Streets in some of Northern Virginia’s aging neighborhoods are becoming marred with potholes, corroding asphalt and other problems that can make driving a headache, local officials say. In Fairfax County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, state transportation officials estimate that nearly 80 percent of local streets are in “poor” or “very poor” condition, up from 70 percent in 2011. In Prince William County, the proportion of streets rated poor or very poor is climbing toward 70 percent. Officials in Fairfax say the state should allocate more money to repairing streets in the county, which has dipped into its own funds in recent years to make repairs that it says Richmond should be financing.
Public hearings planned for proposed bus cuts, fare hikes
A new OmniRide budget calls for cutting services and raising fares. Fares could increase by 5% starting in July to offset a $9.2 million budget shortfall for Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, the agency that operates OmniRide commuter, and OmniLink local buses. The fare increase is on top of fares that have already increased by 30% since 2009. The first public hearing will be February 9.
The blizzard did in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s original schedule for January’s public hearings on the plan to create high-occupancy toll lanes inside the Capital Beltway.
If PRTC gets a ‘floor,’ drivers would pay a ‘few pennies more’
Some relief for cash-strapped OmniRide could come in the form of legislation in Richmond. A new bill by Sen. Frank Wagner (Norfolk, Virginia Beach) would set the gas tax “floor” at February 2013 rates. That means OmniRide’s parent agency Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission would get it’s 2.1% funding from the state’s motor fuels tax based on 2013 prices, which averaged $3.17 per gallon statewide that year. Diesel fuel averaged $3.36 per gallon statewide.
Prince William County
Toxic water to be treated, released into Potomac River
Dominion Virginia Power was given a green light this morning to begin de-watering toxic ash ponds near Quantico. Virginia’s Water Control Board met outside Richmond and approved a permit that allows the energy giant to treat waters consolidated into one of five coal ash ponds at the Possum Point Power Station, and then release it into Quantico Creek and the Potomac River. The decision comes after multiple local, state, and federal agencies asked for more time to review the plans.
Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart had strong words for the state board that gave Virginia Dominion Power its blessing Thursday to move forward with plans to treat and flush about 200 million gallons of coal-ash water into Quantico Creek. Stewart said he’s “disgusted” by the State Water Control Board’s vote and called Dominion “a horrible corporate citizen. They don’t care about the public or anything other than the bottom line,” Stewart said of Dominion in an interview after the vote. “And they don’t give a damn about polluting the creek and endangering the public health. As a county, our first duty is to protect public safety, and Dominion isn’t doing that, in collusion with the state government.”
Prince William County is lawyering up for a potential fight against Virginia Dominion Power’s controversial plan to treat and flush more than 200 million gallons of toxic coal-ash water into Quantico Creek. During their meeting Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to spend up to $40,000 for a consultant and outside lawyer to help county staff analyze the details of the permit modification approved by the Virginia State Water Control Board Jan. 14. The permit allows the utility to continue cleaning up five coal ash ponds at the Dumfries-area Possum Point Power Plant, located on the peninsula between the Potomac River and Quantico Creek, by treating and discharging up to 2.8 million gallons of coal ash water into the creek per day when the dewatering begins.
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted to initiate an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan to replace a heavy industrial sector of Innovation Park with mixed-use development to include retail, restaurants, possibly hotels and apartment buildings, among office space. Innovation Park, a commercial park, is located on the north end of the Brentsville District near the City of Manassas with access via Nokesville Road (Route 28) and University Boulevard. It is a public-private cooperative venture. The 1600-acre Innovation campus connects to George Mason University’s Manassas campus. Innovation Park is also home to many technology companies and data centers.
Housing sales in the Fredericksburg region were unusually strong in December, capping the local real-estate market’s best year in a decade. Kim McClellan, spokeswoman for Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors, said more than 5,000 units sold in 2015, the most since 2005. The 7,200 homes sold that year marked the height of what had been a booming housing market—a dubious distinction, as the bubble would burst with the Great Recession two years later. She said 5,000 homes sold is a healthier benchmark for the market to reach because the 2005 numbers weren’t sustainable.
The value of an average residence in Arlington County has topped $600,000, county officials said Friday, pushing the cost of housing in this inside-the-Beltway suburb up by 2.8 percent in the last year alone. The worth of the average residence, which includes single-family homes, condos, townhouses and detached units, rose from $587,100 to $603,500 by the end of 2015.
