Maniacs. Image credit: Washington Post
Virginia has the third highest rate of fatal crashes in which someone was driving faster than the speed limit or too fast for road conditions, according to personal injury law firm Heninger Garrison Davis in an analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data.
Virginia recorded 906 fatal crashes; speed figured as a factor in 240. The speeding rate of 26.5% is more than 50% higher than the national average. The press release did not specify the year these figures are based upon, but a web search reveals that the most recent NHTSA crash data comes from 2020.
I blame out-of-state drivers on Interstate-95. — JAB
by Bill O’Keefe
The Virginia General Assembly, as a result of past Democrat control, has mandated through the Clean Economy Act and a 2021 law a low-emission and zero-emission motor vehicle program for model year 2025 and beyond. In the process it has demonstrated the folly of using technology to force through large subsidies, as well as the arrogance of legislators who believe they know more than consumers and providers.
It is becoming ever clearer that these mandates are based on wishful thinking and a failure to understand innovation technology, the importance of cost, and the sources of global emissions. Back in 1980, President Carter and Congress established the Synfuels Corporation to develop alternatives to oil. Its initial funding was $20 billion, but fortunately it wasted only $960 million while making OPEC stronger. The history of government attempting to pick winners because it is smarter than the private sector is littered with failed efforts. But politicians never learn. Continue reading
(This was first published today by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy)
by Barbara Hollingsworth
Members of the General Assembly who voted for a bill in 2021 mandating that new vehicles sold in Virginia must be all-electric by 2035 forgot to do the math to show exactly how that would work in real life.
As the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy noted in February when we unsuccessfully made the case for repeal of this ill-advised legislation, the Commonwealth simply does not have the technological capacity to make such a massive switch from internal combustion engines in such a short period of time.
Replacing the energy stored in one pound of oil takes 15 pounds of lithium battery. To mine the materials found in the typical 1,000 pound car battery will mean mining and processing about 250 tons of rock and dirt.
Nobody told Virginians that the level of subsurface mining required to manufacture the millions of new batteries required to store electricity generated by wind, solar and other “renewable” energy sources will dwarf current production levels, scarring the earth.
Consider our planet — including Virginia, which has deposits of copper, manganese and zinc — pockmarked with ten times the current number of mines, resembling craters on the moon. This in a state that won’t even allow an underground natural gas pipeline to be built. Continue reading
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
State law exempts from registration fees trucks, trailers, and other motor vehicles, used solely for farm purposes either on highways near a farmer’s land or for hauling farm products to market (see here and here). This is one of the most abused Code provisions.
The picture above was taken in my neighborhood. Take my word for it: there are no farms anywhere close.
This picture was taken on one of the main streets in Richmond or Henrico (I forget which). Unless the driver of that truck was taking a sofa that he had grown on his farm to market to sell it, he was violating the law. Violation of the statutes is a traffic infraction and punishable by a fine up to $250.
Until 2022, law enforcement officers were authorized to require drivers of vehicles claiming this exemption to provide the address of the lands owned or leased by the vehicle’s owner and used for agricultural purposes and the address of the vehicle’s owner. I doubt that happened often.
Beginning July 1 of this year, persons wishing to operate farm vehicles without regular license tags must attach an official placard provided by DMV to the vehicle. To obtain the placard, the owner of the vehicle must file an application with DMV identifying the farm and the commodities that will be transported on the exempt vehicle along with a statement that the vehicle will be used only for the exempt purposes set out in law.
If this requirement is enforced, there should be fewer “farm use” vehicles seen in urban areas.
Add the retail tax and storage tank fee in the first table to the wholesale tax in the second table to get the total tax per gallon. Click for larger view.
by Steve Haner
Virginia motor fuel taxes will rise again July 1, to just over 39 cents per gallon on gasoline and just over 40 cents per gallon on diesel. This will be the second automatic increase in gas taxes since the 2020 General Assembly voted to index the gas tax to inflation. Continue reading
by Jon Baliles
There was a lot of talk and coverage this week about the City of Richmond’s Planning Commission unanimously approving the removal of parking minimums citywide with the full City Council expected to take the matter up at its meeting Monday night.
