Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Tolls are a $180 million a year business — and growing — in Hampton Roads

Collecting tolls in Hampton Roads is a $180-million-a-year business — nearly twice the size of the region’s fishing and farming sectors combined — and is set to grow.
Much of that money goes to finance a private venture’s $1.5 billion expansion of the road and tunnel network connecting Norfolk and Portsmouth. A somewhat smaller amount goes to the public body that’s spending nearly $800 million to dig a parallel tunnel for the 55-year-old, 23-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
A much smaller part goes to keep the Coleman Bridge over the York River in shape, and to pay off the cost of its 1996 widening.
And the tiniest chunk goes to steer traffic on and off of Norfolk’s new express lanes to ease congestion on Interstate 64.
Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Public Feedback Invited on I-95 Corridor Improvement Study

RICHMOND, Va. – The Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, under the leadership of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), are developing a plan to study Virginia’s 179 miles of the Interstate 95 corridor between the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Alexandria, Virginia and the North Carolina border. The public is invited to attend a series of in-person meetings between summer and fall 2019. An online engagement tool will be available for those interested to learn more details and provide input throughout the study’s duration.
As requested in similar resolutions from both chambers of the legislature (Senate Joint Resolution 276 and House Joint Resolution 581) during the 2019 General Assembly, the CTB has initiated a data-driven study to develop the I-95 Corridor Plan which will identify key problem areas along the corridor, and identify potential solutions and areas for additional review and study.
Feedback provided by members of communities, industries, and other stakeholders will be considered as team members study the corridor throughout the summer and prepare a draft plan report in the fall. The CTB plans to report findings to the General Assembly in December, prior to the opening of Session in January 2020. 
The first series of meetings and online information will be focused on identifying issues along the corridor to be addressed, including crash frequency, crash severity, delay, and incidents that close interstate travel lanes for time periods longer than one hour.
The meetings will begin with a brief presentation followed by an open house format, which will allow attendees to speak one-on-one with study team members, ask questions, provide written comments, access online materials, and identify specific areas of concern on project boards.
The study team has also developed a map-based online engagement tool as an option for corridor users who may not be able to attend the meetings.  The tool will ask users to respond to a series of questions about how they travel the corridor, what types of improvements would benefit them, and to identify areas of concern.
The team will hold two more series of meetings along the corridor with additional opportunities for public comments to be received in person and online. The second series of meetings will focus on targeted solutions and the final series will cover recommended packages of improvements.
Thursday, July 18, 2019
South County Middle School
8700 Laurel Crest Drive
Lorton, VA 22079
6–8 p.m.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
James Monroe High School
2300 Washington Avenue
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
6–8 p.m.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
Virginia State University Multipurpose Center
20809 2nd Avenue
Petersburg, VA 23803
5–7 p.m.
Comments can be submitted at the meetings or via email to: The online engagement tool, as well as other meeting materials, will be available on the project website beginning July 15, 2019.
The first comment period will end August 21, 2019. Additional comment opportunities will be available throughout the study period.
For more information about the study, or to view meeting materials and access the online engagement tool, visit

Friday, July 12, 2019

Board Approves Fiscal Years 2020 - 25 Six-Year Improvement Program, Adopts Safety Performance Targets, and Invests in Rail Industrial Access Project

