Connect with us

Automotive

A history of roads in Virginia: Surviving an oil embargo

Published

on

The fuel crises of the 1970s were to have a lasting impact on highway revenues.

In 1973, several Middle East nations imposed an embargo on exports of oil, forcing major changes in the United States and other countries. At the beginning of the 1970s, Virginia’s transportation future seemed bright, but the oil embargo and the ensuing efforts to conserve fuel would have a debilitating effect on state transportation revenues for years to come.

Supplies of gasoline and other fuels plummeted, prices soared, and long lines were common at gas stations. The crisis became so severe that on Nov. 26, 1973, Gov. Linwood Holton declared a state of emergency as a result of the motor vehicle fuel shortage.

Federal and statewide conservation policies were implemented immediately. In Virginia, Gov. Holton ordered the speed limit on the interstate system reduced from 70 to 55 miles per hour. The action was followed shortly by Congress setting the same limit on a nationwide basis.

Over the winter, the problem continued to grow. On Feb. 18, 1974, Virginia’s newly inaugurated Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. took the fuel conservation measures a step further.

He implemented a statewide mandatory gasoline distribution plan, which already was known in several other states as the “odd-even plan.”

The plan related numbers on motor vehicle license plates to those on the calendar. A motorist whose license number ended in an odd digit could buy gasoline only on odd-numbered calendar days. Those whose licenses ended in even numbers could buy gasoline only on even-numbered days.

The new plan, and the public’s support of fuel conservation efforts, went far toward alleviating the problem. Generally, long waiting lines at gasoline stations disappeared, but gas prices increased substantially. The fuel shortage was eased further by the lifting of the Mideast oil embargo in March 1974.

By April, the situation had improved sufficiently for Gov. Godwin to suspend the odd-even restrictions. But he cautioned that fuel supplies were expected to remain limited and that citizens should continue voluntarily to practice conservation measures. Moreover, he said, the speed limit would remain at a maximum 55 miles an hour.

The crisis had long-term, adverse effects aside from personal inconvenience. Reductions in gasoline use led to reductions in the state’s income from the motor fuel tax, the largest single source of revenue for highway construction and maintenance. Only two years earlier, in 1972, the General Assembly had increased the gasoline tax from seven to nine cents a gallon to help finance a new 10-year plan for road and street improvement and for expanded state aid to urban mass transit. Suddenly, revenue was falling below anticipated levels, and the commission forecast a shortfall of approximately $22 million for the 1974-75 fiscal year.

With petroleum being a major ingredient in roadway asphalt, construction costs also rose.

The revenue reductions, combined with sharply rising costs due to rapid inflation, made it clear that Virginia’s highway budget wouldn’t stretch as far as once hoped, and the commission began a reassessment of the 10-year plan. Also, federal authorities warned that the energy crisis “could critically curtail the federal state highway program,” from which came 90 percent of interstate highway construction funds.

The Department of Highways, like most agencies, initiated fuel conservation measures within its own organization. Employees were encouraged to join car pools for trips to work and were required to join such pools for business trips. It was decided to let roadside grass grow to 15 inches instead of 10 inches before mowing and to adjust snow-removal standards by eliminating plowing in subdivisions until snow was at least six inches deep.

Motor oil was saved for reuse in diesel engines and oil-fired furnaces. Oil changes in state vehicles were made every 4,000 miles instead of every 3,000 miles. An increased emphasis was placed on the use of asphalt that had low petroleum content and that required little heating before use.

But while the energy crisis produced changes in operations, and sometimes resulted in inconveniences, it also pointed the way to improved traffic safety. During the critical months of the fuel crisis in Virginia, traffic on the state’s major highways decreased for the first time since World War II. The reduced speed limits and travel were accompanied by long-sought reductions in  accidents.

In Virginia during the period between December 1973 and April 1974, 52 persons were killed in traffic accidents on the 2,000 miles of highways with reduced speed limits; the toll had been double on the same roads in the corresponding period the year before. In the first six months of 1974, Virginia’s total traffic death toll on all of its highways stood at 458, down sharply from 608 in the  same period of 1973.

There was another issue that emerged in the 1970s. It was not as immediately dramatic as the energy crisis, but it was one that would have a major effect on the department — concern about the environmental impact of highways.

The broadened public concern for environmental protection was accepted by department engineers as an indication of the public’s willingness to pay the cost
required for higher levels of preservation and conservation.

Opposition to the construction of Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia prompted department officials to examine even more closely the environmental impact highways would have in predominantly urban areas. On April 4, 1972, the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond barred construction of the interstate through Arlington County until an environmental impact statement was completed.

