On Beltway, Drivers May Want Wallet
Panel Backs Plans for Toll Lanes Despite Concerns
A key panel of Virginia transportation officials recommended that the state enter into negotiations with a private firm to build toll lanes on a 13-mile stretch of the Capital Beltway, despite doubts from some panel members about the project's practicality.
The proposal would add two lanes on each side of the Beltway -- and separated from other traffic -- between Springfield and Georgetown Pike. The high-occupancy toll lanes -- or HOT lanes -- would be the first of their kind in the Washington region. Under the plan approved Thursday, the lanes would be free for carpools of three or more people, but others would pay to use them. Tolls would increase with the amount of traffic to keep the lanes from clogging.
U.S. Gives $500,000 to Fight Gangs
Officials Say N.Va. Problem Is Spreading Out
The growing gang problem in Northern Virginia is spreading to other parts of the state, migrating west into the Shenandoah Valley and south toward Charlottesville, officials said as they announced an infusion of $500,000 in federal money to fight it.
The money, secured from the Justice Department by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), will be used by a gang task force in Northern Virginia and one in the Shenandoah region. The local task force will use its $350,000 share to fund programs in schools.
The $150,000 for the Shenandoah task force will help fund an influx of federal agents and prosecutors, who are fighting increasing drug trafficking and firearms use by gang members, said John L. Brownlee, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke. He said gang members from the Washington area are attracted to other areas of Virginia, in part because the lower supply lets them sell drugs at a higher price.
Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run Charge
Fairfax Leader Says He Wasn't Aware of Collision
The chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was charged with a misdemeanor count of hit and run for leaving the scene of a May 14 accident in the Tysons Corner area, Fairfax police said.
Gerald E. Connolly (D), 54, said he was unaware that he had been in a collision when he drove away from International Drive and Route 123. But the other driver, identified by police as Lewis M. Pfister, 41, of Ashburn, jotted down the license plate of Connolly's 2003 Toyota Camry and called police.
Police estimated the damage to Connolly's car at $300 and the damage to Pfisters's vehicle at $200.
Setting Part of the Surplus Aside
Warner Wants to Put Money in Rainy-Day Fund
Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) said Virginia would deposit a sizable portion of its projected surplus in the state's rainy-day fund, a move he hopes will help the commonwealth keep its "excellent" credit rating.
Warner said 75 percent of the projected budget surplus -- which might top $300 million by June 30 -- could be deposited in the state's depleted reserve fund. That could boost fund levels to well above the expectations of state lawmakers, who had hoped to increase the fund to about $450 million by 2006, from its recent low of about $145 million.
By law, the state is required to return most of any surplus to its reserve fund, once revenue reaches a certain level, but Virginia won't know its revenue total until the end of the fiscal year, June 30.
Across the Region
Money Transmitter Raids; Rail Security Directive
* Federal agents have raided 17 money-transmitting businesses in the Washington area that allegedly sent millions of dollars abroad without obtaining licenses, part of a nationwide crackdown aimed at curbing the ability of terrorists to move cash. Authorities have seized $3.6 million in the local raids, which began after the USA Patriot Act took effect in October 2001, tightening regulations on money senders.
* The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued its first anti-terror directive for commuter rail and subway systems, calling for wide-ranging precautions, including checks of unattended bags, bombproof trash receptacles and explosive-sniffing dogs. Local rail operators, including Metro, MARC and Virginia Railway Express, said they believe they are substantially in compliance with the rules but can't be sure. The regulations go into effect today.