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A history of roads in Virginia: Into the 80s – new financing and building methods

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In 1980, the General Assembly approved an increase in the state motor fuel tax to provide millions of dollars more for the highway program.

In Virginia as in other states, the new decade was marked by a highway construction and improvement program caught in a tightening squeeze caused by inflation and a drop in revenue.

The dilemma was compounded by sharply higher maintenance expenses required simply to take care of the existing state road system and its bridges.

As a result, the amount of new construction fell to its lowest level in five years. In the 1978-79 fiscal year, 206 contracts totaling $326.5 million were awarded for work on 215 miles. The following year, the commission was able to award only 143 contracts, amounting to $190.6 million, to build or improve 90 miles of the system.

Without some action, it was estimated that by 1991 maintenance costs would take all the revenue generated by the gas tax, leaving no money at all for new construction.

Not only were construction funds decreasing, they were on a roller coaster ride. They plunged from $233 million in 1975 to $117 million two years later, only to rebound to $200 million in 1980 and then to drop again, to $95 million in 1982. Meaningful planning became impossible.

Coupled with spiraling costs, income from state highway-user taxes dropped below levels anticipated and appropriated.

Commissioner Harold C. King, a former Federal Highway Administration official who had been appointed to the state position in 1978, reported on the overall situation in a December 1979 letter to Gov. John N. Dalton and members of the General Assembly:

“Virginia’s highway construction and improvement program is in jeopardy. It is entirely possible that within the 1980-82 biennium, it will become necessary to forego any new state-financed improvements, and to reserve state construction money to match federal aid. In the 1982-84 biennium, it may be impossible to match federal aid, thus risking the loss of millions of dollars needed to complete our interstate routes and to improve bridges and other existing highway facilities.”

After much consideration, the 1980 General Assembly approved a 2-cents-a-gallon increase in the state motor fuel tax. The increase provided approximately $576 million more annually for the state highway program.

Barely had the state legislative session ended, however, when federal authorities announced the curtailment of the federal-aid program nationwide, dealing a second blow to an already sparse transportation budget.

After extensive conferences with federal authorities, the commission was authorized to begin projects totaling about $126 million, some $16 million below the level anticipated before the cutback was imposed.

By 1980, Virginia continued to maintain the nation’s third-largest highway system, with 52,600 miles of interstate, arterial, primary, and secondary roads, behind only North Carolina and Texas.

In addition, the state provided financial aid to 67 cities and towns with populations over 3,500 to assist them in maintaining about 8,100 miles of local streets.

At the beginning of the decade, the state system also included approximately 12,000 bridges, with approximately 500 more bridges within the municipalities. Even in a time of high fuel prices, motorists drove an average of more than 100 million miles daily on state highways and streets.

Approximately 3.2 million Virginians were licensed drivers in 1980, and 4 million motor vehicles were registered.

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

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A history of roads in Virginia: Administrative belt-tightening

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VDOT employees in the Negotiation Processing Center, Right of Way Division, prepare letters to landowners and attorneys.

In 1980, the General Assembly ordered the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to review the department’s operations and finances and recommend changes to make the best use of the resources available. Between July 1, 1978, and Nov. 1, 1981, employment in the department statewide was cut from 12,865 to 11,030, a reduction of more than 14 percent. The cutbacks were partly the result of the JLARC evaluation, which recommended reductions in manpower.

While most of the decline was accomplished by attrition, some employees were laid off from their jobs. The lower payroll costs cut approximately $15 million from the budget each year.

The employment decline reflected a determination to streamline the organization, but to a greater degree it was a reflection of the shrinking highway program.

Despite cutbacks in personnel and efforts to save money, the funding situation became increasingly severe, prompting the Department of Highways and Transportation to reassess the status and public use of substandard roads and bridges throughout the state.

Local governments were asked in 1981 to identify what they regarded as their most serious highway needs. The result of that request was the development of the SixYear Improvement Program for the highway system. The program was adopted on July 1, 1982, and it established a schedule of construction and reconstruction projects for the interstate, primary, and urban road systems in Virginia on a priority basis.

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

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Fall car care: protecting your paint from falling leaves

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Come autumn, the days start to get cooler and the leaves begin to fall. Though the colorful foliage may look pretty, it’s best to keep it away from your car.

Unfortunately, deciduous leaves contain acidic substances like sap and pollen that can penetrate your car’s clear coat and stain the paint. Fallen leaves can also clog your vehicle’s drains and air filters, which can result in the rusting of components and the arrival of unpleasant odors.

Keep leaves at bay

Here are a few ways to protect your car by steering clear of fallen leaves.

• Don’t park under trees. This is the most obvious solution, but it isn’t always possible. If you can’t avoid parking near trees, try to position your car near one that’s already lost most of its leaves.

