Today’s Va Homeowners Alliance posts November 30, 2009

  • Loudoun Drivers Still Struggle with New Roundabouts

    Some drivers in Loudoun are still struggling to correctly navigate four new traffic circles, according to the Washington Post.

    The new traffic cirlces are designed to slow traffic, but to keep it moving. Unlike traffic lights, traffic moves at a steady pace instead of backing up.

    VDOT will install new, and larger yield signs to help drivers correctly, and safely use the traffic circles.

    “Two months after four roundabouts opened to traffic, some drivers still don’t understand how to maneuver through the new traffic pattern at routes 50 and 15 at Gilberts Corner, the latest attempt to ease worsening congestion on Washington’s periphery.

    ‘Even though we have two signs at every entrance and the big, six-foot-tall word ‘YIELD’ hanging on the pavement, people sometimes still fail to yield,’ said Kenny Robinson, who managed the project for the Virginia Department of Transportation. ‘So we’re going to put in bigger yield signs.’

    Still, he says, it’s only a matter of time before people learn. So ubiquitous are roundabouts in Europe, supporters say, that some don’t need yield signs at all.

    So while many locals adopt a wait-and-see approach to the new traffic-calming measures, VDOT has begun touting the $15.8 million project as a cost-effective solution for a major choke point in southern Loudoun County and a possible model for future projects, saying the circles mitigate long backups that have been the norm during rush hour.

    Officials will make these points at a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Monday at the historic Mount Zion Church in Aldie.

    Federal earmarks helped pay for the project, on the idea that it could serve as a pilot for how roundabouts work in rural-turned-exurban areas. Many residents, who have sought solutions for the mess on Route 50 since the mid-1990s, opposed large bypasses or flyovers, saying that they would detract from the area’s rural charm. Environmentalists and smart-growth advocates assisted them.

    The idea is that traffic operates on a wave theory. A stoplight backs up traffic; roundabouts eliminate left turns and improve sightlines. Cars move more slowly, but the overall pace quickens.”

    Read the full story.


  • VA Restaurants Brace for Smoking Ban

    The new anti-smoking law goes into effect tomorrow in Virginia restaurants, according to the Washington Times.

    Restaurants across the state are responding in various ways. Some opted to ban smoking earlier this year, and others have smokers enjoy a private room closed-off from the rest of the restaurant.

    This is a concern for all homeowners who dine out because it will change your dining experience. But, also, it is important to see how this ban affects restaurants and their revenue because they are contributors to the local tax base, affect the local economy and play a major factor in tourism.

    “The bluish haze that has hung over the Third Street Diner’s bar and booths for decades finally lifts Tuesday as a new anti-smoking law takes hold in Virginia, a huge shift for a state whose tobacco habit dates to the Jamestown settlement almost 400 years ago.

    Virginia will join dozens of other states that ban smoking in restaurants. Restaurants in Virginia will be allowed to have a smoking area only if they segregate smokers into rooms with ventilation systems separate from those that heat and cool nonsmoking patrons.

    For most of its history dating to Colonial times, tobacco was Virginia’s premier crop and economic staple. Frescoes of the golden-brown leaf adorn the ceiling of the Capitol rotunda, a short cab ride from the massive factory that supplies the world with Marlboros.

    Yet this year, strict new curbs on lighting up where food and drink are sold were enacted by lawmakers in Richmond and in Raleigh, N.C. – major tobacco states where cigarette giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have been accustomed to getting their way.

    North Carolina’s law takes effect Jan. 2 and will allow smoking on outdoor patios and in private membership clubs, as does Virginia’s law. Unlike Virginia, North Carolina law will not allow any smoking in restaurants.

    Virginia restaurant industry lobbyist Tom Lisk expects only about 10 percent of the state’s restaurants to retain smoking areas.

    ‘A number of them, because of that requirement in the law to create or construct a separate room, don’t have the wherewithal to do it, so they’re just banning smoking altogether,’ said Mr. Lisk, who last winter opposed the bill.

    Some, like Williamsburg blues and jazz nightspot owner Randall Plaxa, decided to go smoke-free well ahead of the deadline.

    Others, like the Third Street Diner and the Beatles-themed Penny Lane Pub two blocks away in downtown Richmond, will move their puffing patrons into upstairs quarters that already comply with the law.”

    Read the full story.

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