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A history of roads in Virginia: Changing concepts



In the heavily populated suburbs of Northern Virginia, special lanes of I-95 (now I-395) were reserved
for express buses in 1969.

By the 1970s, Virginia was a rapidly urbanizing state. Its population had grown to more than 4.6 million, with two-thirds living in cities, towns, and suburbs.

Motor vehicle registration had risen to more than 2.5 million. Between 1960 and 1970, travel on the state’s highway system had increased more than 65 percent, and on an average weekday, motorists drove 75 million miles on Virginia’s highways and streets. The two-car family had become commonplace, and driving was described as the nation’s leading form of outdoor recreation.

Years before, agriculture had begun its decline as the principal  foundation of the state’s economy, although it remained of major importance. New and expanding industries occupied an increasingly vital role in the economic base.

In a December 1971 report to the Virginia Advisory Legislative Council, the General Assembly’s continuing study arm, the Highway Commission said that “much remains to be done in order to provide Virginians with what truly may be considered an adequate, statewide transportation system.”

The council continued, “In every county, city, and town, there are substandard facilities. Throughout Virginia, there remains thousands of miles of roads and hundreds of bridges constructed more than 40 years ago. They were satisfactory for the uses they were built to serve; they are far from satisfactory for the demands of the 1970s, and for those of the years beyond,” the commission said.

Commissioner Fugate, writing in the April 1970 issue of the Eno Foundation’s Traffic Quarterly, had discussed the changing highway concepts involved in solving such a problem:

“We should not be particularly surprised that transportation planning requirements differ from those of even a decade ago,” he wrote. “For in many respects the nation’s people differ — there are far more of them, they tend in growing numbers to congregate in and around the cities, they tend to be more affluent; and they have a new concern for all aspects of the environment in which they live. Thus, it is no longer sufficient to examine highway proposals solely from such standpoints as traffic service, economics, and engineering feasibility. An entirely new range of considerations has developed, and must be accepted by those responsible for the highway program.

“Such matters as the social impact of highways, environmental enhancement, and pollution are becoming integral elements in the highway planning process. Similarly, in urban regions, attention must be focused more extensively on utilizing the highway as an artery for mass transportation, and on fresh concepts concerned more with moving people than with moving vehicles. Any notions of a comfortable philosophy based on the belief that every problem has a formula for solution and that every decision can be made in conformity with established policy must be forsaken, if indeed they still exist,” the commissioner wrote. “We must greatly broaden our concepts of the highway’s role in an increasingly urban society.”

In the heavily populated Northern Virginia suburbs of the District of Columbia, special lanes of Interstate 95, the old Shirley Highway, were reserved for express buses. Commuters were encouraged to leave their cars behind and use the bus to reduce congestion. It represented the nation’s first experience with setting aside lanes of interstate highway for buses, and its results were impressive. In barely more than three years, more commuters were riding buses than were driving their personal cars during the morning rush hours.

The success of the Shirley “busway,” coupled with increased traffic congestion, led highway officials to allow private vehicles to use the reserved travel lanes as long as they were carrying four or more passengers.

In Southwest Virginia, the challenges were different from those in the highly urbanized regions of the state. In July 1972, hundreds gathered to observe the opening of the Big Walker Mountain Tunnel on Interstate 77. The tunnel, carved through the Appalachian range in Bland County, was heralded as the beginning of a new and prosperous era for the citizens of Southwest Virginia.

Two and a half years later, on Dec. 20, 1974, a second mountain tunnel was completed. The East River Mountain Tunnel, which routes 1-77 traffic through the mountain between Bland County, Virginia, and Mercer County, West Virginia, was built cooperatively by the two states.

Increasingly, the planning function of highway administrators and engineers was changing vastly as society itself sought to adjust to the needs and desires of the expanding, more urbanized population.

More and more, highway planning was related to total community goals. The days of muddy roads, of inadequate technology and equipment, and of neglected maintenance had passed. A modern highway system permitted improved mobility and traffic safety. But there were new challenges to replace the old ones, including those brought about by events happening halfway across the world.

