely.

As of Sunday night, there was one active flood restriction, between the Alexandria and L’Enfant stations, that if left in place through the morning could slow trains.

Some of the delays on the system’s Fredericksburg line could be between 30 and 45 minutes and up to one hour on the Manassas line, according to VRE officials.

The transit system said they would “keep our fingers crossed” the rain would not cause significant delays for Monday morning’s commute.

A flood warning was issued for the region Sunday afternoon into the evening hours.

It was set to expire at 9:30 p.m.

For much of the day Sunday, a deluge of rain caused water to pond on portions of U.S. 1 in North Stafford, forcing the closure of the southbound right lane just south of Boswells Corner.

Traffic
Flood Warning Extended

High water on Sunday forced the closure of one southbound lane of U.S. 1 in the Potomac Hills area of Stafford County. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Update 7 p.m.
The National Weather Service has extended the flood warning for the Potomac Communities until 9:30 p.m.

Update 5:30 p.m.
One lane of U.S. 1 south is closed in the Potomac Hills area in North Stafford.

A fire and rescue vehicle from the Potomac Hills Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department was sitting in the right southbound lane of U.S. 1, just south of Boswell’s Corner, preventing drivers from traveling through a large pool of water that formed on the highway.

In addition to the vehicle, officials also used bright orange cones to alert drivers to the lane closure.

Update 4 p.m.
A flood warning has been issued for the Potomac Communities this afternoon.

Heavy rain continues to fall across the region and will continue through the evening, according to forecasters.

The flood warning will expire at 6:30 p.m., however, the weather service says the heavy rains could last through 9 p.m.

Rain is falling right now at a quarter inch per hour, the weather service says.

Water has been reported covering roadways and flowing out of stream banks throughout the region, prompting the warning.

Drivers are encouraged not to drive through high water.

Original Post 9:50 a.m.
Rain and thunderstorms in the forecast have prompted a flood watch for the region today.

Rainfall could be heavy at times today, as three quarters of an inch could fall across the Potomac Communities, according to the National Weather Service.

The rain should continue through 9 p.m. with another quarter to a half inch of rain forecasted to fall.

Temperatures will remain warmer than average near the 60 degree mark.

On Monday, expect sunnier skies with temperatures in the more seasonable in the low 50s.

Traffic
2 Lanes on 95 Closed After Crash

Triangle, Va. –– Fire and rescue crews tonight were called to the scene of an overturned car at milepost 149 on Interstate 95.

The crash happened just north of the Stafford County line and forced the closure of at least two lanes, according to Virginia transportation officials.

There is no word on injuries.

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.

Traffic
HOV Shoulder to Close This Weekend

(File) Drivers travel past the Pohick Road overpass at Lorton on the new fourth lane that opened Friday on Interstate 95 in Fairfax County. (VDOT)

Occoquan, Va. –– Heads up drivers: The east shoulder of the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes will close at noon Friday for construction.

Drivers will note the construction between the Purple Heart Bridge over the Occoquan River to Gordon Boulevard (Va. 123).

The shoulder will reopen by 5 a.m. Monday, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Salmon.

The closure should not impact traffic, said Salmon.

The work is part of the Interstate 95 widening project that when complete will add a fourth lane to each span of the Purple Heart Bridge.

The first phases of the project have been completed, as a fourth lane has been added to both the north and southbound sides of the highway between the area north of the bridge and Fairfax County Parkway.

Traffic
Officer Struck, Portion of 14th Street Bridge Closed

Washington, D.C., –– Officials urge Virginians to find another way to get into Washington after a U.S. Park Police was involved in a crash on Interstate 395.

The crash happened about 11 a.m. in the area of I-395 and 7th Street behind L’Enfant Plaza.

Three other cars had earlier gotten into an accident, and as the drivers were exchanging information, the officer — on his bike — slammed into one of the vehicles thrusting the officer to the pavement, NBCWashington.com reports.

The officer was taken from the highway on a stretcher and a medical helicopter was called to the scene.

All eastbound lanes of I-395 in Washington are blocked for an investigation.

The northbound lanes of the I4th Street Bridge have also been blocked.

To access Washington, drivers from Virginia may use the Memorial Bridge.

Traffic
OnmiRide Will Serve Church Commuter Lot

OmniLink switch riders buses at the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Center in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. –– New commuter parking spaces will bring new bus stops for OmniRide commuters.

OmniRide commuter buses that serve Rossyln and Ballston will be rerouted as of Monday March 14 to serve those who park in the newly acquired 370 parking spaces at the First Baptist Church of Woodbirdge near Minnieville Road and Prince William Parkway.

Commuters will now be able to catch the bus at a stop across from the church on Minnieville Road.

Another stop will be added on Minnieville Road, just after Elm Farm Road, in the turn lane at the church, said Potomac and Rapphannock Transportation spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo.

But with new bus stops old ones have to go away.