When the final segment of I-66 between the Capital Beltway and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge was opened on Dec. 22, 1982, the highway was vastly different from the one proposed 26 years earlier. The newly opened highway had four lanes instead of the eight originally planned, and it was restricted to car pools, buses, and Dulles International Airport traffic during morning and  evening rush hours.

As a result of the department’s heightened awareness of environmental issues, highway construction plans were scrutinized repeatedly for environmental impacts, particularly in urban areas. Among other efforts, the department began to include provisions for noise walls and hiking and biking trails. In addition, when possible, plans were altered to avoid the destruction of historical and cultural resources.

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

Share the News:

Automotive

How to optimize your EV’s performance in winter

Published

on

If you own an electric vehicle (EV), you’ll need to adjust your driving habits come winter. This is because the battery powering it functions best at temperatures between 40- and 115-degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, low temperatures cause the fluid inside the battery to become sluggish, which impacts the car’s range and how long it takes to recharge. Here’s how to get the most out of your EV, despite the cold weather.

Dealing with your limited range
A temperature that’s below freezing may cut the distance your car can cover by as much as 30 percent. This is because it needs to reserve some power to keep the battery within operating temperature. To work around this, charge your battery more often than usual and plan your trips carefully.

Optimizing your EV’s charge time
Recharging a battery that’s freezing cold takes longer than recharging one that’s substantially warmer. This is because before it can be recharged, a fair amount of energy is required to heat up the cold battery (a safeguard that prevents it from getting damaged).

Drivers should therefore ensure they have at least a 20 percent charge left in their battery when they plug in their EV. This allows the battery to warm quickly and significantly speeds the time it takes to recharge it. If the battery is more depleted than this, you could get stuck waiting longer than you’d like.

As a final tip, heating the interior of your EV while it’s charging is a good way to mitigate the effects of cold weather and maximize the car’s range. You’re now ready to cruise through winter without a hitch.

If your car’s equipped with seat warmers, use them instead of the hot air to heat up the cabin as they draw less power.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Automotive

A history of roads in Virginia: The 1990s – new technologies and funding infusions

Published

on

I-81 became a major north-south artery for long-haul truckers.

The 1990s brought no slowdown in the increasing needs of Virginians for mobility. Surging volumes of traffic — combined with aging highways, accelerating technological progress, and landmark legislation — brought a dynamic set of challenges to transportation in the century’s last decade. Public demands for more transportation capacity were met with dramatic increases in transportation funding and burgeoning highway construction programs. In that context, VDOT sought and implemented continuous innovation in its management and engineering programs.

From 1980 to 1990, vehicle registrations jumped from 4 million to 5 million. Miles traveled daily in Virginia leaped from 105 million to 165 million. Despite the demand for more roads and bridges, voters indicated in 1990 that they were unwilling to give up completely the “pay-as-you-go” philosophy of funding for transportation. In a referendum, they turned down a proposal to sell pledge bonds to finance highway improvements.

At the same time, the commonwealth was moving toward a more modern transportation infrastructure. In 1990 the General Assembly, at Gov. Douglas Wilder’s request, created separate secretariats for transportation and public safety, functional areas that had been combined in the past. The legislation also provided that the secretary of transportation would serve as chairman of the CTB, and the commissioner of the Department of Transportation would become vice-chairman.

Within a few months, however, the department experienced the effects of a weakening economy. The resulting loss of revenue caused VDOT to scale back maintenance, mowing, and snow plowing; and the value of construction contracts awarded for highway improvements fell 28 percent from 1990 to 1991.

By 1992 more than 100 highway projects had been delayed. In addition, maintaining and rebuilding roads — especially aging interstate highways — was becoming a special challenge. Help was on the way, however, in a new federal aid package.

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

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Automotive

Winter driving: 5 things to check before you go

Published

on

Roads can be dangerous in the winter, especially in extreme weather. Stay safe by checking the five following things every time you get behind the wheel.

1. Fuel
Fill your gas tank as often as possible to prevent condensation from forming. While it’s not an issue when the temperature is warm, condensation can freeze and create blockages in the fuel lines in the winter.

2. Windshield washer fluid
Sloppy weather conditions may force you to use more washer fluid than usual to keep your windshield clear. To ensure you can always see the road ahead, check fluid levels often and keep an extra bottle in your trunk.

3. Snow removal
In some states, not removing snow from your car before getting behind the wheel puts you at risk of incurring a driving infraction. Besides, failing to do so is extremely dangerous. Snow can slide down your roof and obstruct your view, and chunks of ice may fly off your car and hit vehicles behind you, potentially causing a serious accident.

