PHOTO: VRE

In theory, new technology should make life easier, but the transition often proves painful.

Virginia Railway Express riders have experienced this recently, as new and expensive safety technology for the trains has contributed to a spike in delays recently.

VRE sent out a notice last week alerting riders to issues during the past few weeks that resulted in “less than desirable” service.

One key issue is the recent “rollout” of trains with positive train control, a federally mandated safety upgrade on all trains.

The commuter rail service’s first train with PTC hit the Fredericksburg line rails on Feb. 14, with others following throughout March. By Thursday, all VRE trains were running with PTC.

Spokeswoman Karen Finucan Clarkson said in an email that not all delays resulted from the PTC transition and that it “is difficult to determine” how many delays were caused by it.

Other equipment issues and rail congestion are other common causes for VRE train delays.

She said service should improve as crews familiarize themselves with the new technology.

“While VRE remains committed to ensuring both the safety and reliability of its service, there may be times when safety trumps reliability,” she said in an email.

Doug Allen, the commuter line’s CEO, emphasized the safety impacts of the transition, which will cost VRE an estimated $15 million.

“Safety is always our top priority at VRE,” Allen said in a release. “The implementation of PTC takes system safety to the next level and continues our commitment to providing the safest environment for riders, railroad workers and the general public.”

U.S. 1 mobile work zone

Travelers of U.S. 1 in Caroline, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties might want to keep an eye out for mobile work crews over the next two weeks.

These “slow-moving” crews will be installing “centerline rumble strips” and giving pavement markings a makeover from the Hanover County line to the Prince William County line, according to VDOT.

The work will start Monday in Caroline with mobile crews making their way north. The work zones will include single-lane closures on the southbound side of the highway.

The work will be done from 7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Overnight closures set for Wilderness intersection

Work on the intersection at State Routes 3 and 20, just across the Spotsylvania border in Orange County, will lead to a closure of the crossover.

Both left lanes on Route 3 at the intersection will be closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday and Tuesday, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

VDOT suggests drivers use nearby median crossovers to make U-turns in order to get to Route 20.

The closure will allow crews to install a pipe.

The intersection improvements include “offsetting the left-turn lanes in both directions along with traffic signal upgrades” in an effort to improve traffic flow on Route 3, according to a VDOT release.

The project is expected to be completed by late May.

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Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436 sshenk@freelancestar.com

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