About 550 affordable apartments will be created across Virginia in the next two years as a result of $6.9 million in new grants and loans announced by Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday. McAuliffe said the state funds — including $2.45 million for five projects in Northern Virginia — are an important step in addressing the needs of people who cannot afford the increasing cost of housing. “Building a new Virginia economy means expanding economic security and opportunity to Virginians from every walk of life, and access to secure and affordable housing is an essential part of that effort,” he said in a news conference at the Arlington Mill apartment complex, where, 21/2 years ago, 3,600 people applied for 122 apartments considered affordable.
The D.C. metropolitan area added about 68,500 jobs in 2015, a 2.2 percent growth in jobs that outpaced the national growth rate of 1.9 percent, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor statistics. Professional business services led the way with 26,200 new jobs — most of them in Northern Virginia — while healthcare and construction showed significant gains in Maryland. The region’s economy took a hit three years ago when the so-called federal sequestration process slowed new contract awards, forcing many of the region’s government contractors to hunker down. But a recent congressional budget deal eased worries and boosted future defense spending, improving confidence in the sector and leading to a resurgence of jobs.
Virginia’s housing market ended 2015 with a continued rebound in nearly every region, including central Virginia, according to a report released Thursday by the Virginia Association of Realtors. The 2015 residential real estate market in Virginia outperformed every year from 2007, and far outperformed 2012, 2013 and 2014 in the peak summer sales season, the association reported. A total of 109,201 homes were sold in the state in 2015, up nearly 11 percent from 2014.
Eleven banks have agreed to pay a total of $63 million to settle allegations they defrauded the Virginia Retirement System during the real estate bubble that led the nation into an economic recession. Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s office announced the settlement Friday and said it was the largest non-health care-related recovery ever obtained in a suit alleging violations of the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. “This case breaks new ground for Virginia, recovering millions for Virginia taxpayers from banks that we alleged had misrepresented the products they sold to the commonwealth,” Herring said in a statement.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday acknowledged that the U.S. economy has slowed down but provided little guidance about when it would raise interest rates again. The central bank began pulling back its support for the recovery in December and signaled it anticipated increasing its benchmark rate four times this year. But weeks of turmoil on Wall Street have spurred doubts about whether the Fed will forge ahead. For now, the central bank is standing pat. In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Fed left the range for its benchmark interest rate unchanged between 0.25 and 0.5 percent. Its official statement emphasized the resilience of the job market despite the weakened recovery and pointed out strength in consumer spending and the housing sector.
The Virginia state government on Thursday took its first crack at a system meant to take some of the politics out of picking transportation projects. The program uses a scoring system, measuring such factors as congestion relief, safety improvement and economic stimulus and efficient land use, to rate 300 projects proposed by local and regional agencies. The total cost of all the proposals is about $7 billion. The state has about $1.7 billion to spend. Having a wish list much bigger than the piggy bank’s capacity is nothing unusual. The new factor is a transportation law commonly referred to as House Bill 2, which was approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in 2014.
Using a drone to help fix power lines is OK. Using a drone to spy on a sunbathing neighbor is not OK. But drawing a legal distinction between good drones and bad drones may be a tricky task for the Virginia General Assembly. Several legislators have proposed new laws to give property owners more privacy from proliferating eyes in the sky. The patrons seemed to have difficulty Wednesday convincing a House of Delegates subcommittee their proposals were narrow enough to outlaw “creepy stuff,” a term used throughout the meeting, without hurting a fast-emerging industry.
Proposed new funding for transportation projects in the Richmond region and elsewhere in the state could hit a roadblock if the General Assembly approves legislation blocking the use of tolls on a proposed expansion of Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia, the state’s top transportation official warned Wednesday. Secretary of Transportation Aubrey L. Layne said Gov. Terry McAuliffe would not veto the legislation if the General Assembly adopts it, but the consequences could include a funding gap of almost $1.2 billion, even after taking away statewide high-priority funds that could be used to help finance projects in districts across Virginia, including six in the Richmond construction district totaling $46.6 million.
Senate budget leaders are having a hard time swallowing the $109 billion two-year budget and $2.4 billion bond issue proposed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, who also is co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, made clear in a floor speech on Tuesday that he does not believe the state’s economy is growing fast enough to pay for the spending initiatives sought by the Democratic governor. “From a fiscal standpoint, we need to temper our exuberance,” Norment told the Senate.
Government Affairs Coordinator
REALTOR® Association of Prince William