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Traffic & Transit

PWC to Build Kiss and Ride

A pedestrian bridge at the Virginia Railway Express station in Woodbridge will carry users of a soon-to-be built kiss and ride lot to the station.

By Joseph Swetnam
For PotomacLocal.com

Woodbridge, Va. — It will soon be easier to drop train riders off in Woodbridge, give them a kiss and send them on their way.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved on Aug. 2 a construction agreement with Virginia Railway Express to build a kiss and ride lot at the transit system’s Woodbridge station on U.S. 1.

The estimated cost of $613,509 will be paid for by VRE, according to the agreement, while the work will be performed by a county construction crew.

The project will feature access lanes and a pull-off area on the east side of U.S. 1, allowing passengers to be dropped off at the pedestrian bridge which takes them over the railroad tracks and into the station.

The work is expected to be completed by the end of 2011.

I-95 Lane Closures Coming

(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)

Lorton, Va. — If you’re traveling south on Interstate 95 next week, get ready for some overnight lane closures.

Construction crews will close three lanes of I-95 south between mileposts 163 and 161 leaving just one lane for drivers to use.

The closures will take place Monday through Thursday, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The closures will continue during the same times the following week on Aug. 15 – 18, and Aug. 22 – 25.

The High Occupancy Vehicle lanes will be open for all drivers headed south, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

VDOT says crews will be completing pavement grouting work.

The closures come after VDOT announced last month it was substantially finished with the I-95 4th lane widening project, which saw the addition of a new lane to both the north and southbound sides of the highway between the Occoquan River and Fairfax County Parkway.

As part of the project, the Purple Heart Bridge over the Occoquan River was also widened, making the highway 10-lanes wide between Woodbridge and the Capital Beltway.

Springfield, Van Dorn Metros Closed Sunday

Washington Metro System (Courtesy: Planet Ware)

Fairfax County, Va. — Two stations on Metro’s Blue line will close Sunday, leaving passengers the option of taking a to take a free bus.

The Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn Street Metro stations will be closed all day Sunday as the Virginia Department of Transportation will work on replacing a bridge on Telegraph Road, near the King Street Metro station in Alexandria.

Free shuttle buses will operate between Franconia-Springfield and Eisenhower Avenue Metro stations, and will also pick up passengers at the Van Dorn Street Metro station, according to a press release from the transit agency.

Blue line trains will operate to and from the Eisenhower Avenue and Huntington Metro stations every 20 minutes on Sunday.

Normal rail service is expected to resume on Monday.

New Bus Trips Start Monday

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

Woodbridge, Va. — Eight new OmniRide trips coming to the Potomac Communities on Monday aim to alleviate overcrowding the regional bus system.

Three new morning trips and three afternoon trips begin service Aug. 8.

The new morning trips being added are:

Dale City to Washington Navy Yard (one trip between D-303 and D-304)

Dale City to Pentagon (one trip between D-201 and D-301)

Montclair (one trip between MC-8 and MC-9)

Three new afternoon trips will serve Montclair and will run:

Between the MC-3 and MC-4

Between the MC-5 and MC-6

Between the MC-8 and MC-9

The new trips are made possible by the acquisition of four new buses in June. Instead of retiring older buses and replacing them with the new ones, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission says is will keep three older buses in service and use the fourth to speed up the process of overhauling other buses in its fleet.

“The use of some budgeted “contingency hours” that are part of each year’s budget for schedule adjustments that are periodically necessary to accommodate longer running times,” said PRTC spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo. “Collectively, these additional hours can be redeployed to fund the new trips without requiring additional funding from Prince William County, which is the sole local government sponsor of PRTC’s commuter bus services.”

The changes will be reflected on new bus schedules due out this fall.

Video: New, Rare Signal Erected

North Stafford, Va. — A new traffic light in North Stafford will be unlike any other in the Potomac Communities.

Crews are installing the light now, at the entrance ramp from U.S. 1 to Interstate 95 just north of Va. 610.

What’s unusual about this signal light? Northbound drivers on U.S. 1 will see four arrows on the left turn signal.

