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Feb
27

Virginia and Transurban Sign Agreements to Invest More Than $1 Billion in Northern Virginia Transportation

Governor Ralph Northam announced on January 29th that the Commonwealth of Virginia has signed agreements with private partner Transurban to deliver critical transportation solutions along Interstate 495 and Interstate 95. Months of close

 I-95 Traffic Congestion, photo by D. Allen Covey, VDOT.

collaboration and negotiation between the Commonwealth and Transurban have resulted in a deal for four transportation infrastructure projects that will create significant value for citizens and businesses throughout Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg.

“My administration is committed to creating opportunity for Virginia families and businesses in every corner of the Commonwealth, and that requires having a safe, reliable transportation network,” said Governor Northam. “I am pleased to announce these four projects that will bring significant improvements to I-495 and I-95, easing congestion, enhancing safety, and driving economic growth.”

The projects are:

A 2.5-mile extension of the 495 Express Lanes north to the American Legion Bridge to reduce congestion. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Transurban have signed a Project Development Agreement for the Capital Beltway Express Lanes Northern Extension (Project NEXT), which includes direct connections with the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Dulles Toll Road.  Four general purpose (GP) lanes and two new Express Lanes will run in each direction of the Capital Beltway starting from the current terminus near the Dulles Access Road and ending at the American Legion Bridge. With no public funding by the Commonwealth, the Express Lanes network will be extended to the Maryland border, helping address one of the worst bottlenecks in the region and reduce cut-through traffic in local McLean neighborhoods.

Addition of a new, reversible ramp connecting the existing 95 Express Lanes at Opitz Boulevard to provide improved access to Potomac Mills and Sentara Virginia Medical Center. The ramp will offer Express Lane drivers the option to exit directly onto Opitz Boulevard. Transurban will be responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and all associated costs, creating greater accessibility for the residents and
business community.

Construction of a new southbound Occoquan auxiliary lane on Interstate 95 in Woodbridge to address the traffic bottleneck at the Occoquan Bridge. The Occoquan Auxiliary Lane will connect the southbound Route 123 ramp onto I-95 with the off-ramp at westbound Prince William Parkway. The Commonwealth and Transurban have agreed the improvements will not require any compensation payment to Transurban.

“Transurban has a long history of working with the Commonwealth to collaboratively solve major transportation challenges,” said Transurban President Jennifer Aument. “With expanded capacity and new connections to commuter routes and commercial centers, we are committed to delivering transportation solutions that keep travelers moving faster and safer throughout Northern Virginia.”

VDOT is advancing required environmental studies to support these projects, and the partners will commence extensive engagement with the community and local stakeholders as they develop more detailed design plans. While the timeline for delivery of the improvements will continue to be refined, construction could begin as early as 2020.

In addition, the proposal for the Fredericksburg Extension Project (Fred Ex), a project consisting of a 10-mile extension of the 95 Express Lanes to Fredericksburg, has been finalized and is on track for commercial close this spring. Since the project was initially
announced in January 2018, contract negotiations, a competitive design-build procurement, and more favorable financing options have advanced the deal, enabling Transurban to deliver to the Commonwealth a payment of between $54 to 98 million to fund additional transportation improvements depending on final teams of
TIFIA, a low interest federal loan. In addition to the existing three general purpose (GP) lanes, Fred Ex will provide two reversible Express Lanes of new capacity, which will be available at no charge to HOV 3+ and transit riders. The project is expected to increase capacity on this section of I-95 by 66 percent during peak periods. Construction is planned to begin later this year with the facility opening to traffic in the fall of 2022.

“These negotiations have resulted in a more than $1 billion investment in transportation infrastructure in these vital regions of Virginia,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Working collaboratively, we are delivering on our commitment to reduce congestion, improve safety, and increase reliability for those we serve.”

In total, Transurban has committed more than $1 billion over the next five years to fund enhancements to the regional transportation network. Competitive design-build procurements are being used to further ensure best value for Virginia taxpayers.

“The I-95 bottleneck at the Occoquan Bridge has been a source of personal frustration and time stuck in traffic—valuable time that could be spent with family,” said Sena
tor Jeremy McPike. “With funding now in place, VDOT will begin the design and construction that our community has sought for years. I applaud Governor Northam and Secretary Valentine for their commitment and leadership to making improvements and identifying funding to start this
project immediately.”

“The Occoquan bottleneck is the worst traffic problem in Virginia and has been one of my top priorities since I was elected to represent Prince William County in 2015,” said Senator Scott Surovell. “I am ecstatic that Governor Northam’s administration and Transurban were able to negotiate a way to expedite construction on this critical improvement. Everyone wins in this deal.”

