COLUMN: A look ahead at coming year and road issues
By SCOTT SHENK
Here we are, the first full week of 2014. Let’s take a spin around the local transportation world and see what the new year has in store for us.
It sure doesn’t bode well that the federal benefits for mass transit commuters has dropped while the perk for parking has increased.
It doesn’t bode well, that is, for users and supporters of mass transit. Or for providers such as the Virginia Railway Express or van pool businesses.
On Jan. 1, the transit subsidy for federal workers dropped from $245 to $130 a month. Our lawmakers simply let the benefit lapse, went home without doing anything about it. It wasn’t the first time the benefit total has dropped. Same thing happened about a year ago.
On the other hand, lawmakers this past term added $5 to the monthly parking perk, pushing it up to $250 a month.
Some people think such tax-funded perks aren’t really fair anyway.
That can be argued until you’re blue (or red) in the face. But the point is not money, it’s philosophy.
We hear talk about fixing the region’s traffic congestion and often the mention of mass transit as one way to help. But the mode being supported here is parking, which has nothing to do with mass transit. In fact, it’s anti-mass transit.
This must really bother our old pal Rupert Farley, the local transportation iconoclast who will tell you that mass transit is the only real way out of our congestion quagmire.
VRE could feel a pinch with the drop in federal mass transit subsidy, for many of its riders are federally employed.
I–95 EXPRESS LANES
It was a bit of a rough year for commuters along Interstate 95 as the massive $1 billion construction project kicked into high gear.
The work has moved along swiftly, but there were plenty of delays and, during the summer, some bad crashes.
The good news is, there should be just one more year to go.
The lanes are supposed to open in early 2015. And, the folks at the Virginia Department of Transportation say the most intrusive parts of the project have been done already, so traffic impacts shouldn’t be as bad from here on out.
FALL HILL AVENUE
Got a call this week from a reader wondering when the road will close for the Rappahannock Canal bridge replacement.
Fall Hill—on the east side of the bridge—is supposed to close on Feb. 12.
The road won’t be open again until November, so almost a year will pass before traffic can again use Fall Hill to get between U.S. 1 and State Route 3. Cowan Boulevard will serve as the detour for many drivers.
FALMOUTH AND U.S. 17
Something else to keep an eye on this year will be the Falmouth intersection and U.S. 17 widening projects.
The widening work on U.S. 17 is in the early stages. Get used to it—that two-mile work zone will be around until the end of 2016.
Work on adding lanes to the Falmouth intersection will ramp up soon. That work zone will be around for a while, too. The completion date is pegged for September 2015.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436