When the light turns green, drivers will see a green arrow (like they do at any other signal light) indicating it’s safe for them to turn left onto the highway entrance ramp. Then a yellow arrow will light up indicating caution, then by a red arrow telling them to stop and allow drivers on U.S. 1 south proceed.

Shortly thereafter, a flashing yellow arrow will appear on the light indicating to drivers they may turn left with caution after U.S. 1 south traffic has cleared the intersection.

Officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation say the traditional green ball is confusing, and that making an unprotected left turn is one of the hardest decisions drivers are regularly faced with. A study showed the flashing arrow is easier to understand is more widely obeyed, they added.

Nearly half of all states have at least one flashing yellow signalized intersection installed. This will be VDOT’s seventh in the state.

Electronic message board signs will indicate the traffic change, and the new signal light will flash until fully operational in mid-August.

The new signal cost $188,000 and is funded by Highway Safety Improvement Program funds, according to VDOT.

-Video by: Virginia Department of Transportation (features signal light in Williamsburg, Va.)

New Rail Cars Eyed for VRE

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

Virginia Railway Express says their old rail cars are going to be around for a bit longer.

The commuter railroad is looking for eight new cars with the option of purchasing 42 more: Five cab cars, 22 with toilets and 15 without. However, they all have to be built to specification so riders shouldn’t expect them anytime soon.

“The bad news is that there are no ‘off the shelf’ rail cars. You can’t walk onto a show room floor and drive home with the floor model. All of the cars have to be built specifically to VRE’s specifications. This process, unfortunately, takes time,” stated VRE CEO Dale Zehner in a message to riders.

The new cars may not be ready to at least 2013, stated Zehner.

Since 2004, VRE has procured 61 railcars and two new locomotives with the option of purchasing 18 more. At least five more locomotives will soon be put in use, said Zehner.

I-95 HOT Lanes Transit Plan Scrapped

Photo: Mary Davidson
Photo: Mary Davidson

Commuters use a busy Interstate 95 near Woodbridge on a weekday morning. (Mary Davidson)

Transit improvements that were once part of a plan to convert High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to toll lanes are no more.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has scrapped plans to include $100 million in transit improvements as part of the I-95 HOV/HOT project, reports the Washington Examiner.

The move comes after state officials in February scrapped plans for toll lanes on I-395 on between the Capital Beltway and the 14th Street Bridge. Instead, officials said they would convert HOV lanes to toll lanes between Dumfries and Edsall Road in Alexandria and extend them to North Stafford.

Civil War Event to Bring Heavy Traffic

MANASSAS, Va. –– Police are warning drivers things could get hairy this weekend on some roads in Prince William County.

This weekend marks the 150th Anniversary of the first battle of the Civil War at Manassas and Bull Run, and thousands are expected to pour into the region to commemorate the event with reenactments and festivities.

Because events will be happening in both Prince William County and Manassas, traffic is expected to back up on Dumfries Road (Va. 234) and Lee Highway (U.S. 29), said a Prince William police spokeswoman.

For the Civil War Re-enactment on July 23rd and 24th, attendees will be asked to park at Jiffy Lube Live, 7800 Cellar Door Drive, Bristow, VA 20136. Charter buses will take people to the re-enactment site on Brawner Farm. The bus route from Jiffy Lube Live will be Wellington Road to University Boulevard to Route 29 North to Pageland Lane.

There will be no public parking on Pageland Lane or near Brawner Farm. Pageland Lane will be closed to the public from Artemus Road to Route 29 on the 23rd and 24th beginning at 5:30 AM and continuing until 6:30 PM both days.

For events occurring in the City of Manassas, the Prince William County Fairgrounds, 10624 Dumfries Road Manassas, VA 20112 will be used for public parking. Shuttle busses will take you to the events.

A full listing of events can be found on Prince William County’s event website.

Bridge Beats Truck

A box truck sent from Maryland to deliver a piece of exercise equipment to a home in Stafford County on Saturday proved to be too tall for a low railroad bridge in the rural Brooke section of the county. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Stafford County, Va. — Try as they might, they couldn’t get the large box truck underneath the low bridge.