• Remove debris right away. The best way to get rid of leaves is to remove them by hand. Using a brush or broom can cause the leaves to scratch your paint.

• Invest in a car cover. If you want to eliminate the possibility that leaves might damage the paint on your car, be sure to cover it when it’s parked. This will also protect your vehicle from heavy rain, dust, snow and ice.

Remove leaf stains
If your car’s exterior is already stained by leaves, you should first remove any sap that’s stuck to the surface with a liquid car wash solution and a clean microfiber cloth. Polish it dry with a second one.

Afterwards, use denatured alcohol, distilled white vinegar or a product specifically designed for gentle stain removal. Once the marks are gone, wash your vehicle once more with the car wash solution.

Conduct a pre-winter wash
Once all the leaves have fallen for the season, wash your car a final time to remove all traces of pollen and sap from the paint. Afterwards, apply a good quality wax. It will help protect your car from the upcoming winter weather.

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How to avoid hydroplaning

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Your car can hydroplane on any wet surface, but it’s most likely to do so during the first ten minutes of a light rainfall. This is because rain stirs up oil and other substances on the road, which then pool and combine to create a slick surface that your tires may not be able to grip.

Drive defensively in the rain
If you’re driving in wet conditions, take these precautions to avoid hydroplaning.

• Slow down. When it starts to rain, reduce your speed. Your car is most likely to hydroplane when it’s moving at faster than 35 miles per hour. You should also avoid suddenly speeding up or slowing down.

• Stay away from standing water. Hydroplaning can occur even if there’s only a small amount of water on the road. If you see standing water, try to avoid it. Chances are, your car will slip or skid if you don’t.

• Turn off the cruise control. It’s best to be in full control of your car when road conditions are challenging. In addition, cruise control can make hydroplaning more dangerous because it prevents you from reducing your speed.

Don’t panic if you hydroplane
If your car does start to hydroplane, remain calm. Take your foot off the gas and slowly turn the steering wheel in the direction the car is turning. Don’t use your brake. You’ll feel it when your car regains contact with the road.

Tires and hydroplaning
The grooves that run along your tires are there to sluice water out of the way and enable your wheels to maintain contact with the road. Having tires that are in good condition can drastically reduce your likelihood of hydroplaning.

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A loose timeline for key car maintenance tasks

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Taking care of your car pays off. In fact, regularly maintaining your vehicle results in it having a longer lifespan, providing better gas mileage, requiring fewer repairs and having a higher resale value.

Though the precise schedule for your vehicle’s maintenance tasks depends on its make and model (check your owner’s manual for specifics), here’s a rough guideline indicating approximately when to perform them.

Every 3,000 miles or monthly.

Inspect the air pressure in and overall condition of your tires, including the spare.

Every 3,000 to 10,000 miles.
Replace the motor oil and oil filter.

Every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.
Rotate and balance your tires. This ensures that they won’t wear unevenly or prematurely. You should also inspect your brake discs and pads at this time.

Every 15,000 to 30,000 miles.
Change the air filters to improve air flow and engine performance. City drivers and those with seasonal allergies should replace them more frequently.

Every 60,000 to 100,000 miles.
Replace your timing belt. This engine component is made of rubber and can dry up, crack and break, causing your engine to fail.

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Stay safe when driving through construction zones

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Safe driving habits are always important, but you need to be extra cautious when navigating areas where road work is under way. Here’s how to remain safe when driving through construction zones.

• Pay attention to signs. Orange construction signs will indicate what drivers need to do to stay safe. They’ll signify how fast you should be going, which lanes you can occupy and where to merge.

• Obey the flag person. Many active worksites have a flag person to direct traffic. Their directions overrule any other traffic signs or signals. Always follow their instructions and take extra care when driving past them.

• Slow down. Speed limits are usually reduced in construction zones and may be further decreased when workers are present. This is to ensure everyone’s safety.

• Avoid distractions. When driving through a construction zone, don’t eat, change the radio station or do anything else that might cause you to be distracted. Using your phone when behind the wheel is also a no-no.

Following these safety guidelines when driving through a construction zone can mean the difference between life and death. If you know you’ll be navigating an area where road work is underway, plan to leave earlier so you can safely reach your destination on time. Or, take an alternate route to avoid the construction zone altogether.

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Regular car maintenance: a road safety essential

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October is Fall Car Care Month and a good time for drivers to think about how they can stay safe on the road. While practicing good driving habits is key, taking care of your car is just as important. Here’s what you should know.

Mechanical breakdowns cause accidents
Vehicle malfunctions are the cause of countless car accidents every year. Faulty engines, defective brakes and blown transmissions are common culprits. These types of breakdowns are often caused by hidden issues that can be identified by a mechanic during a routine maintenance check.

Degradation of parts is inevitable
All moving parts on a car degrade over time. Individual components, however, have distinct lifespans, that require servicing at various intervals. For example, brake pads last three to five years, serpentine belts about six years and timing belts about eight years.