The ordinance as written would allow developers to decide how much parking to include in new developments anywhere in the city — or if they need to include any parking at all to serve the development. For decades, the city-required developments to also provide a certain number of off-street parking spaces based on the size of development, the number of dwelling units, type of use, or total floor area.
The end goal is to allow developers to determine how much parking to provide in their developments and if they don’t have to provide expensive parking, they will then increase the supply of needed housing units. The city recently declared a “housing crisis,” and the need for more housing across the entire region is urgent. The proposal is one of the recommendations from the Richmond 300 master plan, which is in favor of less “auto-centric” zoning and more in favor of denser and more walkable mixed-use neighborhoods.
by Kerry Dougherty
When the first Something in the Water Festival came to Virginia Beach in 2019, some lemon-sucking locals balked at allowing school buses to be used to transport revelers from satellite parking to the resort area.
How will bus drivers be able to drive festival goers until 11 p.m. on Sunday and be rested enough by Monday morning to safely transport kids, they fretted.
As if bus drivers were toddlers who need 10 hours of sleep.
What if the festival goers leave their drugs or guns on the buses and the kids find them on Monday morning? whispered others.
Puh-leez. Continue reading
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Friday afternoon I visited the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport, officially known as National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. It has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. If you haven’t been, I heartily recommend it.
As with anything the Smithsonian does, the number of objects on display is astounding. There are cavernous halls with planes and other aviation-related displays laid out all over the place—big planes, little planes, planes from the early 1900’s, modern planes, Nazi war planes, a Soviet MIG, satellites, a space shuttle. In addition, there are almost as many planes suspended from the very high ceiling. All of this can be viewed from three levels.
For someone who is not an aviation aficionado, all these items tend to blend together fairly quickly. It is almost impossible to take it all in in one day. It is best to take small bites, which is what I plan to do. I come to Northern Virginia frequently to visit my daughter and her family, so I can do that. (Admission is free, but there is a $15 parking fee.) If one can’t go back easily, but can devote most of one day to the facility, I recommend choosing a sunny day and take some lunch. After spending a couple of hours or so in the facility, go outside, eat your lunch, and then go back in, with your mind somewhat rested from all the stimulation. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
Gosh. It isn’t often the local newspaper provides two examples of “shiny object stupidity” in one week.
But The Virginian-Pilot delivered.
On Wednesday the newspaper quietly reported on the absolute demise of the failed maglev system at Old Dominion University. That’s magnetic levitation technology for those of you who weren’t around here to experience Shiny Object Fever in the late 1990s that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
The promise of maglev was that beginning in 2002 students would zip around campus on this raised train using futuristic technology. Problem is, it never worked. The rails were sold for scrap years ago and according to a report in The Pilot, the rest of the structure is being demolished without ever transporting a single student.
The thing the reporter failed to mention in her brief story is that the developer borrowed $7 million from the commonwealth — that’s you and me — to build this monument to snake oil. As best I can tell, the loan has not been repaid.
It could have been worse. In 1999, Virginia Beach City Council came close to spending between $20 and $30 million on a maglev line along the oceanfront. Continue reading
Courtesy Norfolk Southern
by James C. Sherlock
After the Ohio disaster, it is timely to review rail safety in Virginia.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation is the federal rail safety regulator in cooperation with state authorities.
FRA’s Office of Railroad Safety employs 400 railway inspectors. Federal safety management teams are organized by railroad or type of railroad.
The FRA summary of State rail safety participation states:
state programs emphasize planned, routine compliance inspections; however, States may undertake additional investigative and surveillance activities consistent with overall program needs and individual State capabilities.
FRA both conducts and pays for training of state inspectors.
Code of Federal Regulations 49 CFR Part 212 provides state rail safety participation regulations.