Brooke residents say the drivers of large trucks try to make it underneath an old railroad bridge at Andrew Chapel and Brooke roads, but usually fail.

The bridge has a clearance of 6 feet 11 inches, one inch too low for the box truck that tried to pass Saturday afternoon.

“I don’t think it’s going to work, but we didn’t think there was any other way to go,” said Lfaton, one of two delivery men on the truck from Gym Source.

After a brief traffic back up, the two men backed up the truck and decided to take another route, and opted not to let some air out of their tires in hopes that would make the truck low enough to pass.

Instead of crossing underneath the old railroad bridge, drivers can use an alternate route via Eskimo Hill Road.

Last Free Bus Transfer on Chopping Block

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

Woodbridge, Va. — OmniLink bus riders may no longer be able to get a free bus transfer from Potomac Mills mall.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission is considering eliminating the last free transfer in the OmniLink system for riders of the Dumfries and Dale City OmniLink routes between the shopping mall and the PRTC Transit Center on Potomac Mills Road in Woodbridge.

If free transfers go away, riders who are now paying $2.40 round trip could purchase a day pass for $2.50, which would be good for unlimited rides on the OmniLink system for that particular day. (Seniors over the age of 60 pay $1.25 for the day pass).

The transit agency is accepting written comments about the proposed change via email, and hand written comments can be mailed to the transit center until Aug. 17. The agency also wants to know if area residents would like a public hearing on this matter.

The free transfer is left over from 2000 when the shopping mall was the central transfer hub for the OmniLink system in eastern Prince William County, and fares were only 75 cents per one-way trip and transfers cost a quarter, according to a letter from PRTC Executive Director Al Harf to PRTC Commissioner John Jenkins

The transfer hub was later moved from the mall to the PRTC Transit Center, and currently OmniLink riders pay $1.20 per one-way trip.

Transit officials say eliminating the free transfer would illicit use of paper transfers and the use of paper transfer altogether, speed up service by eliminating the need for drivers to verify a paper transfer, and to oust an “outdated policy.”

PRTC center

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Amtrak Offers $19 Fares

(File)

Amtrak has a deal for you if you’re traveling between Richmond and Philadelphia this fall.

The nation’s only passenger rail service announced one-way fares between Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia for $25.

Those traveling between Richmond and Washington will be able to ride the train for $19 each way, according to a press release from Amtrak-Virginia.

Riders must purchase the fares before Thursday and must travel between Sept. 7 and 22.

Amtrak is offering the deals on its Northeast Regional line, which offers service between Lynchburg, Richmond to New York City and Boston.

The lower fares are for coach-class seating and riders must book the fares online.

Amtrak-Virginia launched its intercity rail service between Lynchburg, Washington and Boston in 2009. A train from Richmond to Boston was added the following year.

Potomac Creek Bridge Opens

Stafford County, Va. –– The on again, off again work to replace the bridge deck on a crossing over the Potomac Creek in Stafford County is complete.

The road opened to traffic Monday after the four-month operation to improve the bridge.

Drivers were detoured around affected area as work progressed.

Drivers were still able to access Brooke Virginia Railway Express station during construction.

U.S. 1 Funds Secured

Prince William County Supervisor Frank Principi speaks with supporter Bryanna Altman at his reelection kick off party at Uncle Julio's Rio Grande Café in Woodbridge. (Mary Davidson/PotomacLocal.com)

Woodbridge, Va. –– The first phase of widening U.S. 1 in Woodbridge is fully funded.

With that announcement, Frank Principi kicked of his reelection bid to keep his seat on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors representing Woodbridge residents.

The long-awaited $140 million project to widen the highway from four to six lanes between Mary’s Way and the Occoquan River, and improve intersections at Occoquan Road and Gordon Boulevard (Va. 123), will be funded by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s billion dollar transportation initiative passed this spring.

Principi is still working to get funding for a second phase of the project, for construction of an interchange at U.S. 1 and Va. 123, which remains only partially funded.