OmniRide buses will no longer serve stops certain stops along Prince William Parkway, at Malta Street across from BJ’s Wholesale Club, before Sonora Street near BJ’s Wholesale, at Golansky Boulevard and at Telegraph Road.

PRTC says new printed schedules reflecting the change will be made later this spring.

The move comes following Potomac Mills mall’s massive reduction of commuter parking spaces on Valentine’s Day.

Prince William officials last week announced a $288,600 deal to rent 370 parking spaces from the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge for one year.

*This story has been corrected to reflect only buses that serve Rosslyn and Ballston have been rerouted.

Traffic
$7 Million to Fund Upgraded Road

Mo Kim points out the planned changes to Mountain View Road to Kay Dudenhefer, wife of Stafford Board Chairman Mark Dudenhefer. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Stafford, Va. –– Stafford County is investing its own money to make one road safer.

Residents on Thursday were invited to a public meeting about improvements to Mountain View Road.

The 9.1-mile, two-lane stretch of road traverses the middle of the county and has long been known for its sharp curves, narrow lanes and tight shoulders.

Now, county officials are investing $7 million – $6 million of county money and $1 million in grants – to widen the lanes of the road to a width of 12 feet, add four-foot wide shoulders on each side, as well as storm water drainage to each side of the road.

Voters in a road bond referendum approved the improvements in 2008, and when complete, the road will meet current standards set forth by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“It shows Stafford’s commitment to improving road safety and shows the culture here is changing. Local government is taking ownership of problems that exist here, and it’s taken five years to work on the culture in Stafford, where the old mantra used to be ‘it’s the state’s responsibility to pay for road improvements,’” said Stafford Board Chairman Mark Dudenhefer.

Dudenhefer lost his 19-year-old daughter in a crash in the county in 2004.

Since that time, he has served on commissions and focused much of his tenure on the county board of supervisors to improving area roads.

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Government Shutdown? Not on VRE

A federal government shutdown wouldn’t affect Virginia Railway Express, it’s chief operator says.

In a letter today to riders, the commuter railroad’s chief stated VRE’s doesn’t rely solely on the feds for funding.

“Our operating funds come from state and local subsidies as well as rider fares.  We will not be required to stop operating,” stated CEO Dale Zehner.

Zehner said he would continue to watch the situation closely.

A federal government shutdown is looming and Republicans and Democrats are at a budget impasse, and it could happen as early as Friday, officials warn.

It would the first shutdown of the federal government since 1995.

Traffic
More Commuter Parking Coming to Area

Prince William and Stafford counties are about to get new commuter parking spaces.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton announced today that state will spend $7.8 million in new commuter parking inititives in Prince William County.

Officials say $7.2 million will go to build a new 600-space commuter parking lot on the  grounds of an old commuter bus lot off Telegraph Road. The lot is about a quarter-mile from the the Horner Road commuter parking lot in Woodbridge – already the state’s largest commuter parking lot.

“We have a shot term, a medium term and a long-term solution. We will hopefully be adding 1,000 spaces in the short to medium term and adding additional spaces in the long term,” said Connaughton.

The spaces will be built on the grounds of an old commuter bus lot adjacent to the Horner Road lot, on Telegraph Road.

Newly needed pedestrian improvements between the two lots will also be added.

In Stafford County, state transportation officials are polling government officials about where to add new commuter parking spaces as part of the High Occupancy Toll lanes project.

Connaughton says he knows they’re needed, and that a mass amount of commuter parking will have to be built throughout the Interstate 95/395 HOT lanes corridor from Garrisonville Road (Va. 610) to Edsall Road in Alexandria

That project will extend the current HOV lanes on I-95 from Dumfries to Va. 610.

“The VDOT staff has been out already reaching out to the local government…we anticipate the demands being different in each area affected by the HOT lanes projects and our hope is to have a study done by the end of the year,” said Connaughton.

It’s not yet clear where the new commuter parking spaces will be built in Stafford County.

Today’s announcement comes on the same day Prince William County officials signed a one-year, $289,000 deal with the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge to lease 370 commuter parking spaces.

Commuters may begin parking there March 15.

Prince William County officials began looking for additional parking spaces after Potomac Mills mall earlier this month reduced the number of commuter parking spaces there by 75 percent, from 1,000 to 275.

Traffic
Sheriff’s Office Targets Area Roads

The view of traffic in front of Mountain View High School, at Mountain View and Choptank roads in Stafford County. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Stafford County, Va. –– Officials on Thursday night will hold a public hearing on improvements to Mountain View Road.

The two-lane road has long been a problematic one in the county, and will now be part of a focused effort by the county’s sheriff’s department to curb speeding and reduce accidents.

It’s called “Survive the Drive,” and officials say it’s about getting drivers to be safe behind the wheel.

“The goal of Survive the Drive is to change driver behavior, not to give out tickets,” said Stafford County Sheriff Charles E. Jett.  “If we can educate drivers about what we are going to be doing and why and driving behaviors change than our focus on saving lives will be realized.”