4. Weather forecast
While few of us are able to plan our comings and goings around the weather, checking the forecast before leaving will allow you to account for potential delays caused by bad weather. In difficult conditions, leave earlier to ensure you can drive at a safe speed and, if possible, stay home during severe storms.

5. Roads and traffic
Stay informed about local road conditions and try to avoid hazardous, icy and poorly plowed areas. Take a longer route if it allows you to avoid a dangerous commute.

Finally, if your car is showing signs of deterioration or is performing poorly, be sure to visit a local mechanic as soon as possible.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Automotive

A history of roads in Virginia: Transit makes its mark

Published

on

Northern Virginia’s I-66 was completed in 1982 as a four-lane limited access highway. It’s among
Virginia’s first projects to incorporate multimodal connectivity. It featured Metrorail in the median.

When funds for highway construction doubled, so did funds for public transportation services. Increasing pressures for these services were felt in all sections of Virginia.

Public transportation service includes a lot more than buses in the cities or the Metrorail subway in the Washington, D.C., area. It includes ridesharing efforts with car and van pools, park-and-ride lots, special high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on congested highways for vehicles carrying at least two and sometimes three people, special transportation for elderly and handicapped persons, and development of commuter rail service.

By the late 1980s, public transportation was making its mark. More than two-thirds of the people crossing the Potomac River between Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., during rush hours traveled either by public transit or car pool. But many more innovations beyond public transportation would be required to keep Virginia moving in the last decade of the century.

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

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Automotive

A history of roads in Virginia: Special action in Northern Virginia

Published

on

Sections of the Fairfax County Parkway were built with county, state and federal funds.

Due to the critical transportation needs in Northern Virginia, those localities took the lead in adopting alternative financing methods for highway construction and improvement projects.

Northern Virginia was first in using a “proffer” system that allowed the counties to negotiate with private developers in zoning matters so the developers paid for needed public improvements, such as new streets and schools, in return for favorable zoning decisions.

Some local governments also issued their own bonds for highway work. Proceeds from these bond sales were used either to supplement state funds or to build road projects for which state funds were not available.

In 1988, the General Assembly, with the support of Gov. Baliles, approved legislation that allowed private companies to build and operate for-profit toll roads. Companies must have their plans approved by state and local officials before building, and the toll structure must be approved by the State Corporation Commission. Private firms took the lead in other highway projects in Northern Virginia. The first 1.5-mile segment of one of Fairfax County’s most-needed roads was built by a developer in conjunction with construction of a major office park.

County, state, and federal funds were used to build other sections of the 35-mile Fairfax County Parkway. Another example of public and private sector cooperation was the financing of the improvements to Route 28 in Northern Virginia. The state sold bonds to widen and upgrade the heavily congested road near Dulles Airport, with the owners of commercial and industrial land in the area paying off the  bonds through a special property tax. This first special tax district was authorized by the General Assembly in 1987. Since then, similar tax districts have been permitted
in other areas of the state.

The transportation initiatives and increased funding since 1986 meant a doubling, and in some areas a tripling, of the highway construction program. That kind of expansion in a short time frame could have led to problems if steps to address them were not taken. There were two questions in particular that had to be answered: could the road-building industry absorb the additional work, especially without a jump in prices, and could VDOT manage such an expanded program?

The answer to both questions was “yes.” The COT 21 members had looked into the first, and Gov. Baliles and the legislature had taken steps to deal with the second. The cost of highway construction remained stable, in part because of the increased competition for the road-building dollars. The number of contractors interested in working on Virginia’s roads increased, as did the number who bid on the various construction projects.

The department took several steps to discourage and detect collusion while making sure bids and prices remained competitive in the expanded construction program. Among the steps was the creation of the nation’s first full-time, multi-person, antitrust unit in a state transportation agency.

When Gov. Baliles first proposed his transportation initiatives, he brought in a management expert, Ray D. Pethtel, to head the 11,000-employee agency. Pethtel, who previously had served as head of JLARC, instituted a series of changes within the agency to make it more efficient and effective.

The time it took to complete highway projects was cut 20 percent, and the job was being done with fewer people per dollars spent. Substantial authority was decentralized to field offices around the state. Training was given new emphasis, along with increased communication with employees, the general public, elected officials, construction contractors, design and engineering consultants, minority-owned businesses, and others.

Use of computers and other technology increased in areas from surveying to drafting.

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

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Automotive

4 things to do when buying a used vehicle

Published

on

If you’re buying a used vehicle, you want to ensure that you don’t get stuck with a dud. To make an informed purchase, follow these four steps.