RICHMOND, VA – At its June meeting, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budgets for the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), as well as the FY 2020-2025 Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP), which allocated a record $22.9 billion to highway, rail, and public transportation projects over the next six fiscal years beginning July 1, 2019.
“The FY 2020 budgets and program will advance our Commonwealth’s commitment to improving and maintaining infrastructure and building our multimodal platform for Virginia’s economy,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-2025 SYIP provides funding to more than 3,800 transportation projects, including highway, road, bridge, rail, transit, bicycle/pedestrian paths, and other improvements for the Commonwealth’s infrastructure. Projects selected from the third round of SMART SCALE were also included, bringing $859.4 million to 134 highway and public transportation and transportation demand management projects statewide. This SYIP also includes, for the first time, prioritized statewide transit capital grants and performance-based operating assistance allocated under the newly-established program, called Making Efficient + Responsible Investments in Transit (MERIT).
FY 2020-2025 Six-Year Improvement Program breakdown:
$18.3 billion – Highway Construction (VDOT):
  • $1.5 billion – State of Good Repair
  • $1.3 billion – High Priority Projects
  • $1.3 billion – District Grant Program
  • $271 million – Legacy Construction Formula Programs, which include work funded by a formula that pre-dates SMART SCALE and sunsets this fiscal year.
  • $4 billion – Specialized Programs, which includes $886 million for the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program and $584 million for interstate improvements throughout the Commonwealth
  • $1.2 billion – Revenue Sharing
  • $1.7 billion – Maintenance
  • $104 million – Research and Planning
  • $6.9 billion – Local and Regional Funding 
$4.6 billion – Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT):
  • $803 million – Rail Initiatives
  • $3.8 billion – Public Transportation
  • $22.9 billion - Total VDOT and DRPT SYIP 
Safety was also a top priority for the CTB, which adopted a resolution to approve calendar year 2020 Safety Performance Targets. These measures and targets related to the performance of the Commonwealth’s surface transportation network were developed by the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, pursuant to state and federal requirements.
“Safety remains VDOT’s first priority and goal,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen C. Brich. “As a part of our commitment to reduce highway crash-related fatalities and injuries, we continually review opportunities for infrastructure improvements and assess how safety funding can be optimized and prioritized.”
The CTB also approved a $450,000 Rail Industrial Access Program grant to InterChange Cold Storage, LLC, of Harrisonburg. The grant supports the company’s $41.6 million capital investment at its new 250,000-square-foot facility in Rockbridge County, which is expected to create 88 new jobs, by funding over 40% of the costs to construct a 2,810-foot rail spur. 
With rail service operated by Shenandoah Valley Railroad, InterChange Cold Storage, LLC, will move 35% of its product by rail on 104 rail cars annually, removing 354 trucks a year from Virginia highways.
“The Rail Industrial Access program is an important tool to support Virginia’s efforts to attract jobs that have access to the Commonwealth’s multimodal transportation assets,” said DRPT Director Jennifer Mitchell. “We are proud to partner with InterChange Cold Storage as they continue their successful growth in Rockingham County.”
The approved FY 2020 annual budgets for the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, DRPT, and VDOT are outlined below.
VDOT’s annual budget for FY 2020  
VDOT’s annual budget for FY 2020 is $6.4 billion, representing a 17% increase from the FY 2019 budget. The increase is primarily driven by the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission’s contribution to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project.
The annual budget is based on the most recent official state revenue forecast from December 2018 and estimated federal funding.
The breakdown:
  • $402.4 million – Debt service
  • $2.2 billion – Road maintenance and operations (includes city and county street payments) 
  • $589.3 million – Support to other agencies, tolls, administration and other programs
  •  $2.7 billion – Construction
  • $485.1 million – Funding dedicated to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions for local and regional transportation projects
  •  $6.4 billion – Total VDOT annual budget
DRPT’s annual budget for FY 2020
The annual DRPT budget for FY 2020 is $730.5 million and is based on estimates of actual outlays of federal, state, and local funding.
The breakdown:
  • $590.7 million – Public Transportation Programs
  • $84.8 million – Passenger and Freight Rail Programs
  •  $0.7 million – Rail Industrial Access Programs
  • $10.1 million – Rail Preservation Programs
  • $13.5 million – Commuter Assistance Programs
  • $14.5 million – Agency Operating Budget
  • $3.6 million – Planning, Regulation, and Safety Programs
  • $12.6 million – Human Service Transportation Programs
  • $730.5 million – Total DRPT annual budget
In this month’s meeting, the CTB approved two VDOT contracts totaling $21.7 million.
A $12.6 million contract was awarded to A&J Development and Excavation Inc. of Mt. Crawford, to replace a bridge built in 1965 which carries Route 11 over Interstate 81 in Rockingham County, part of VDOT’s Staunton District. The new bridge will be constructed about 60 feet south of the existing structure. Additional work will include installing signals at the intersection with the I-81 north exit and entrance ramps to improve traffic flow. Completion is expected in spring 2021.
A $9.1 million contract was awarded to Corman Kokosing Construction Company of Annapolis Junction, Md., to rehabilitate a bridge carrying Interstate 195 south over Route 76 (Powhite Parkway) in the City of Richmond. Construction on this Richmond District project will be completed in stages to consistently allow two lanes of moving traffic to minimize disruption to motorists. Completion is expected in late winter 2021.
Appointed by the governor, the 17-member CTB establishes the administrative policies and approves funding allocation for Virginia’s transportation system.
For more information on CTB meeting times and locations:

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Virginia and Transurban Break Ground on “Fred Ex” 10-Mile Extension of Interstate 95 Express Lanes

FREDERICKSBURG—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the start of construction on a 10-mile extension of the I-95 Express Lanes in a vital economic region of Virginia. The Governor was joined by Congressman Rob Wittman, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Stephen Brich, and Transurban, Virginia’s partner and operator of the Interstate 95 (I-95) and Interstate 495 (I-495) Express Lanes. The Fredericksburg Extension project, known as “Fred Ex,” will provide new options for faster and more reliable travel along one of the nation’s most congested corridors by extending the dynamically-tolled express lanes from Route 610 to Route 17 near Fredericksburg. 
“Sustaining economic prosperity in our Commonwealth will require a safe, reliable, and modern transportation network that can connect Virginians to opportunity and support positive growth,” said Governor Northam. “Not only will this project reduce congestion and provide important corridor improvements, but as a result of this joint commitment from our public and private sector partners, this project is also estimated to create 9,100 jobs and generate $1.1 billion in economic activity for this fast-growing region.” 
“The first district of Virginia is home to some of the most unique transportation challenges in the country, including one of the worst traffic hotspots in the nation—the I-95 corridor,” said U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman. “Utilizing the express lanes’ public-private-partnership model will improve the quality of life for first district residents, provide new opportunities for small businesses to grow and expand, and help attract new businesses to the area.” 
The project will add two new reversible express lanes along the median, which will be available at no charge to HOV 3+ and transit riders. In addition to extending the I-95 Express Lanes benefits to commuters, Fred Ex will also deliver new connection points, creating faster and easier access for the 28,000 workers at Marine Corps Base Quantico. 
“Through this partnership with Transurban, Fred Ex will provide 66 percent more capacity during peak periods, ensuring Virginia taxpayers—and the flourishing communities along this corridor—are at the forefront of economic opportunity,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine
The project is anticipated to cost approximately $565 million, which will be financed by Transurban without public subsidy. In addition, as part of the project agreement, Transurban will make a $277 million payment to the Commonwealth to advance transportation projects along the I-95 corridor, including the Northbound Rappahannock River Crossing. 
“We are proud to join VDOT in extending the safety and reliability of the 95 Express Lanes to this region,” said Transurban North America President Jennifer Aument. “Whether it is using technology to make a trip faster, building new ramps to reach tomorrow’s commerce centers, or providing a little help to the schools, parks, and non-profits of the I-95 corridor—we look forward to working hand-in-hand with the Commonwealth to deliver the transformational transportation networks that Virginians deserve.” 
A joint venture by Branch Civil and Flatiron was awarded the contract with Transurban to design and build the Fred Ex project. The project comprises 10 miles of new, two-lane, reversible express lanes and approximately 1.5 miles of an additional reversible express lanes within the existing I-95 Express Lanes footprint south of Garrisonville Road. Additionally, Transurban will create new express lanes access points at the Route 17 terminus, near Marine Corps Base Quantico, and a reversible ramp connection at Old Courthouse Road. The project will renovate seven bridge structures, including the replacement of two existing bridges over I-95 at American Legion Road and Truslow Road. The Fred Ex project lanes are scheduled to open in late 2022. 
More information about the project is available at

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

VDOT Announces New Chief Engineer

RICHMOND, Va. — Following a comprehensive search, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Stephen C. Brich, P.E., announced today that Barton A. Thrasher, P.E., (right) has been selected as the agency’s new chief engineer. Thrasher brings over 25 years of transportation expertise, including experience from previous roles as VDOT’s statewide location and design engineer and the Richmond District engineer.
“Bart’s decades of solid technical expertise coupled with steadfast, results-driven leadership will serve him and the Commonwealth well in his new role,” said Commissioner Brich. “With Bart at the helm of our engineering programs, VDOT is well-positioned to continue our forward momentum, especially as the transportation industry navigates critical inflection points and new opportunities in technology.”
Thrasher will provide strategic oversight to key, significant programs across the Commonwealth’s 124,000 lane-mile network, including location and design, construction, materials, structure and bridge, transportation planning and alternate project delivery.
Thrasher brings a variety of extensive, specialized experiences to the chief engineer role. Since joining VDOT as a transportation engineer trainee in 1997, he has served in multiple leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. Within VDOT, Thrasher has gained executive leadership experience in Central Office as the state location and design engineer and in the field as the Richmond District engineer. As state location and design engineer, Thrasher was responsible for statewide project management and preconstruction activities of VDOT’s $2 billion construction program.
As Richmond District engineer, Thrasher led a complex transportation program resulting in the successful completion of the GRTC Pulse bus rapid transit project in the City of Richmond, the I-95 Temple Avenue interchange improvements project and roundabout in the City of Colonial Heights, the Lewistown bridge replacement project over Interstate 95 in Hanover County, as well as continued progress on the Interstate 64 widening project in Henrico and New Kent counties.
A licensed professional engineer, Thrasher holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology and a master’s degree in business administration from Old Dominion University, as well as a bachelor’s degree from Emory and Henry College. He is a graduate of the Virginia Executive Institute and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ National Transportation Management Institute.
Effective July 10, 2019, Thrasher will assume his new role as chief engineer. Garrett W. Moore, P.E., who plans to retire from VDOT in the fall of 2019, will work closely with the team and serve as a special assistant in the commissioner’s office.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

VDOT Expands Safety Service Patrol Coverage Along Interstate 81

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is expanding coverage of its Safety Service Patrols (SSP) beginning Monday, July 1. Enhanced coverage will benefit motorists using Interstates 81 and 66 in western Virginia and will improve patrols and response times on both interstates. The new expansion efforts follow the 2018 Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan and historic funding made available during the 2019 reconvened session of the General Assembly.
“Implementing the improvements identified in the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan is expected to result in an annual reduction of 450 crashes and 6 million hours of delay,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The increased Safety Service Patrols allow us to begin immediately making I-81 safer and more reliable.”
“With new funding available on July 1, VDOT is ready to immediately deploy new services to those who travel the I-81 corridor,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen C. Brich. “Our 2018 study indicated that many travel challenges along I-81 are caused by crashes and incidents. With expanded Safety Service Patrols and other planned operational enhancements, we can instantly improve our incident monitoring and response.”
The Safety Service Patrols program primarily focuses on incident management and emergency response, which includes detecting incidents and disruptions in traffic, minimizing incident duration, clearing obstructions and debris from the roadway, establishing temporary traffic control for emergency responders and providing scene assistance as needed. Safety Service Patrol trucks are equipped with arrow boards to help direct traffic around the road incident or hazard.
In support of expanded service coverage, VDOT has increased staffing and resources by 12 full-time SSP drivers and 14 patrol trucks. The service operates seven days a week, with additional coverage as needed during inclement weather and holiday travel periods.
The Safety Service Patrol program operates on most major highways throughout Virginia. The service is managed by VDOT’s five regional traffic operations centers.
Further improvements are planned in the coming months, including additional real-time traffic camera coverage and new dynamic message boards along the corridor.
For more information about the Safety Service Patrol program, visit

Monday, July 8, 2019

Prepare Now for Rt. 29 Closure in Fauquier Co. Beginning July 8

CULPEPER — Drivers planning to use Route 15/29 through northern Fauquier County between July 8 and Aug. 2 should prepare now for a detour and likely delays during the closure of the highway’s northbound lanes for safety improvements. The project will regrade the northbound lanes and remove two hills that have contributed to significant crashes on that busy section of highway just south of the Prince William County line.
The work will require closing the northbound lanes of Route 15/29 beginning at noon, July 8 through Aug. 2 from just north of the entrance to Battlefield Baptist Church to just south of the Route 29/215 intersection, a distance of about one-half mile.
Map - please click to enlarge
Northbound traffic will detour using Route 17 north from Warrenton to Interstate 66 at Marshall, then using I-66 east to Gainesville. The closure will not affect southbound traffic and drivers will be able to turn onto and from Route 215 during the closure. Access to private entrances, including the Battlefield Baptist Church, will be maintained during the closure.

VDOT suggests allowing at least 30 additional minutes for commuting or other trips during the peak morning travel hours. Commuters for whom telework or an alternate work schedule are options may wish to consider those during the closure period. 
Chemung Contracting Corp., of Mitchells, is constructing the improvements under a $3,544,568.45 design-build contract. Chemung is partnering with Volkert Inc., of Springfield, Va., which is providing design services for the project.
The Route 29 northbound approach to the Route 215 intersection ranks as the number one safety need in VDOT’s nine-county Culpeper District with the highest potential for safety improvement. In the five years between 2013 and 2017, there were 113 crashes on that section of the highway.
Information about the project is available on VDOT’s website on the Route 29 at Vint Hill Road, Fauquier County page. The page includes detour maps, frequently asked questions about the project as well as background information such as presentations and minutes from the Route 29 New Baltimore Advisory Panel meetings and previous studies of the corridor. If you are interested in receiving email notifications and updates about the project, email Lou Hatter, Culpeper District communications manager, at