It’s dangerous to drive your car if mechanical parts become excessively worn.

Tires and wheels require ongoing care
Wheels and tires need to be carefully maintained. Your tires grip the road and allow you to turn safely. As they start to wear down, it becomes increasingly difficult to reliably control your car.

As for the wheels, they need to be aligned. The tires of misaligned wheels drag and deter the car from rolling freely, causing problems with vehicle handling.

Wheels and tires should be inspected several times a year.

There are other benefits of regular maintenance
Safety may be the best motive for staying on top of your car’s maintenance needs, but there are other reasons. Regular car care can save you money by keeping your warranty valid, improving your gas mileage and remedying small issues before they result in costly breakdowns.

The Million Mile Club
Did you know that some motorists have racked up more than a million miles on their odometers? That’s the equivalent of driving around the world 40 times! It’s no surprise that the Million Mile Club is pretty exclusive. You can be sure that each of these drivers took exceptionally good care of their vehicle.

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‘Tis the Season

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Front Royal
38°
Cloudy
06:5217:01 EST
Feels like: 30°F
Wind: 13mph WNW
Humidity: 51%
Pressure: 30.05"Hg
UV index: 1
TueWedThu
39/21°F
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49/28°F

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Upcoming Events

Nov
12
Tue
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing II: Drawing in... @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing II: Drawing in... @ Art in the Valley
Nov 12 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Botanical Drawing II: Drawing in Color @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in colored pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. This four week course will focus on continuing to build drawing skills as applied to botanicals: students[...]
4:30 pm Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Nov 12 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Tuesday, November 5: Kids will explore popular books and book series through science, games, food, and more! Based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we will do some taffy pulling and have a[...]
7:00 pm Learn how the Old and New Testam... @ Macedonia United Methodist Church
Learn how the Old and New Testam... @ Macedonia United Methodist Church
Nov 12 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Learn how the Old and New Testaments reveal God's plans @ Macedonia United Methodist Church
COME and HEAR…. PASTOR ERIC MICHAEL TEITELMAN from HOUSE of DAVID MINISTRIES LEARN HOW THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS REVEAL GOD’S PLANS FOR ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH – HIS FAMILY OF NATIONS Born to a[...]
Nov
13
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Nov 13 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, November 6 and Thursday, November 7: It’s playtime! Come in for stories, songs, and a craft about our favorite toys, games, and imaginings! Siblings welcome.[...]
1:00 pm Tech Bytes @ Lord Fairfax Community College
Tech Bytes @ Lord Fairfax Community College
Nov 13 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Tech Bytes @ Lord Fairfax Community College
A look at the rapid-fire evolution of cybersecurity through the lens of a veteran cybersecurity journalist who has been covering this space for more than two decades. Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor of Dark Reading,[...]
1:30 pm Botanicals in Watercolor I @ Art in the Valley
Botanicals in Watercolor I @ Art in the Valley
Nov 13 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Botanicals in Watercolor I @ Art in the Valley
This four week course with instructor, Elena Maza, will deal with the basic three-primary color palette, different pigments and how they interact, how to mix all colors from three primary colors, how to apply washes,[...]
Nov
14
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Nov 14 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, November 6 and Thursday, November 7: It’s playtime! Come in for stories, songs, and a craft about our favorite toys, games, and imaginings! Siblings welcome.[...]
5:00 pm FAFSA Party @ LFCC Middletown Campus
FAFSA Party @ LFCC Middletown Campus
Nov 14 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
FAFSA Party @ LFCC Middletown Campus
Join other college-bound students and their parents at LFCC for a FAFSA Party on the Middletown Campus on the following dates: Monday, Nov. 4 Thursday, Nov. 14 Monday, Nov. 18. Time: 5-7 p.m. Learn about[...]
7:00 pm Winter Living Forum @ Middle of the Main
Winter Living Forum @ Middle of the Main
Nov 14 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Winter Living Forum @ Middle of the Main
An open forum for the foods and methods suggested for optimum healthy and robust winter living. Open to All: 7.00 p.m. EASTERN / 6.00 p.m. CENTRAL / 4.00 p.m. PACIFIC – This is an open[...]
Nov
15
Fri
12:30 pm Kaine Connects in Front Royal @ Samuels Public Library, Lou Benson & Naomi Salus Conference Room
Kaine Connects in Front Royal @ Samuels Public Library, Lou Benson & Naomi Salus Conference Room
Nov 15 @ 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Kaine Connects in Front Royal @ Samuels Public Library, Lou Benson & Naomi Salus Conference Room
Dear Friends, On November 15, my staff will host Kaine Connects office hours in Front Royal from 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM. Although I can’t be there in person, this is a terrific opportunity to[...]