Manassas Journal Messenger | Lane Ranger for Monday, Aug. 4, 2003

Dear Lane Ranger: A potentially dangerous rush-hour situation occurs at the intersection of Minnieville Road and Delaney Road. Westbound traffic on Minnieville Road in the afternoon often backs up past Delaney because of the signal at Cardinal Drive. Eastbound traffic on Minnieville is allowed to turn left on Delaney with a “yield on green” signal. What happens is that the left and center lanes on Minnieville stop to let the person turning onto Delaney creep across. Meanwhile, traffic is moving at 40 miles per hour in the right lane of Minnieville.

A few months ago, this caused a very serious accident with a flipped vehicle, and I have had near misses myself, although I consider myself an excellent defensive driver.

I realize everyone likes the convenience of “yield on green” instead of left turn arrows. It is also true that the problem at this intersection (and elsewhere such as near the BJ’s store on Prince William Parkway) occurs primarily at rush hour. It may be best to convert this intersection to left-turn arrow control. One thought I have had is the potential for a statewide law that makes it illegal to “creep” across multiple lanes of stopped traffic to turn left. It is always possible to go to the next controlled intersection and make a U-turn. — Bob Hugman, Woodbridge

Dear Bob: We could forever go back and forth on this issue of turn arrows versus yield on greens.

From what I get from officials, I can tell you the Virginia Department of Transportation gets more heat for the restrictive turn movements (arrows) than the permissive (yield solid light).

Given that we are talking about a new light, the jury could still be out.

“If this stands to have reoccurring pattern, they will see if it needs to be a restrictive movement,” said Prince William Public Works engineer Steve Stevens.

This intersection doesn’t have a lot of space in the left-turn pocket, and if changing it to an arrow movement causes the queued vehicles to spill into the thru-lanes, VDOT leans to keeping the light permissive so capacity is not overwhelmed, he said.

Dear Lane Ranger: Can you please tell me what type of vehicle is considered “commercial” when traveling in the HOV lanes??On Interstate 66 every day I see what I consider commercial vehicles driving in the HOV lanes.?These vehicles are usually overloaded pickups with ladders stacked five feet in the air or trucks of all shapes and sizes towing equipment.?If they have a business name/advertisement on their vehicle they are obviously using this for a commercial business so is this not a commercial vehicle? — Sharon Seidel, Manassas

Dear Sharon: These may be vehicles used for business, but weight governs what is a commercial vehicle in Virginia.

“Those are not commercial vehicles,” said VDOT spokesman Ryan Hall. “A commercial vehicle is defined as any vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds or more or a vehicle that’s towing something that weighs more than 10,000 pounds.”

Any vehicle carrying hazmat must be a commercial vehicle.

So just because the car has a logo on the side does not mean it is a commercial vehicle.

Since Virginia State Police stepped up enforcement of HOV rules last month, readers have called in and written the Lane Ranger questioning the dedication of the lanes to high-occupancy travelers, the exception for law enforcement, and this week we’re talking about commercial vehicles.

It’s a natural reaction: You sit in traffic, you see the extra capacity, and you wonder why can’t you fit in that extra space between fast-moving vehicles in HOV.

The benefits of mass transit and HOV lanes are well documented and will not be addressed here. I think the majority of commuters agree, or else our politicians would know. If you disagree with HOV lanes, contact your legislator, or your county supervisor.

Or find an exception that can apply to you.

Virginia lawmakers extended the allowance of driving hybrid vehicles and other clean-fuel vehicles on HOV another two years until 2006.

The Lane Ranger called up Delegate John A. “Jack” Rollison, R-52nd District, on Friday when he was down in Richmond. Rollison will begin his new job as special assistant to VDOT Commissioner Philip Shucet on Sept. 15.

The Federal Highway Administration can decide if too many people are buying hybrid cars and clogging the lanes to revise national guidelines, which the state must follow to receive federal dollars.

“I hope they’ll continue to let the hybrid vehicles to use the HOV lanes. That’s what the state is in favor of,” he said.

On one reader’s complaint of FBI agents and other police officers using HOV lanes to get to work in D.C., Rollison said he thinks they are abusing the policy because the idea was for police to use them during the course of their job and carrying out law enforcement duties.

However, fire and rescue personnel and volunteers have asked the state for an exception as well, so they can return home quicker to be available for emergencies at home or for volunteer duties at stations.

That would make the privileges consistent across police, fire and EMS lines.

The Lane Ranger thinks he is getting confused by all the exceptions.

Ghost light fixed again

We have addressed the problem of the light at a cemetery at the intersection of Davis Ford Road and Bacon Race Road twice in the last two months.

The light for the cemetery was reported turning green when no one was there.

Each time we called VDOT, got it fixed, then the problem came back.

VDOT engineer Dawnelle Park says the microwave cameras used to detect motion installed for the light were damaged on two separate occasions. But even after the second time, problems persisted, she said.

What to do, what to do? Call an exorcist? No. VDOT staff installed a different type of microwave camera, which activates only when a vehicle is present.

So, has anyone seen any more “malfunctions” of this light?

More on remote traffic controls

The Lane Ranger inexcusably failed to report last week that both Manassas and Manassas Park have already installed traffic signal remote changers for fire trucks at some of their signalized intersections.

Prince William County Fire and Rescue is prioritizing lights, assessing commercial brands and filling out the paperwork needed by VDOT. Someone has to maintain the things.

To outfit one intersection with detectors costs $5,500 to $7,200, said Battalion Chief Steve Strawderman.

The emitter on the vehicle costs $1,300, he said.

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; email to: [email protected]; or by phone: (703) 878-8062.

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