Produced by the
Virginia Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1401 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219

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7 things to inspect on your car this summer



If you’re getting ready for a summer road trip or plan to take your car out for its first spin of the season, here are seven things you should inspect before you get behind the wheel.

1. Tires. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread. Do the same for the spare and make certain you have a jack and lug wrench in the trunk.

2. Lights. Ask someone to stand outside your car as you turn on your headlights, brake lights, and reverse lights to ensure that they’re working.

3. Windshield wipers. Make sure your wipers are in good condition and can effectively clear your windows. You should also inspect the sprayer and top off the windshield washer fluid.

4. Fluids. Inspect the oil as well as the brake, power steering, and transmission fluids. If any of these run out, your car’s components may get damaged.

5. Battery. Inspect your battery for signs of corrosion, cracks, and leaks. Test it with a battery tester, voltmeter, or multimeter. Alternatively, you can get it inspected and tested by a mechanic. Batteries should be tested twice a year and replaced approximately every five years.

6. Undercarriage. Look under your car for leaks. A fluid leak can cause your steering or braking system to fail.

7. Air conditioner. Make sure your air conditioner is working well. Also, check the heating for those chilly mornings when you need to defrost the windows.

If you notice any issues during your inspection, make an appointment at your local garage.

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5 reasons to apply a paint protection film to your car



Do you hate seeing nicks and scratches on your car? If so, a paint protection film can help make dings a thing of the past. Here are five reasons to add this coating to your car.

1. To protect the paint
Paint protection film helps keep painted surfaces on your car shiny and blemish-free by protecting them from scratches, dents, fading, and rust. This coating is made of thermoplastic urethane and is completely transparent.

2. To increase the resale value

While scratches and dings won’t affect your vehicle’s performance, they can significantly reduce the price you’ll get for your car if you decide to sell it. Note that the film can easily and safely be removed by a professional at any time.

3. To protect certain components
Paint protection film can be applied to headlights and mirrors to shield them from damage caused by upturned gravel and road debris. Since the coating is transparent, it doesn’t affect its operation or visibility.

4. To save you money on repairs
Touch-ups for scuffs and scratches can be costly. If you have a protective coating on your car, it could spare you from needing to make small repairs. It can also prevent you from having to fix broken headlights and mirrors.

5. To make cleaning easier
Paint protection film repels dust and debris, thereby reducing the need for frequent car cleaning. Moreover, you can simply wipe the coating with a soft cloth instead of water when you want to quickly spiff up your vehicle.

To apply paint protection film to your car, contact your local garage or auto detailer.

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What vehicle should you rent for your summer road trip?



If you’re planning a road trip and need a set of wheels, renting is probably your best option. Here are four types of vehicles to consider booking for your next trip.

1. Convertible
In fair weather, cruising in a convertible can be fun, especially if you rarely get the chance. If you’re going on a brief trip and don’t plan on venturing too far off the beaten track, then taking a convertible will likely add to your excitement. Just be sure to check the weather in advance.

2. Sedan

A sedan is a practical vehicle to choose for a two-person road trip. If you opt for a small-sized one, it won’t burn much fuel and you’ll save money on gas. Moreover, sedans tend to be reliable and easy to repair, meaning there’s little chance that you’ll run into trouble during your trip.

3. Minivan or SUV
A minivan or SUV is the best vehicle to choose for a family road trip. Be sure to get a model with a multimedia system so that you can easily entertain your kids during the drive. Minivans and SUVs are also great choices for adventurous couples who want to rough it by sleeping in the back of their car on an inflatable mattress.

4. RV
Although it’s the priciest vehicle to rent and costs the most to fill up, an RV also doubles as a hotel room, complete with a kitchen, shower, toilet, and beds. It’s a great option if you’re camping as a family and intending to visit several places since you won’t need to pack up your things or pitch a tent multiple times.

Whatever vehicle you choose for your road trip, be sure to stay safe behind the wheel and take along an emergency supply kit.

