Monday, May 2, 2011

Random Death

Today at Brandy Station: May 2, 1864

The Army of the Potomac was consolidating it's forces in and around Brandy Station and Culpeper. The Fifth Corps, which had been guarding the Orange & Alexandria Railroad between the Rappahannock River and the Bull Run were marching along the railroad into Culpeper. Some regiments were fortunate enough to grab a ride on a train that was heading south. Such was the case of the 91st Pennsylvania.

Camped in the vicinity of Warrenton Junction (today's Calverton), the regiment moved down the line to Brandy Station. All did not complete the journey.

Benjamin Redheffer of company A, was in of one of the cars, and while the train was crossing the Rappahannock, one of his feet, which was dangling over the side of the car, hit part of the truss that crossed the bridge. He was quickly pulled out of the car and killed. Gone in an instant.

It is not like combat, when instant, random death can be explained. But literally one second sitting in a boxcar, and the next...

Over 1100 Union soldiers died in and around the Winter Encampments, Private Redheffer is just one of the more tragic, preventable deaths that occurred.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

No surprise - VDOT Pushes to Widen Route 3 through Stevensburg

Today at Stevensburg: May 1, 2011
In Today's Culpeper Star Exponent

It is no surprise that VDOT has chosen to widen Route 3 along its existing path. This is the 'option' the agency has pushed from the beginning. The other option, known as Plan B, was in reality their initial intention in the 1990's, but were unable to execute that plan due to money allocations and the Federal Highway Transportation Act of 1966, which stipulates that "the Federal Highway Administration and other agencies cannot approve the use of land from publicly owned parks, recreational areas, wildlife areas or public and private historical sites unless there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to its use." In other words - Plan B was never a plan to begin with.

An alternative proposed by grass root Stevensburg residents, historical preservationists and other safety minded individuals was to leave the road two lanes through Stevensburg and the Hansbourgh Ridge area, and most importantly, reduce the speed limit -and enforce that speed. A similar option has been very successful on Route 50 in Middleburg.

The current two lane are not the cause of accidents along this stretch of Route 3; it is excessive speed, inattention and animal strikes. Adding two more lanes will not mitigate these problems.

Portions of the CSE article are below:

Route 3: VDOT recommends Plan A
By Nate Delesline
Citing a negative impact to historically sensitive areas that would be difficult to mitigate, the Virginia Department of Transportation last week recommended the Commonwealth Transportation Board approve a plan that would widen Route 3 along its existing track through Stevensburg.

An alternative, Plan B, would reroute the highway to the north of the village. The bypass option would cost an estimated $35 million; the first option would cost nearly $39 million.

Explanation and background
In a four-page memo, VDOT Culpeper District planning engineer Brent Sprinkel says because the project will utilize federal money, it is subject to the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. The act includes a provision which stipulates that the Federal Highway Administration and other agencies cannot approve the use of land from publicly owned parks, recreational areas, wildlife areas or public and private historical sites unless there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to its use.

VDOT’s recommendation now heads to the CTB, which is set to meet May 18 in Richmond.
On the books since the early 1990s, the five-mile stretch of Route 3 between Stevensburg and Lignum is the only remaining two-lane section of highway between Culpeper and Fredericksburg.

Those in support of the bypass option say a new alignment for the highway makes the most sense. They also say it would allow Stevensburg to retain its rural character and pose less disruption to families, but at the expense of the integrity of historic areas.

Conversely, those opposed to widening the existing highway say doing so would ruin the character of the village and put a stream of steady, high-speed traffic right through their front yards. Some have also expressed concern about Plan A’s design saying that narrowed shoulders, shorter turn lanes and fewer crossovers would actually create a more hazardous situation.
Additionally, Plan A would displace three families while Plan B would displace two families. No businesses or non-profit organizations would be directly affected under either option.
Public favors bypass plan

VDOT’s recommendation contrasts the sentiment of public comments collected over several weeks following the presentation of both plans at a March 23 hearing.

Plan B got the most support with 38 people expressing support for that option. Eighteen people supported Plan A.

At the conclusion of the public comment period on April 14, VDOT had received 72 comment sheets, 27 emails, 13 letters and 53 form letters; 19 from previous respondents and 34 from new respondents. VDOT extended the comment period due to a printing error on some forms that omitted part of VDOT’s mailing address; the agency acknowledged the mistake and encouraged those affected to resubmit their comments.

In addition, 66 people signed in at the March 23 hearing and 19 oral comments were received.
Eleven people supported the highway project with modifications and 10 did not support the project at all while 41 people expressed support for the widening project.