Lane Ranger for Monday, June 30, 2003

Dear Lane Ranger: My husband and I travel [Interstate] 66 every day. We carpool and use the HOV lane from Manassas to the Fairfax County Parkway. We constantly see people breaking the HOV law. Or perhaps we are wrong.

Please help us understand and clarify the requirements for using the HOV lane.

Given: There are signs posted that say “Commercial Vehicles Prohibited in HOV lanes.”

Question: What constitutes a commercial vehicle? Are tractor trailers (18-wheelers) all that are considered commercial vehicles? Do tandem-wheeled lawn care or tree service vehicles constitute commercial vehicles? Do stake body trucks pulling trailers constitute commercial vehicles? Finally, do company owned vans that are less intrusive, like those utilized in van pools, constitute commercial vehicles?

Given: There are signs posted that say “HOV-2 and Motorcycles only”

Question: Does this really mean that I have to have at least two people in my vehicle, or is there something written in the fine print that I am not able to decipher that says D.C. Government vehicles are exempt, or State Government vehicles are exempt, or special people are exempt. (I feel I am a special person even when my husband isn’t with me. Does this mean I can ride in the HOV lane when I am alone, like all the others I see?)

Finally, why does it seem that there is very little policing on route 66 and when there is policing it is very predictable where they will be at? The State Troopers always sit at the turn-around on the West side of the rest stops, and at the turn around just after route 28 bridge. So people do what ever they want in between. What is the fine for breaking the HOV laws?

Your assistance in clarify these matters will be greatly appreciated.

— Law Abiding HOV Traveler, Nokesville

Dear Law Abiding: VDOT spokesman Ryan Hall knows everything about HOV restrictions and allowances, and gave the following definitions for a commercial vehicle:

— A single vehicle with a gross weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more; a combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more if the vehicle(s) being towed has a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds;

— Vehicles that carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver;

— Any size vehicle that transports hazardous materials and that requires federal placarding;

Lawn care or tree service vehicles, stake body trucks pulling trailers and company owned vans are not considered commercial vehicles unless they fit in any of the categories above.

Yes, you must have two or more people in a vehicle to use the I-66 HOV lanes; however, there are exemptions to the rules:

— Motorcycles are permitted to use HOV lanes throughout Virginia during HOV hours.

— Motorists traveling to and from Dulles International Airport on business are permitted to use I-66 during HOV hours.

— Vehicles powered exclusively by clean special fuel, including compressed natural gas, electricity, liquefied natural gas and solar energy and registered with clean special fuel license plates are permitted to use HOV lanes until July 1, 2004.

— Emergency vehicles (fire, ambulance, rescue), law enforcement vehicles, public utility vehicles are permitted when responding to emergency calls.

For more HOV lane information, visit

Following is a list of HOV entrances on Interstate 95:

— South of Va. 234

— North of Va. 234

— South of Prince William Parkway

— Horner Road Park and Ride Lot

— Va. 123

— U.S.1

— South of Fairfax County Parkway

— Franconia and Springfield Parkway

— Old Keene Mill Road

— North of Edsall Road

— Seminary Road

— Sirlington Road / Quaker Lane

— Eads Road

— North of U.S. 1

Northbound HOV Exits on Interstate 95

— North of Fairfax County Parkway

— Franconia-Springfield Parkway

— Washington Boulevard

— Eads Street

Dear Lane Ranger: The traffic on Nokesville road between Aden Road and the airport has become horrendous in the mornings. Traffic is backed up from Vint Hill Road to Aden road as early as 6:00 a.m., and it takes about 30 minutes to cover that 1.5 mile stretch.

Is there any relief in sight?

— Chris Christy

Dear Chris: Perhaps the answer to your question would be best sought in the direction of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. Perhaps development was allowed to proceed without adequate proffers or impact studies.

At any rate, VDOT’s Ryan Hall looked in to the official answer.

The Virginia Department of Transportation held a public hearing on the proposed Route 28 improvements to upgrade the highway to six lanes, Hall wrote in answer to your query.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the plans to widen Route 28 from two lanes to six lanes. However, there are not sufficient funds in the Primary, Interstate, or Urban six-year plan to purchase right of way and construct the improvements.

Much of the traffic congestion on Route 28 is due to insufficient road capacity and increased traffic volume attributed to significant residential development in the area, Hall wrote.

Dear Lane Ranger: I read in the Potomac News a couple months ago that VDOT is going to give equal priority to bike paths when building roads! I wonder who is actually interested in seeing this done. Yesterday was a beautiful day for bike riding so my son and I headed down the Cardinal Road bike path to go to Leesylvania State Park.

When we got to the intersection at Route 1, where Cardinal becomes Neabsco, we got ourselves into a very dangerous situation.

It seems that the crosswalk there has faded and minimal markings and the push button for the pedestrian crosswalk on both sides is non-functioning.

After three changes of light we proceeded across as best we could, got stuck in the middle with trucks and cars whizzing by. I wonder why this crosswalk, considering that it connects two parts of a bike path, is so poorly maintained.

Please compare it to the one in Montclair at Waterway and Edgewood Drives.

This one has fluorescent signs, is painted on the street with diagonal lines and is definitely well marked. What is going on with VDOT and priority for pedestrians and bikers?

This is truly a dangerous situation that needs fixing immediately.

— Cathy Schorn

Dear Cathy: VDOT sent engineers out Thursday and fixed the crosswalk button. Pavement remarking, said VDOT spokesman Ryan Hall said, is scheduled at that intersection by the end of July.

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.