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Does the music you listen to affect the way you drive?



According to research conducted by the South China University of Technology, the type of music a motorist listens to influences the way they drive. Here’s what the study uncovered.

Study participants experienced a higher heart rate when they were exposed to raucous music versus when they were exposed to gentler music or no music at all. As a result, they drove faster and less carefully. The key factor was shown to be song tempo, which was measured in beats per minute.

When participants listened to music with a tempo of above 120 beats per minute, they tended to drive faster than they did when listening to music with a slower tempo. The difference in driving speed amounted to about 10 miles per hour. Lane changes also occurred twice as often when drivers listened to this kind of music.

The song that caused participants to drive the fastest and most erratically was “American Idiot” by Green Day, which has a tempo of 189 beats per minute. The song that was most conducive to safe driving was “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, which has a tempo of 63 beats per minute.

To thwart the impulse to speed, the best songs to listen to in the car are ones with a tempo that’s about the same as your resting heart rate, or between 60 and 80 beats per minute. There’s no shortage of tunes that fit the bill, from “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz to “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith.

If you tend to speed, there are certain types of music you should avoid when you’re on the road including heavy metal, drum, and bass, techno and dubstep. The tempo of most songs in these music genres is more than 120 beats per minute.

The next time you create a driving playlist, be sure to choose tunes that help you maintain your speed and keep you calm and collected on the road.

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The experience of driving an EV



Electric vehicles (EVs) are reliable, economical, and eco-friendly. But what’s it like to drive one? Here’s what you should know.

In-town driving
EVs are well suited to the stop-and-go nature of city driving. Thanks to the regenerative braking system in most models, the kinetic energy that’s lost every time you apply the brakes is recovered and used to power the motor. This allows you to drive longer on a single charge.

Since an EV’s motor doesn’t idle, you won’t waste any power if you get stuck in traffic. And when congested roads do clear, the instant torque of an electric car allows you to accelerate with ease.

Lastly, an increasing number of municipalities offer reserved or free parking for electric vehicles.

Highway driving
Electric cars must meet the same safety standards as conventional vehicles, so you can cruise down the highway without worry. Additionally, since the battery pack is usually installed in the floor, most models have a low center of gravity which allows for better handling.

Owning an EV can also speed up your commute since many areas allow you to use carpool lanes if you’re driving an electric car. You’ll also likely appreciate the quieter ride as they make considerably less noise than gas-powered cars. And if you need to use a toll road or take a ferry, many are cheaper or free for electric cars.

Finally, since EVs have fewer parts than vehicles that run on fuel, they don’t require much in the way of maintenance and repairs. You’ll spend more time on the road and less at the garage.

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4 tips for reversing with a trailer



If you’ve never used a trailer before, you’ll need to be careful. Hitching one to your car can make driving a challenge, especially when you need to reverse. Here are four tips to make backing up with a trailer safe and easy.

1. Assess your surroundings
Driving with a trailer reduces visibility. Before you start to reverse, it’s a good idea to get out of the car and make sure nothing is in your way. Identify any trees, fence posts, and other obstructions that you’ll need to avoid when you back up.

2. Adjust your mirrors

A trailer adds considerable length to your vehicle, so the regular position of your mirrors may be incorrect. Adjust the angle of your side and review mirrors to minimize blind spots.

3. Grip the bottom of the wheel
If you turn while reversing, your car and trailer will go in opposite directions with the hitch acting as a pivot point. To avoid confusion, hold the bottom of the steering wheel. This way your hands will move in the same direction as the trailer when you turn. If you rotate the wheel to the right, for example, your hands will move up the left side of the wheel and the trailer will reverse to the left.

4. Advance slowly
Once you’re ready to reverse, proceed with caution. If you become disoriented or something in the environment changes, stop. Drive forward to straighten up your vehicle and trailer, then try again.

In order to successfully reverse while towing a trailer, you need patience and practice. To make things easier, ask a friend to guide you from outside of the car or invest in a backup camera so you can see where you’re going.

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