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September 1, 2016

Opponents pack Markham truck rest area meeting

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
About 100 people attended VDOT’s meeting about the Markham truck rest area Wednesday night at the Marshall Community Center.
“It’s totally a safety issue,” says Chris Marshall, who has 10 milk tankers. “We need to get the trucks off the shoulders and ramps.”
Marshall District Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel talks with rest area opponent Tom Peterson, whose family owns 45 acres and a home near the site.
We’re not against truck rest areas. We’re opposed to this particular one.
— Lori Keenan McGuinness, Goose Greek Association co-chairperson
Public Meeting
• Topic: Virginia Department of Transportation plan to open “safety truck rest area” on westbound Interstate 66 near Markham.

• When: 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31.

• Where: Marshall Community Center.

• Turnout: About 100 people

• Details: Planned rest area to include 22 parking spaces, 27 light posts, 1 dumpster, 3 to 4 portable toilets, several trash cans and fencing; stated-owned site totals about 30 acres; about five acres would be dedicated to the use.

• Project website: Click here.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
They fear the planned “truck rest area” on the westbound Interstate 66 near Markham could do irreparable environmental, scenic and wildlife damage.

Opponents specifically voiced concerns about truck noise, fumes and lighting.

About 100 people turned out Wednesday for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s public information meeting on the proposal. The open house-style meeting took place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Marshall Community Center.

The proposed truck rest area would provide 22 parking spaces for tractor-trailers to help address a statewide deficiency of truck parking, according to VDOT.

The 2015 Virginia Truck Parking Study (at bottom of story) identified the need for more than 500 spaces on the I-66 corridor for truckers during their required safety breaks. Without a dedicated rest area, truckers stop along road shoulders and interstate ramps, which more quickly wears out pavement and causes safety and line-of-sight concerns for other motorists, according to VDOT.
 
The state agency plans to spend an estimated $800,000 to develop the truck rest area on land it owns about two miles west of Markham. The rest area would use about five of the 30 acres the state owns.

Thomas D. Peterson, a Fairfax resident whose family owns a home nearby, has played a key role in organizing opposition to the project. The Petersons have about 45 acres just west of the site on Belle Meade Road.

Mr. Peterson argues the project would be incompatible with surrounding rural zoning and Fauquier’s comprehensive plan vision for the area.

“This is a dramatic change over its current use,” he said. “This whole area is beautiful and scenic.”

He also considers the rest area unnecessary.

Despite findings of the state’s truck parking study, Mr. Peterson said his research shows that underused truck parking at the Opal Truck Stop on Route 29 and parking areas near Strasburg.

“Why aren’t we encouraging truckers to use those spots right now?” he said.

Mr. Peterson wants VDOT to explore alternatives to the Markham site.

For example, he believes VDOT should develop a “real time” system to identify unused truck parking spaces. Such a system would allow truckers to reserve spaces as needed to accommodate their travels schedules.

Mr. Peterson also believes maintenance money set aside for the project could be spent more wisely, especially given the state’s projected $1.5 billion budget shortfall.

As of Wednesday night, Mr. Peterson said he had collected 102 signatures of opponents.

Katherine “Butter” Strother, who lives near The Plains, worries about the effects the proposed rest area lights would have on “dark skies.”

The project calls for 27 poles, with down-shielded fixtures. They would stand 40 feet tall.

“There is a big stand of trees (on the site), which is nice,” VDOT Safety Rest Area Program Manager Martin Krebs told Ms. Strother. “It’ll absorb all the light.”

“Will you keep the trees?” Ms. Strother asked.

“I’m not taking down any trees,” Mr. Krebs assured her.

He said the site also would have a dumpster, three or four portable toilets and several trash cans.

A contractor would maintain the unmanned site daily and VDOT employees would visit it, Mr. Krebs said.

“I’m open to” the proposed rest area, Ms. Strother said in an interview. “I used to haul for hire. I used to drive a horse trailer. I know what it’s like not to have a place to pull off for safety.”

The Goose Greek Association objects to the rest area because it would be incompatible with the area’s historic character.

The site also includes floodplain and an unnamed stream that feeds Goose Creek.

The association, which had an information table outside the community center, wants Fauquier County to study area aquifers “before committing” to the project.

“We’re not against truck rest areas,” Goose Greek Association Co-Chairperson Lori Keenan McGuinness said. “We’re opposed to this particular one.”

The nonprofit group works to preserve Fauquier and Loudoun’s “rural quality of life.”

“I’m really an environmentalist,” opponent Nicky Perry of Upperville said. “We are concerned it is going to go into an area that is mostly still considered greenish. I’m concerned about the lights and bears coming into (VDOT’s) garbage cans. I’m just concerned what it’s going to do to the wildlife.”

Chris Marshall, who owns a milk-hauling company in Orange County, supports the project.

“It’s totally a safety issue,” said Mr. Marshall, who has 10 tankers. “We need to get the trucks off the shoulders and ramps.”

Especially at night, drivers can accidently rear-end trucks parked in such areas, he said.

