From Your Prince William Chamber 

January 2016

Chamber Advocate,

Happy New Year!

Next Wednesday, January 13, the 2016 Legislative Session begins in Richmond.  Thank you to all that have helped prepare the Chamber for this year's session.  This is truly a group effort and thanks to your participation we are in great shape.    

Thank you to all of the legislators that were able to attend our kick-off and help make the event a success.  We are looking forward to working with you over the next few months.   

On Tuesday, January 26, we will be hosting our annual "Day on the Hill" with our delegation.  This event provides a great day of legislative experiences to Prince William Chamber members.  We will meet with members of our local delegation to discuss legislation and our priorities.  For more information please see below!     
 
If you have any questions about legislation or are just generally interested in what is happening in Richmond, please get in touch with me by sending an email to BShaw@pwchamber.org.  


Prince William County Officials Take Oath of Office 

Written by: Prince William County 

Members of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, along with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Commonwealth Attorney and the Prince William County Sheriff took their oath of office at a ceremony Monday evening at the Hylton Performing Arts Center.

After the posting of colors by the Combined Public Safety Color Guard and the singing of the National anthem by Jennifer Decker, each of the elected officials in turn, surrounded by family, came forward on the stage to take their oath.

The nearly 400 people who attended the ceremony heard from Prince William Chairman Corey A. Stewart who congratulated and recognized - by name - each of the newly sworn officials. Stewart said the new board would be responsible for effectively governing a growing community. "All of our elected officers here at the local level won their reelection and I think that's indicative of the trust that you have place in all of us and the expectation that you have in us to do our jobs in leading this community."

Stewart said the county has seen lower crime rates, higher graduation rates and an increase in high paying jobs over the last four years, but said the board would need to live up to those high expectations. "We are a community on the move. We are a community that is prosperous, but four years from now you will all be judging us again ... and you're going to ask, 'What is it that we have accomplished?' We have to begin to lay out that vision."

In working together, Stewart said, the new board will meet the community's expectations by making the hard decisions, recognizing each other's strengths, appreciating differences and coming together for the benefit of county residents. "Let us be that great community, that great example. Let us embody effective and efficient government. Let us be the hallmark of local governments in every action that we take and then we will continue to be greater and greater."

Members of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors who were sworn in Monday along with Stewart include:
  • Jeanine Lawson, Brentsville District 
  • Martin E. Nohe, Coles District
  • Pete Candland, Gainesville District 
  • John D. Jenkins, Neabsco District.
  • Ruth Anderson, Occoquan District
  • Maureen S. Caddigan, Potomac District
  • Frank J. Principi, Woodbridge
Michéle McQuigg was sworn in as Clerk of the Circuit Court; Glendell Hill was sworn in as Prince William County Sheriff; Paul Ebert was sworn in as Commonwealth Attorney.


95 Express Lanes 
Not just 'Lexus Lanes' 

Written by: Jill Palermo, Prince William Today

New poll shows 73 percent of drivers have "positive impression" of the 95 Express Lanes

The Interstate 95 Express Lanes just married their first anniversary and the data is in: The high-occupancy toll lanes shorten most rush hour commutes, on average, by about 15 minutes.

That's according to data compiled by Transurban, the private Australia-based company that operates the lanes, as well as a survey of 1,700 area drivers conducted last September.

But among readers of InsideNoVa.com's Facebook page, the jury is still out. Some like reader Katie Cunningham, agree the I-95 Express Lanes have been a big help.

"Without them, my commute from Woodbridge to Rockville would be horrific," Cunningham wrote.  "With them, I can leave at a reasonable hour and be home at a reasonable time."

Others say tolls are too expensive - or fluctuate too unpredictably. Some also complain the lanes have made congestion worse in the "regular lanes" because they're now more crowded with drivers unwilling to pay. 

"There are fewer people in the [HOT] during the post-6 p.m. hours, which has made the jams worse," said reader Barry Drennan.