Railroad Regulation represents one of the original areas of responsibility assigned to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) when it was created by the Virginia Constitution of 1902.
Virginia statutory authority is found in Code of Virginia Title 56 Chapter 13.
Virginia today has two Class I (major) railroads (Norfolk Southern and CSXT), nine Class II (short line) railroads, and more than 6,700 miles of track. Continue reading
From Virginia Coal, An Abridged History.
by James C. Sherlock
When we talk of coal today, which is seldom, it is usually not treated well.
It is easy to forget (if some even know) that coal powered the industrial revolution, made America the richest nation in the world and fueled American war production that supported allied victories in both world wars in the 20th century.
Coal powered nearly everything starting in the early part of the 19th century. Power plants, trains, ships, and virtually anything else powered by steam used coal to boil the water.
The iron and then steel-making process depended then, and still does, on coking coal.
Coal — and the co-dependent railroads — played big roles in Virginia history.
I strongly recommend to you Virginia Coal, An Abridged History. It was published in 1990 by the Virginia Center for Coal & Energy Research at Virginia Tech.
EV charging station, Henrico WalMart
WEAPONS AT AIRPORTS
It has long amazed and puzzled me that people think they can get away with taking guns and other weapons onto airplane flights. On Monday, a woman was caught at the Richmond airport with a loaded .380 caliber handgun in her carry-on bag. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports that, as of Nov. 13, 18 guns had been caught at Richmond International Airport checkpoints. Nationally, TSA intercepted nearly 6,000 firearms at airports last year, the most on record.
One of the more inventive methods of trying to smuggle a weapon onto a flight at Richmond was the recent attempt by a Williamsburg man with a double-bladed knife hidden in the interior of his laptop computer. After X-ray machines detected the knife, TSA personnel used special tools to disassemble the computer to get the knife. The owner of the laptop initially had the standard explanation: he had no idea that there was a knife hidden inside his computer.
LONG-TERM DREAM REALIZED
Opening day on the Silver Line Extension. Photo credit: Washington Post
After many, many years of delays and hundreds of millions in cost overruns, Dulles Airport and eastern Loudon County are finally connected to downtown D.C. via Metro. The Silver Line Extension opened with much fanfare. Officials expect that, in addition to residential and business development along the line, the direct connection between the airport and downtown will result in additional airport passenger traffic at Dulles.
Washington Post reporters tested the line and determined that it took about the same time to drive from downtown to the airport as it would take using Metro. However, using Metro was considerably cheaper than driving, especially if one assumed a three-day stay in the parking garage, and it was more than $100 cheaper than using Uber.
A news release from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission touts the the fact that it’s Commuter Choice transit program, funded by tolls on the Interstate 66, Interstate 94 and Interstate 395 corridors, has eliminated 3.5 million single-occupancy vehicle trips over five years.
Wow, 3.5 million trips sounds significant. But, wait. That’s only 700,000 trips per year, and 1,920 trips per day on average over the five-year period. (NVTC says it now moves 4,000 people each weekday.) The number of daily car trips taken by Northern Virginians runs in the millions.
How much did Commuter Choice cost? Oh, yes, $92.7 million. That amounts to a cost of about $26.50 per trip saved over five years.
Is that a productive use of resources? I don’t know. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
Some would say it’s not fair to compare the rapid repairs to a hurricane-damaged bridge in Florida to the desultory progress of the Laskin Road bridge project in Virginia Beach.
I don’t care.
For those of us getting our cars realigned every few months and learning to zigzag as we attempt to navigate the moonscape that Laskin Road has been for three years – with no end in sight – it was impossible not to marvel at the miracle in Florida.
And pine for Pine Island.
Let’s back up.
When Hurricane Ian unexpectedly slammed Into Lee County on the Gulf Coast, the largely rural Pine Island communities saw their only bridge to the mainland buckle. It appeared that the several thousand permanent residents of the coral island would be marooned for some time.
But then this happened: