Lane Ranger for Monday, June 9, 2003

Dear Lane Ranger: Without a traffic light in place, I dread making a left turn from Hylton High School onto Spriggs Road.

With the combination of a two-lane road, heavy congestion and many teenage drivers, that would seem an obvious location for a traffic light. Why the lack of one, and is there any possibility a traffic light will be put there? Thanks. — Jean Cantu, mother of a Hylton High School student.

Dear Jean: Teenage drivers scare the hat, mask and boots off of the Lane Ranger too. I try to stay off of the roads when they are likely to be there.

Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Williams said a fix is planned.

The 1998 Prince William County bond referendum funded a $15 million widening of the road and included a light for the high school, Williams said.

The first phase is under way from Va. 234 to Minneville Road, including some improvement to Minneville Road this summer.

The section by Hylton is part of phase two that should go out to bid to contractors in spring 2004. This section is from Minneville Road to Hoadly Road.

Pedestrians will get a 10-foot multi-purpose trail.

Everything should be done by summer 2005.

Spriggs Road has two high schools on it, and there is not a lot of room when the young drivers make mistakes. Thankfully it’s now getting done.

Dear Lane Ranger: I live in Dale View Manor, the small subdivision at the intersection of Bluefin Drive and Minnieville Road. For the past 10 years we have lived here, we have tried to get a traffic light at the intersection. Now that a church will be built across from Bluefin, we have been granted a light. Hooray! The problem is that the light favors Minnieville traffic and only changes every three minutes to allow us to exit Dale View Manor. You would think that if no traffic is on Minnieville for a given amount of time the light would change for Bluefin drivers. Either the sensor on Bluefin isn’t functional or the sensor is just there for looks. In addition to exiting our neighborhood, returning is just as time consuming. When going northbound on Minnieville, you must also wait three minutes until a green arrow allows you to turn left onto Bluefin.

Most residents have never had a problem turning left because you have good visibility clear down to the next intersection at Hereford Road and Minnieville Road. Why not make the light green and proceed with caution?

Perhaps mine is the only complaint you have received about this light but I doubt it. After all, the lights at the intersection of the Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road change more often than our one light! Can you please explain this problem to me? — Robin Graham

Dear Robin: Virginia Department of Transportation engineer Dawnelle Park said there were no malfunctions found at the intersection upon inspection. But the critical intersection is Dale Boulevard with high volumes at all movements of the intersection, she said. So the cycle has to be long enough to move traffic through the Dale Boulevard/Minnieville Road intersection.

So the bad news: Your light and all other surrounding intersections must operate on the same cycle length. Those cycles are morning 5 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., 170 seconds; midday 9:15 a.m. to 3 p.m., 130 seconds; evening 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., 180 seconds; offpeak 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., 130 seconds; and weekend 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 150 seconds.

“Since cycle lengths throughout the day are 3 minutes or less, all movements are served in less than 3 minutes,” Park said.

The Lane Ranger’s position on traffic signals is they are always a balancing act and you cannot always satisfy everyone. Yes, it would be nice for a left-turn yield, but VDOT has been moving toward dedicated arrows to reduce accidents. The Lane Ranger cannot argue for more freedom when the driving habits of this region are fast and furious.

I’ll take a relaxing wait any day over a nervous maneuver.

Harsh winter means less mowing

Prince William VDOT manager Tom Fahrney recently gave county supervisors a breakdown of how his agency is saving on maintenance after we spent more than double what we expected on snow removal, flooding and potholes.

In Prince William, tractor mowing is reduced from four to three cycles this year. Roads such as Prince William Parkway and U.S. 29 were mowed sometime around Memorial Day and will be done again once during the summer and once at the end of the fall.

The Va. 234 Bypass section of the county parkway will only be mowed to the outside of the existing ditch instead of to the fence line.

The number of days between all other mowing cycles will be increased.

Many roads were on 16-day cycles. That’s up to 20 days. So roads like Dale Boulevard, Cardinal Drive and Ashton Avenue will get one or two fewer mowings this year.

Instead of twice, VDOT will only mow its storm water management ponds once this year.

Fahrney said the cutbacks will not hurt safety because crews will mow areas that hinder sight distance for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

VDOT spent $176 million on snow prep and removal and $35 million on flooding and pothole repairs this year. A $90 million shortfall was reduced to $41 million with some shuffling of priorities — remember less frequent motorist assistance — and got the shortfall down to $42 million. That comes out of next year’s construction budget that should be up from this year so we stay level.

Please send questions or comments on transportation to: Lane Ranger, c/o Potomac News, P.O. Box 2470, Woodbridge, VA 22195; fax: (703) 878-8099; e-mail to: [email protected]; or by phone: (703) 878-8062.