1. Ensure that it isn’t stolen
Thieves will sometimes try to sell stolen cars, so it’s worth taking the following precautions:

• Make sure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the dashboard identification plate matches the number on the vehicle’s registration.
• Ask the seller for a piece of photo ID to ensure that the name on the ID matches the one on the registration.
• Ask to see the vehicle’s service records.

2. Thoroughly inspect it
When you examine the car, take your time. Here a are few things buyers sometimes forget to look for:

• Signs of a paint job. Recent body work may indicate an effort to cover up defects.
• Tire wear. Make sure the tires are in good shape and that the tread on them is evenly worn.
• A spare tire. Check that it’s in the trunk, along with a jack and wheel wrench.

3. Take it for a test drive
Make sure you feel safe in the vehicle and that you like the way it handles. You should also watch out for mechanical issues during the test drive. Check that the engine gages and warning lights are working and that the brakes feel firm.

4. Get a mechanic to inspect it
Hire a professional mechanic to perform an inspection before making your decision. They’ll be able to spot anything you missed and give you a detailed report.

If the seller already has an inspection report, verify that it’s from a reputable garage.

Remember, sellers won’t always divulge every known problem. By asking specific questions and conducting a thorough inspection, you can make an informed decision.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

King Cartoons

‘Tis the Season

video

Front Royal
33°
Rain
07:2216:51 EST
Feels like: 33°F
Wind: 0mph SSE
Humidity: 75%
Pressure: 30.36"Hg
UV index: 0
FriSatSun
38/36°F
50/39°F
46/33°F

Quotes

Upcoming Events

Dec
13
Fri
6:00 pm Holiday Open House @ Ruby Yoga
Holiday Open House @ Ruby Yoga
Dec 13 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Holiday Open House @ Ruby Yoga
Ruby Yoga will host a Holiday Open House Friday, Dec. 13. Doors open at 6 p.m. with free gentle yoga starting at 6:20, followed by refreshments and door prize drawings.
7:30 pm Canticum Novum: Sing a New Song @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
Canticum Novum: Sing a New Song @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
Dec 13 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Canticum Novum: Sing a New Song @ Front Royal Presbyterian Church
The Blue Ridge Singers presents its 2019 Christmas concert titled “Canticum Novum:  Sing a New Song” featuring some of the finest Christmas choral music across the centuries at one of the most popular events in[...]
Dec
14
Sat
11:00 am Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 14 @ 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Celebrate George Washington @ Samuels Public Library
December 14 is the 220th anniversary of George Washington’s death. Today we will learn more about this great leader of our country and celebrate his legacy. Refreshments will be served. For ages 7 to 18.[...]
11:00 am Saturday with Santa @ Warren County Community Center
Saturday with Santa @ Warren County Community Center
Dec 14 @ 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Saturday with Santa @ Warren County Community Center
Bring the kids and your camera for yummy snacks, crafts, and a picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus! All are welcome!
1:00 pm “Clara, Little Mouse & the Golde... @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
“Clara, Little Mouse & the Golde... @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Dec 14 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
"Clara, Little Mouse & the Golden Key" @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Join us for this original version of the timeless story ballet The Nutcracker Suite. Follow Clara and Little Mouse on a journey to find what the Golden Key unlocks… Christmas will never be the same[...]
Dec
15
Sun
4:00 pm R-MA Hosts Community Christmas C... @ Randolph-Macon Academy | Boggs Chapel
R-MA Hosts Community Christmas C... @ Randolph-Macon Academy | Boggs Chapel
Dec 15 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
R-MA Hosts Community Christmas Concert @ Randolph-Macon Academy | Boggs Chapel
The local community is invited to join the Randolph-Macon Academy family for an afternoon of holiday spirit with the R-MA Band and Chorus! The annual R-MA Christmas Concert will be held on Sunday, December 15th,[...]
Dec
17
Tue
4:30 pm Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 17 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Science Scouts and More @ Samuels Public Library
Tuesday, December 3: Kids will explore popular books and book series through science, games, food, and more! After reading a Christmas story, we’ll discuss giving and how it affects us and the people around us.[...]
7:30 pm Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA Campus
Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA Campus
Dec 17 @ 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel on the R-MA Campus
Christmas Concert | Presented by the American Legion Community Band Tuesday, December 17, 2019, at 7:30 pm Boggs Chapel on the R-MA campus in Front Royal, VA
Dec
18
Wed
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 18 @ 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, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.[...]
Dec
19
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Dec 19 @ 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, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.[...]