“I am delighted that Governor Northam and his team have found a way to expand capacity on I-495, heading up to the American Legion Bridge,” said Senator Barbara Favola. “This improvement demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to easing traffic throughout the region and provides further incentives for Maryland to help address congestion on the Bridge.”

By 2022, the Commonwealth of Virginia will have in place 90 miles of connected Express Lanes network throughout Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg. Together with general purpose (GP) lanes, rail, commuter rail, transit, ferries, and trails, these multimodal travel options are creating a future of more seamless mobility for residents, commuters, and businesses.  

 

Feb
27

The Quest for the Perfect Summer Camp

It’s hard to believe, but those long, lazy days of summer are just around the corner!  While the summer months can conjure up nostalgic memories of relaxed, school-free days, they can also be a challenge for parents who work, or who are looking for ways to keep their kids engaged and active as the summer wears on.  Luckily, in the DC-metro area, there are a variety of camps available that range in price and cater to different interests. With so many available options, keeping a few things in mind can help you find the perfect camp for your child:

Lake Drummond is located inside the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, a nature preservation with hiking trails, birdwatching, biking, fishing, boating, and hunting. Virginia Tourism Corporation, www.Virginia.org

What interests your child?

This is probably the most important question to answer. With so many themed camps to choose from, it helps to think about the types of topics and activities that interest your child.  Some camps are very focused. Would your child be happy playing soccer or basketball every day? Is your child happier playing indoors or outdoors? As a camp instructor, I witnessed more than one unfortunate mismatch between camp and child. Picture a kid who is fearful of worms and finds fishing boring at a camp where that was the activity all day, everyday – this actually happened.  The camp, aptly named “Fishing Camp,” was a dream come true for most of the kids, but perhaps the parents of this young man didn’t realize to what extent the kids would be fishing, or thought he would “warm-up” to the sport.  

Do your homework. If you can, talk to someone who has a child who has previously attended the camp. If you have any questions or uncertainties, call the camp director.  And, by all means make sure your child is part of the camp decision process.  By the way, STEM camps are all the rage right now, so if that is something that interests your child, be sure to sign up early!

Sleep-Away Camp?

Most overnight camps are offered to children starting at about seven years old. Camps range from high-adventure (think ziplines, white water rafting and horseback riding) to performing arts-focused to traditional camps that touch on a little bit of everything. Once again, think about what interests your child.  You might also want to consider accommodations – is the camp single sex or co-ed? How many kids attend the camp? Do campers spend the night in tents or cabins? These types of details can make or break a camper’s experience. 

Day Camp?

When we hear “camp,” many of us think of the traditional “sleep-away” camp, but there are many exciting day camps to look at too. Day camps are typically offered to children beginning at four years old. Similar to overnight camps, think about the theme and camp size.  While many day camps offer a variety of activities, there are a number of specialty camps focusing on sports, the arts, nature, etc. Additionally, you want to think about transportation – is busing an option, or will you need to drive your child each day?  Do camp hours coincide with work hours, or do they have an aftercare program?  You may also want to inquire about lunch options for your child.

Interested?  

The following are more resources to help you and your child make some decisions about how to spend a week (or eight weeks!) of their next summer.

Week-long day camps are offered through the Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William County Parks and Recreation Departments. 

With zoology, soccer, fishing, gymnastics and chess camps (to name a few), there truly is something to fit every child’s interests. 

Fairfax County:
http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/camps/

Loudoun County: https://www.loudoun.gov/camps

Prince William County: http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/park/summercamp/Pages/default.aspx

For a comprehensive listing of private day and overnight camps, check out Washington Parent’s 2019 summer camp guide:

https://www.washingtonparent.com/guides/guide-camp.php

The American Camp Association has guides on how to choose and prepare for camp, as well as comprehensive information on topics like camp accreditation, the value of camps and camps as an industry.

http://www.acacamps.org

Dec
21

Is Your Company A “Best Workplace for Commuters”?

By Sarah McGowan

On December 4, 2018, fourteen Fairfax businesses were honored before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for receiving the “Best Workplace for Commuters” national designation.  Managed by the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), at the University of South Florida, the Best Workplaces member program provides employers with national recognition and an elite designation for offering outstanding commuter benefits.

Recognizing that commuting experiences differ geographically, this national designation provides individual employers with a wide-range of qualifying commuting options. This made it possible for three very different partners of the Dulles Area Transportation Association (DATA) to qualify – AbleVets, Northwest Federal Credit Union and Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, PC. Their qualifications ranged from compressed workweeks and on-site showers, to telework and preferred parking for carpools and vanpools.  Other qualifying strategies include ride-sharing, transit benefits, biking and walking, alternate work schedules and other strategies.