The Democrat addressed many of the issues facing residents and business owners in the U.S. 1 corridor in his district, telling the standing-room only crowd he’s been tough on zoning violations, fighting blight and responding to residents’ complaints.

“We have been extremely aggressive working with the county attorney to make sure that blight goes away. I think all of you can probably drive down Route 1 right now and witness a difference. Not a major difference, we don’t have major national tenants moving into Marumsco Plaza, but we had 23 buildings either revitalized or taken down in the Woodbridge District,” said Principi.

Principi also heralded the creation of Woodbridge’s first civic association, his work to expand the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and preserving neighborhoods.

“We’ve had an influx of immigrants move into our district. We’ve had home foreclosures, record home foreclosures – one of the top 10 in the country – right here in Woodbridge. We’ve had people lose their jobs, lose their benefits and we have to do everything possible to fight for them and their families,” said Prinicpi.

Principi faces Republican challenger Chris Royse for the Woodbridge seat on the Board, the same opponent he defeated in 2007.

Voters go to the polls on Nov. 8.

$95,350 Paid for Parking Spaces

Photo: Mary Davidson

Photo: Mary Davidson

Commuters use a busy Interstate 95 near Woodbridge on a weekday morning. (Mary Davidson)

Woodbridge, Va. –– There’s still plenty of money to go around despite a commuter parking deal that fell flat.

Prince William County officials earlier this year struck a one-year, $288,600 deal to lease 370 parking spaces at the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge, but abruptly ended it this week after the lot proved to be an unpopular place for commuters to park.

County taxpayers paid $95,350 to the church for a lease that lasted four months, said Prince William spokesman Jason Grant.

The remaining balance will be used to lease new parking spaces on a private property next to a commuter lot at Old Bridge and Minnieville roads in Lake Ridge.

The new lot lies in Prince William’s Occoquan District lead by Mike May, who hopes this new lot will be more popular than the church lot.

“At this point, we are hopeful that the new lot will see more users as it is directly adjacent to an existing commuter lot that fills up quickly every morning and is serviced very well by existing bus service,” said May.

Commuters griped about the church lot, which was near Prince William Parkway and Minnieville roads, saying it was too far away from Interstate 95 and that is wasn’t adequately served by mass transit.

County officials were forced to lease additional commuter parking spaces earlier this year after Potomac Mills mall reduced the amount of commuter parking there from 1,000 to 250 spaces.

Church Lot Flops, New Commuter Lot Picked

Woodbridge, Va. –– What began as a celebrated commuter parking solution has come to an end after only four months.

Transit officials announced Prince William County has ended its five-year, $289,000 deal with the First Baptist Church on Minnieville Road near Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge.

Officials’ hopes that commuters forced from a longtime commuter parking lot at Potomac Mills mall would choose to park at the church never materialized.

To entice commuters to use the lot, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission in April launched an afternoon shuttle bus to ferry commuters from the popular Horner Road commuter lot off Interstate 95 in Woodbridge that would take commuters back to their cars at the church lot. It has also been cancelled.

More to the Story: Use our interactive commuter parking lot map to find a lot close to you.

“From the beginning, the church parking lot was intended as a temporary solution to the parking crunch created in February when Potomac Mills Mall eliminated approximately 750 spaces; however, few commuters were parking there,” said PRTC spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo.

Just 250 commuter parking spaces remain at the shopping mall following the parking reduction.

But officials say they are working on a new temporary solution with “more promise” than the church parking lot, which was unpopular due to its distance from the highway.

Their new plan is lease 222 parking spaces in a lot adjacent to the popular commuter lot at Old Bridge and Minnieville roads in Lake Ridge starting Monday.

“Because PRTC already offers extensive commuter bus service at the Lake Ridge commuter lot, this addition will enhance the appeal of parking and slugging from there,” said Rodrigo.

At the same time officials announced commuters would be allowed to park at the church, they also announced a planned 600-space commuter parking lot near the Horner Road lot.

State Won’t Fund Hybrid Cars

Stafford, Va. –– Local governments won’t get money from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s massive transportation plan to purchase new hybrid fleet vehicles.