His company on Tuesday night drove two truckloads of milk from Spotsylvania and Madison counties to Winston-Salem, N.C.

“After midnight, there’s trucks parked everywhere,” Mr. Marshall said. “There’s not enough (rest area parking) for these trucks.”

He called the Markham truck rest area “a beginning” toward solving that problem.

“We have a severe shortage of truck parking areas,” across the country, Virginia Trucking Association President P. Dale Bennett said.

Truckers must comply with strict government regulations that limit the number of hours they can drive per day and mandate rest periods.

“To do that, you have to have a safe, secure place to park,” Mr. Bennett said.

County Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall District), who attended the meeting, remains undecided over the project.

“I want to see how it plays out,” said Mrs. McDaniel, whose district includes the site. “There are a lot of questions” about crime, trash, noise and environmental and visual effects. “There is concern that this is not the solution; there might be a better solution.”

The Marshall District supervisor said most of the 40 to 50 people who contacted her oppose the plan.

“I had a couple of people who are probably neutral,” Mrs. McDaniel said.

VDOT “probably” will ask the supervisors to adopt a resolution supporting the proposal, she said.

At-Large Commonwealth Transportation Board Member E. Scott Kasprowicz so far has taken no stance on the project.

“I’m here to gather information,” said Mr. Kasprowicz, whom Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) appointed to the board two years ago. “If we’re going to spend” about $800,000 to open the truck rest area, “I want to make sure we get maximum public benefit.”

The Middleburg resident and commercial Realtor said he has gotten more than 30 phone calls about the proposal – “more than on any issue in the last year, which is why I’m here.”

All of the callers oppose the project, Mr. Kasprowicz said.

While the state’s decision will not be based on “a popularity contest,” he said, “public sentiment is certainly part of the process.”

Based on citizen comments, VDOT will prepare a report, Warrenton Residency Engineer Mark Nesbit said.

Mr. Nesbit couldn’t predict when the report will be completed.


Markham rest area history murky

The Virginia Department of Transportation in the late 1970s finished site work for a full-service rest area on the west side of Interstate 66 near Markham.

Workers constructed turn lanes, an entrance, an exit and a paved parking area.

But, for reasons VDOT officials can’t explain, the state never completed the project, which would have served passenger vehicles and trucks.

The property appears to contain a large floodplain area, making it impossible to install a drainfield to handle wastewater.

Lack of sewerage and perhaps local opposition could explain why VDOT abandoned the project, Warrenton Residency Engineer Mark Nesbit said.

“It could be a little bit of both,” Mr. Nesbit said. “We haven’t been able to obtain official records.”

“I’m sure people retired from VDOT know,” Culpeper District Engineer John D. Lynch Jr. said. “We’re still looking.”

VDOT’s new plan for the rest area would serve primarily tractor-trailers. It would include 22 parking spaces, 27 light poles, three or four portable toilets, a dumpster and several trash cans.

VDOT estimates it will cost $800,000 to open the rest area.

Light poles could cost $500,000 and fencing $100,000, Engineering Associate Ben Davison said.

About three acres of pavement needs sealing and patch work, Mr. Davison said.

But, “I think the site, overall, is in good condition,” he added. “The paving, for its age, is in good condition.”

VDOT has three undeveloped truck rest areas similar to the one proposed at Markham — two in Louisa County and one in Alleghany County.

The department maintains 43 rest areas across the state, Safety Rest Area Program Manager Martin Krebs said.

For more information, click here.

VirginiaTruckParkingStudy_FinalReport_July2015 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Laura Greenleaf · September 7, 2016 at 9:03 pm
TWENTY-SEVEN high mast lights? And we know VDOT is planning for high-glare 4,000K LEDs. This past weekend, returning to Richmond from the Charlottesville area on I-64 East, I saw piercing,unidentifiable sources of glare far in the distance. Oddly spaced stadium lights? Some kind of tower? No, it was 'ordinary' LED streetlights on the overpass and surrounding area of Zion Crossroads. That was just a few lights visible from the highway, not 27.

Only by using lights below 3,000K, at the lowest end of recommended illumination levels (the directionality of LEDs results in increased brightness), with adequate shielding, properly located and positioned, and ideally with adaptive controls so that they are only in use when needed will VDOT mitigate an explosion of light pollution for western Fauquier. LED lighting is nothing like previous generations of lighting and has to be handled differently. If this project goes forward, VDOT MUST provide a mock-up of any light it intends to use prior to full installation and engage nearby residents in evaluating impact.
BJ · September 2, 2016 at 11:07 am
Jim Featherstone - well written sir! Why is it everyone is concerned about "their" bottom line, not the safety of the truck drivers and other drivers on the road? Pool your money and buy the site then if you are so concerned for so many reasons. VDOT has every right to use all of the land, which is 30 acres, yet they are asking for 5 acres.
happydays · September 2, 2016 at 10:28 am
I find it funny that VDOT workers will maintain it daily. It has been a year trying to get some decent work done at Rts 638 and 726 and it still isn't done correctly.
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