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Prince William Forest Park temporarily closed; Damage worse than Sandy

Prince William Forest Park in Triangle will be closed to visitors for at least the next two weeks following last weekend’s windstorm. 

From a press release: 

Fallen and hazardous trees, downed power lines and damage to historic cabin camps  from last week’s windstorm have prompted the National Park Service (NPS) to immediately close Prince William Forest Park to all use out of concern for public safety.

The park is expected to be closed for 2-3 weeks. After addressing the most immediate safety risks, crews will work strategically to begin reopening the most heavily used areas of the park. The Prince William Forest RV Campground on Rt. 234 remains open, but some areas within the campground are currently closed off.

“The safety of our visitors and staff is our absolute first priority,” Prince William Forest Park Superintendent Tanya Gossett said.  “Our crews are working with determination to clear hazardous trees from roads and trails and to replace electrical lines in campgrounds, cabin camps and picnic areas, so the public can safely enjoy the park.”

Damage caused by last weekend’s windstorm in Prince William Forest Park is significantly greater than other recent storms, including Hurricanes Isabel and Sandy and the 2012 derecho. Shallow-rooted trees, such as the Virginia pines throughout the park, have difficulty withstanding the 60-plus mph wind gusts the park experienced. Since Saturday, crews have removed about 500 trees from park roads.

“We are all eager to open the park again, but ask area residents and visitors to please respect these closures,” Gossett said. “If someone enters the park and gets hurt it will be extremely difficult to get them help and it will further delay reopening the park to all visitors.”

Medicaid impasse: ‘I expect this session with either go beyond the March 10 target adjournment date’

The second to last week of the General Assembly session brought a conclusion to most committee work in the legislature, the passage of several important bills and a fierce windstorm. 

On Friday, a powerful wind storm struck Virginia and inflicted millions of dollars in damage to people and property, far more harm than most people anticipated.    Many people lost electricity, some for several days.  According to Dominion Energy, it was the fifth-worst power outage in company history after Hurricanes Isabel, Floyd, Irene and the 2012 Derecho. 

The mass destruction reaffirms my view that we need to invest in utility undergrounding immediately.  The newer developed parts of Northern Virginia where power lines are underground did not suffer outages and while undergrounding is expensive, the disruption of people’s lives has great value also.

This week, the House of Delegates approved my legislation to give Fairfax County additional funding streams to facilitate utility undergrounding on U.S. 1.  The bill provides that Fairfax and Prince William Counties can use transportation dollars to fund underground utilities on U.S. 1 if they match it with local dollars.  While the Prince William County Board of Supervisors has used local dollars to fund undergrounded utilities on their 14-mile stretch of U.S. 1, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors opposes using any local dollars for utility undergrounding.  Perhaps this storm will help change their position. 

I also supported the Dominion rate cap repeal bill which reaffirms and mandates broader investment in underground utilities in outage-prone areas such as most of eastern Fairfax and Prince William counties, areas built out before underground utilities were required in new developments. 

Budget negotiations have had a slow start due to the ongoing impasse over expanding Medicaid coverage.  I expect this session with either go beyond the March 10 target adjournment date or we will have a special session since the two chambers are separated by $500 million in revenue before expenses are even discussed.

The House Appropriations Education Subcommittee killed my two education equity bills without explanation: One bill would allow free online classes and the second would require school districts which use electronic textbooks to provide a device for all free and reduced lunch students to access their textbooks from home.  Local school systems complained about the budget impact. I told them they were violating the Virginia Constitution and federal law, but that apparently was not convincing.  I will be back next year. 

The House Commerce and Labor Committee unanimously approved my legislation to extend the coal ash moratorium.  The bill will create a framework to set up a resolution of the coal ash storage problem next year.  I am hopeful it will lead to recycling programs at all four Virginia coal ash sites, an approach that would solve this pollution problem once and for all.

In the forthcoming last week of this session, I am hoping we will send to Governor Northam for his signature several “big” bills, including ­­my coal ash bill, the Metro funding bill and the Dominion rate cap repeal.  

I will soon meet with the Virginia Department of Transportation to review the latest redesign of U.S. 1 between Costco and Woodlawn in Fairfax County.  Also, I am working with the Secretary of Transportation to prioritize 36th District improvements including widening I-95 from VA-123 to the Prince William Parkway, bus rapid transit from Huntington to the Woodbridge VRE station and U.S. 1 widening as part of the $300 million concession payment made by Transurban to extend the HOT lanes to Fredericksburg and Washington, D.C.  These projects are squarely within the parameters of eligible projects.

Please email me at if you have feedback.  It is an honor to serve as your state senator.

Surovell serves the 36th Senate District in southern Fairfax County, eastern Prince William County, and northern Stafford County.

Peck charged in Manassas area shooting

Police say they have in custody the man accused of shooting a 28-year-old man in the lower body on January 23.

The shooting happened at the Maplewood Apartments on Peakwood Court near Manassas.

From Prince William police: 

Shooting Investigation *ARREST – On February 23, detectives from the Violent Crimes Bureau identified the suspect involved in the shooting that occurred at the Maplewood Park Apartments located in the 8100 block of Peakwood Ct in Manassas on January 23. Following the investigation, detectives obtained multiple arrest warrants of this suspect, identified as Charles William PECK. On March 4, an officer on routine patrol conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle in the area of Sudley Rd and Sudley Manor Dr in Manassas. When officers made contact with the driver, they identified him as the accused and arrested him without incident.

Arrested on March 4:

Charles William PECK, 29, of 9619 Norfolk ST in Manassas

Charged with  aggravated malicious wounding, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon

Court Date: May 2, 2018 | Bond: Held WITHOUT Bond

No charges filed after school bus strikes, kills 62-year-old man

Prince William police say the bus driver who hit and killed a man at a county public schools transportation center last month will not face charges. 

From police: 

Fatal Crash Investigation *UPDATE –  On  February 27, investigators from the Crash Unit consulted with the Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the fatal pedestrian accident involving a Country School bus that occurred at the Prince William County Schools McCuin Transportation Center located at 7900 Piney Branch Ln in Bristow on February 5. Upon reviewing the evidence leading up to the accident, charges will not be obtained at this time.

Richard Lee Profit, 62, was killed at the McCuin bus depot on Piney Branch Lane in Bristow on Feb. 5 after he was struck by a bus backing up. The victim was standing behind the bus. 

The bus was driven by an unidentified 60-year-old man.