And there are those like Dumfries resident Kevin Taylor, who says the lanes are sometimes pricey but generally worth the money.

"As much as I use them, I really can't stand how expensive they are," Taylor wrote. "But I'd much rather get home earlier each day."

Sounds about right to Prince William County Supervisor Marty Nohe, R-Coles, who said residents remain split on the Express Lanes. Nohe chairs the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional transportation planning agency.

"The community is still divided, there's no question," Nohe said. "It's not unsurprising that there's still a lot of people who are frustrated."

Love 'em or hate 'em, the I-95 Express Lanes, which first opened to traffic in December 2014, are here to stay.

Just days before the first anniversary, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the lanes would be extended two miles south - to relieve congestion near their current terminus at Garrisonville Road in Stafford, the source of many complaints - and either miles north, through Arlington County, which also fiercely fought the Express Lanes project.

The state is also moving ahead with plans to add HOT lanes to Interstate 66 - both inside and outside the beltway. 

The new projects, which won;t open until 2018 at the earliest, are confirmation that state officials remain committed to public-private partnerships to build new toll lanes. 

But that;s not necessarily a bad thing, according to 73 percent of area drivers who told Transurban they have a "positive impression: of the I-95 Express Lanes.

The results are even better - 86 percent - for carpoolers and bus riders, who don't have to pay tolls to use the lanes, which are always free for vehicles with three or more passengers. 

Another finding: The so-called "Lexus lanes" are actually used by all kinds of drivers. According to Transurban, Express lane users most commonly drive Toyota's (21 percent), followed by Hondas (15 percent), and Fords (12 percent).

"If you want to be accurate, they're really Honda or Toyota lanes," said Mike McGurk, a Transurban spokesman. "This isn't just an option for those who make a lot of money."

According to Transurban, the I-95 Express Lanes host an average of 45,000 to 50,000 vehicle trips each weekday, about 35 to 40 percent of which are toll-free. Still, the lanes collect an average of about $207,000 in toll revenue each work day. 

The tolls go to Transurban as part of its 2012 contract with the state. Transurban made what VDOT calls "a substantial upfront equity commitment" and secured a U.S. Department of Transportation loan to build the lanes.

"The arrangement allowed Virginia to deliver a nearly $1 billion project for only $82 million," VDOT's website says. 

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large, strongly opposes planed tolling on I-66 inside the beltway. Still, he said the I-95 Express Lanes "are, by and large, an improvement."

"They give people the option to get into the HOT lanes when they need to het some place quick," he said.

Virginia's General Assembly 
Follow Online

Next Wednesday, January 13, the 2016 legislative session will convene in Richmond.  In 
order to stay involved with the policy making process here are several helpful links:

General Information 

Find your legislator
  
View Live Voting

Track Legislation

If you are wondering about the Chamber's position on specific legislation please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.   To view our 2016 policy priorities please click here. 

Save the Date
2016 Chamber Day - Tuesday, January 26 

On Tuesday, January 26, members of the Prince William Chamber will be making their annual  trek to Richmond to visit our local Delegates and State Senators.  

We host this trip each year to show our delegation that the business community is actively engaged in the policy making process and always have a great turnout from both the membership and elected officials.  

This is an all day event culminating with a cocktail reception and dinner with members of our state delegation.  For more information please visit the Chamber's events page.  There is no charge to attend during the day, however there is a cost to attend the dinner.  Please register soon!      
Get Involved

Join Our Next Policy Committee Meeting

 

The next policy committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 19 at 9:30am at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce Headquarters.  The committee typically meets for an hour. 

 
Since the legislative session will be underway in Richmond, we will be discussing the legislation we are following and the status of that legislation in the House and Senate.  

As a reminder, we are continuing to ask that members help to identify areas where we can work together and initiate change on various levels of government. If you are interested in participating please come prepared to address your issue and we will do our best to assist!

I hope you can join us for what is sure to be a productive meeting. 


 


   Director, Government Relations 


 

Special thanks to Advocacy Vision Partner