Late last month, the Commonwealth Transportation Board voted to withhold funding from a six-year transportation plan approved by the group in Richmond, reports Bloomberg Business Week.

“We’re not going to fix transportation by buying municipal fleets,” said Stafford County Supervisor Cord A. Sterling, who also represents the Fredericksburg District on the CTB. “We’ve got very limited resources and we’ve got a lot of needs.”

McDonnell’s $10 billion transportation plan will fund new road construction through 2017.

Stafford County began purchasing hybrid vehicles in 2005 and has continually bought hybrid cars over the past four years when available, said Stafford spokeswoman Cathy Riddle.

A portion of the county’s green vehicle purchasing policy states all hybrids under consideration for purchase must meet all federal, state and local emission standards and manufacturers must be able to deliver the cars within 90 and 120 days.

New OmniRide Trips Eyed

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

Woodbridge, Va. –– As many as eight new morning trips could be coming to OmniRide in an effort to ease crowding.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, the public agency that operates the commuter bus service from Prince William County to points in Northern Virginia and Washington, says 20 percent of their routes have long suffered from overcrowding –– a result of higher gas prices and congress’ decision to extend the $230 employer-sponsored commuter benefit for federal employees through 2011.

PRTC commissioners are expected to vote on the plan Thursday night.

Until now, all of the agency’s available buses have been in use during peak rush hour times. Last month, however, the transit agency received four new federally-funded buses meant to replace aging buses in PRTC’s fleet.

Instead of retiring the four older buses, OmniRide plans to keep three in service and use the forth to help speed up an ongoing mid-life bus restoration project, said PRTC spokeswoman Christine Rodrigo.

The transit agency says a combination of scheduling efficiencies, higher than budgeted fare revenue and additional contingency hours already budgeted into the year’s budget schedule will make the additional trips possible.

If the change is approved, the new trips will be rolled out gradually and would be added to the system’s printed schedules in the fall, said Rodrigo.

Human Feces Found at VRE Stations

Virginia Railway Express passengers exit a train at the Brooke station in Stafford County. (File)

Franconia, Va. –– Virginia Railway Express riders were surprised June 27 to find human excrement on the pedestrian bridge to the Franconia-Springfield station.

Riders told the Washington Examiner they notified the station’s management about the feces, but it remained spattered across the concrete for the next two days.

The commuter railroad added this isn’t the VRE only station in which human feces has been found.

Drivers Face Long Delays

Drivers make a hasty entrance to Interstate 95’ High Occupancy Vehicle lanes near Potomac Mills.

Woodbridge, Va. –– Traffic headed south on Interstate 95 in Virginia has been backed up since 11:30 a.m.

A crash just south of Lorton snarled traffic between from the Occoquan River all the way to the Capital Beltway, and there are no signs traffic is easing as many commuters are making a break for the long holiday weekend.

The delays along the highway were so bad about 2 p.m. some drivers chose to drive off the highway, into a median and access the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes near Potomac Mills mall.

Anticipating afternoon crowding, Virginia Railway Express will add additional cars to Fredericksburg line train #303 leaving Washington’s Union Station at 3:35 p.m., and will also add more cars to Manassas line train #327 departing Union Station at 4:25 p.m.

The commuter railroad reminded riders Friday there will be no service Monday in observance of Independence Day.

New I-95 Lane Opens

(File)

Woodbridge, Va. –– A new lane of Interstate 95 south between Fairfax County Parkway and the Occoquan River has opened in time for holiday travelers.

The Virginia Department of Transportation opened the new fourth lane of I-95 south today. Motorists will noticed shortened travel times on a six-mile stretch from Springfield to Occoquan just in time for holiday travelers on the Independence Day weekend. This lane is the last section of the I-95 Widening Project to open.

“Motorists will notice the time savings immediately. “said VDOT project manager H.S. Warraich.

The finished northbound I-95 lane opened in early June. For the remainder of the summer, crews will be working on general clean up, slope work, lighting, and pavement markers with minimal impact the travel public.

The $123 million I-95 Widening project runs approximately six miles from the Fairfax County Parkway to Route 123 in Prince William County.

-Press release

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