In addition to the recognition, the “Best Workplaces for Commuters” program offers employers educational opportunities and support to improve their commuter options, including FAQs, employer case studies, webinars and other resources.

Interested in earning this designation for 2019?

If your company is interested in earning the “Best Workplaces for Commuters” designation, please contact Sarah McGowan at smcgowan@datatrans.org, or via phone at (703) 963-3568.

You can learn more about the program by visiting Best Workplaces
for Commuters.

Dec
21

Virginia Telework Week Begins March 4

By Miriam Foster

Telework is one of the most desired benefits among employees and in today’s competitive job market, because telework can attract and keep the most talented and desired workers.  Virginia’s Telework Week is a great time for businesses to start a telework program or learn how to better manage teleworking employees in an existing program. 

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and local commuter assistant program partners, like DATA, are encouraging businesses across Virginia to allow qualifying employees to work from home at least one day during Telework Week, March 4-8.

Many of today’s most successful businesses have discovered a powerful way to improve their bottom lines – telework.  If your employees can work with minimal supervision, have good time management skills and meet their deadlines, they may be a great candidate for telework.  Teleworkers can work anywhere, but most work from home one to two days a week, and have improved work/life balance.

Stress from the daily grind of commuting to and from work manifests both physically and mentally, which has a direct impact to your business by decreasing productivity and increasing staff turnover. Telework Week is an ideal time to enhance your company’s policy to include information about flexible commuting options that can be a win-win for your business and employees.

Another advantage of including telework as part of your overall business strategy is the telework tax credit.  Virginia businesses can get a tax credit of up to $1,200 per employee, and as much as $50,000 per organization for eligible telework expenses. These expenses include purchases like computers and connectivity equipment; hardware, software and telecommunications equipment; fees for delivery, installation and maintenance; and up to $20,000 for a telework assessment. Visit teleworkva.org to learn how to file for this state tax credit.  

Telework can also be a crucial part of your continuity of operations (COOP) plan during natural disasters, inclement weather and other emergency situations.   

DRPT’s Telework!VA website has all the tools you need to start and manage a telework program.  Businesses can access a wealth of documents, resources, and e-learning modules for implementation and training.  Employees considering telework can get tips on selling the idea to management, and helpful information on successful teleworking. 

For business located in Northern Virginia, Telework!VA offers free technical assistance.  Our telework experts can meet with you to answer questions and support your organization in developing a customized telework strategy for free.  And for a limited time, businesses on the I-66 corridor that start or expand telework programs with the assistance of Telework!VA may receive up to $10,000.  Go to teleworkva.org and complete a request form to have a Telework!VA representative explain how your business can receive the I-66 $10,000 incentive.  

Dec
21

DATA’s 2018 Annual Membership Meeting and Holiday Reception Caps A Year of Achievement

By Liz Darak

The Dulles Area Transportation Association (DATA) held its 30th Annual Membership Meeting and Holiday Reception on Thursday, December 6, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Dulles Airport.  The event was co-sponsored by DATA members, Arrowbrook Centre & Arrowbrook Management Corporation, Kimley-Horn, and Dewberry.

Doug Pickford, DATA’s Executive Director and CEO summarized the accomplishments of the Association. From left to right are DATA Board of Directors Chairman John Martin, Doug Pickford, Corporate Counsel Noah Klein, Terry Hoffman (Dulles Greenway) and Lori Pickford.

DATA President John Martin welcomed the guests and recognized the elected officials in attendance.  The revised Bylaws, designed to simply the Association’s operating procedures, were adopted.  Under the new rules, John Martin becomes Chairman of the Board and Executive Director Doug Pickford becomes President and CEO.  In addition, the 2018 Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, and Officers were confirmed.  

Attendees enjoyed one-on-one conversations with Hon. Kate Hanley, Former Chair of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Hon. Sheila Olem, Herndon Town Council, and Hon. Kathy Smith, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Sully District.  These personal networking opportunities have become a hallmark of DATA events.    

Doug Pickford also summarized DATA’s 2018 successful programs like the DRPT-funded Vanpool!VA and SchoolPool grants.  (Visit www.datatrans.org for more information.)

Raj Paradkar, P.E., Sr. Project Manager at Kimley-Horn’s Reston office, was the keynote speaker.  Raj shared a vision of the future of mobility, outlining how connected technology, autonomous cars, electric vehicles and scooters and drones, etc. will reshape surface transportation in the not-so-distant future. 

And needless to say, like every DATA event with a social component, a good time was had by all!