Beginning March 1, sheriff’s deputies will increase enforcement on Mountain View Road where they’ll target speeders, those suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as well as to remove unsafe cars from the roads.

Starting March 15, deputies will shift their attention to Courthouse Road (Va. 630) and then to River Road in south Stafford.

The enforcement campaign will continue throughout the year in separate enforcement waves, messages on billboards and advertisements in local schools and on TV.

Authorities collected comments from residents, examined speeding hot spots and crash data and road design to determine which roads to target.

Tonight’s public hearings on Mountain View Road improvements will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Margaret Brent Elementary School, at 2125 Mountain View Road in Stafford County.

Traffic
D.C. Slugs Must Move

Washington transportation officials warn major changes are coming for commuters who Slug home, and drivers who pick them up could be could be ticketed.

Beginning Feb. 28, Slugs who get picked up on 15th Street, between H Street and New York Avenue, will have to move to a new location to be picked up, at New York Avenue, between 15 and 14th streets in Northwest Washington.

Officials say Slugs may be picked up at the new location between 3:30 and 6 p.m. weekdays.

But drivers be warned as Metropolitan Police officers will be out to enforce Washington’s “no stopping, standing or parking” restrictions. Those who violate them will be ticketed, said District Department of Transportation spokesman John Lisle.

There are also changes coming for those who use OmniRide commuter buses.

Beginning the same day, passengers who board OmniRide buses at 14th Street and New York Avenue will have to board at the new stop at 15th Street and New York Avenue.

OmniRide will stop serving the old stop after Feb. 28, said Lisle.

Commuters with questions are encouraged to call the District Department of Transportation at 202-671-0682.

The changes come as DDOT officials held a public meeting last year and heard from Slugs about how to improve traffic flow in Downtown Washington.

The changes were set to take place earlier this year but were delayed.

Traffic
Commuters Can Park at Church

A commuter bus discharges passengers at the Horner Road commuter lot in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. –– Commuters in Woodbridge and Dale City will have a new place to park next month following the reduction of commuter parking at Potomac Mills mall.

Prince William County has inked a deal with Woodbridge Baptist Church on at Minnieville Road and Prince William Parkway to lease 370 parking spaces for commuters to use.

The deal should be final within the next few days and will cost county taxpayers an initial annual payment of $288,600, which will be reimbursed by the Virginia Department of Transportation, said Prince William County Transportation Department Director Thomas Blaser.

Commuters may begin using the new lot March 14.

The announcement comes one day before Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton is scheduled to make an announcement about commuter parking in eastern Prince William County.

Sources say Connaughton is expected to announce the agreement with the church, and the addition of 600 additional commuter parking spaces on Telegraph Road, near the Horner Road commuter lot at Prince William Parkway and Interstate 95 – the state’s largest commuter parking lot.

On Feb. 14, Potomac Mills mall reduced the number of commuter parking spaces it allowed residents to use by 75 percent, from 1,000 to 275.

While commuters bound for Washington still use the lot, those bound for Arlington and the Pentagon were told to park at a commuter lot in Dale City, on Gemini Way.

*This story has been revised.

Traffic
More Commuter Parking on the Way?

A commuter bus discharges passengers at the Horner Road commuter lot in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. –– When John Jenkins earlier this month said more commuter parking was coming to the Woodbridge area, the Neabsco District Supervisor may have been on to something.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton is expected to appear at the Prince William County Government Center on Thursday to make an announcement about commuter parking.

The notice comes after Gov. Robert McDonnell’s $4 billion transportation plan has cleared all necessary hurdles for him to sign the bill into law.

It also follows Potomac Mills mall’s decision to reduce the number of commuter parking spaces there from 1,000 to 275.

On February 7, sources told PotomacLocal.com that Prince William County stands to gain $200 million in the governor’s transportation plan, and that because of the influx of money the county would see orange cones and construction zones popping up all Prince William over the next five years.

Adding 1,000 additional parking spaces to the Horner Road commuter lot in Woodbridge with pedestrian access that crosses Telegraph Road, widening U.S. 1 in Woodbridge, building an interchange at U.S. 1 and Gordon Boulevard (Va. 123), and widening Interstate 66 in western Prince William County were all identified as priority projects to be paid for with the additional money, sources said.

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Virginia’s transportation projects get international attention

VDOT’s Steve Titunik addresses a delegation from India who were in town learning about the funding plan for the HOT Lanes.

Fairfax County, Va. –– The size and complexity of the Virginia Megaprojects is attracting attention from transportation experts from all over the globe to the Megaproject offices in Springfield to see how it’s done.

Of all five of the projects that are part of the Megaprojects, the I-495 HOT Lanes project  is usually up on the top of the “must see” list because it’s funded through a public-private partnership, an increasingly attractive funding mechanism. (more…)

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