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Public will get chance to weigh in on VRE fare increase

February 20, 2012 12:10 am

FOR ALL of the Virginia Railway Express riders home for Presidents Day, here are a few leftover tidbits from last week's VRE board meeting that will have an impact on the train service's future.

First, a note on the planned 3 percent fare rate increase: Riders will get a chance to support (or, more likely, not) the spike as VRE plans to hold public hearings in each member jurisdiction, which includes Fredericksburg and Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.

Expect the dates for the hearings to be set in the next week or so.

Another item the board talked about was an improved fare-payment option.

With the recent cut in federal mass-transit subsidies, the debit cards many riders use as part of the program no longer cover the full monthly fare costs. The current system allows the use of only the voucher cards. VRE plans to upgrade its system so personal cards can be also be used.

Last but not least, VRE plans to hire a search firm--to the tune of $20,000 to $30,000--in its quest to find a replacement for CEO Dale Zehner, who will retire this summer.

On to the questions. This week we have two queries about U.S. 1 traffic signals in Fredericksburg.

Dear Scott: Hi, I'm writing to ask if someone can study and possibly adjust the traffic light at Idlewild Boulevard and U.S. 1 in the city.

Coming from the Idlewild subdivision, waiting at this light is at least a two-minute affair. If a few cars or a school bus are in front of me, then I know I won't make the light, and I will have another four minutes to wait to turn left onto U.S. 1 north.

I notice many cars make a right and then an illegal U-turn at the first spot on U.S. 1 south to get back to the northbound lanes.

I know two minutes doesn't sound like a long time, but it really is, especially when there is virtually no traffic on U.S. 1.

Could the timing be adjusted so cars waiting on Idlewild Boulevard don't have to wait quite so long?

And can the sensor be adjusted to actually allow the line of cars waiting to turn left onto U.S. 1 the time to do so?

At the moment, four cars can get through, and this number is cut down significantly if a school bus is in the mix.

--Janice Raspen, Fredericksburg

Dear Scott: I am writing concerning the timing of the light at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Cowan Boulevard.

I work at Mary Washington Hospital, and turn toward the hospital from U.S. 1 north, taking the left on Cowan Boulevard.

It seems to me that the light used to be timed, or synchronized, with traffic. If I came to the light and there was no southbound traffic on U.S. 1, the light would let the Cowan traffic go briefly, then the left-turning traffic from U.S. 1 north would go in short order.

For the past several weeks, I have been waiting interminably for the light to cycle itself, and the left-turning traffic waits quite a while, even with no southbound U.S. 1 traffic on the way.

The hospital has a strict attendance policy. Would you check on this for me?

--Mary Hodge, Woodford

According to Shawn Beavon, the city's deputy superintendent of traffic, Fredericksburg signals on U.S. 1 work on four coordinated timing plans based on the time and day of the week.

Beavon said he is checking into the timing plans for the signals in question, and, if needed, will adjust the lights.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436
Email: sshenk@freelancestar.com





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