Friday, January 9, 2009


Amtrak prepares for Obama gawkers

When Barack Obama travels by train to Washington for the inauguration, throngs of well-wishers are expected to line the tracks in hopes of seeing the president-elect.

The 137-mile route from Philadelphia to the nation’s capital will be secured by thousands of officers from about 40 jurisdictions that the train passes through, Amtrak said Thursday.

Crowds are expected to gather at hundreds of points along the way — especially at overpasses, parking lots and commuter train stations, officials said.

Amtrak isn’t estimating how many people will line the tracks, though officials are using the 1968 funeral procession of Robert F. Kennedy as a guide. By some estimates, more than 1 million people lined the tracks from New York to Washington to pay their respects to the senator.


Metro increases inauguration security

The Metro transit system says more than 100 police officers from 14 transit agencies will help with security during the inauguration.

They will be joined by federal law enforcement and local police departments to help oversee the bus and rail system, which is bracing for record ridership.

Several hundred volunteers also will assist customers who are unfamiliar with Metro. They will hand out maps and help customers with fare machines.

Metro continues to warn passengers of packed railcars and long lines. General Manager John Catoe is comparing the crush to “the Fourth of July several times over.”

To help alleviate crowding on trains, Metro will run 22 dedicated bus routes to downtown along major corridors in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Worker is killed after backhoe falls

A construction worker has died after the machine he was operating fell from a building that was being renovated.

The worker was operating a miniature backhoe on the eighth floor of a nine-story building at North Capitol and K streets, a fire department spokesman said. About 12:45 p.m. Thursday, the machine rolled out of the side of the building and plunged about 80 feet while the worker was trapped inside.

No other injuries were reported, and the incident is being investigated by D.C. police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.



Dozen injured in I-270 pileup

Twelve people were sent to three area hospitals after a multivehicle pileup before dawn near the Interstate 270 split heading toward Democracy Boulevard, Montgomery County authorities said.

The crash occurred shortly before 6 a.m. in the southbound lanes used by high- occupancy vehicles, fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said. Eight to 10 vehicles were involved.

Two of those injured were in serious condition, but the injuries were not considered life threatening, Mr. Piringer said.

Maryland State Police are investigating the crash, but it appears ice on the road was a factor, Mr. Piringer said. The initial accident happened on a blind curve, causing other drivers to take sudden evasive action, he said. One car overturned and two ran off the road into the woods.


Indicted member removed from panel

A Baltimore City Council member who’s under indictment on corruption charges will no longer head a committee that considers tax breaks for developers.

Council member Helen Holton was removed from her position as chairwoman of the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee on Thursday by council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Council member William Cole, vice chairman of the committee, will take over as interim chairman until the charges against Ms. Holton are resolved, a spokesman for the council president said.

Ms. Rawlings-Blake said that she is “deeply troubled” by the charges against Ms. Holton and that council members “must abide by the highest ethical standards.”

Ms. Holton was indicted Wednesday on charges she took a bribe from Ronald Lipscomb, a developer who has sought tax breaks from the city. The committee recommended tax breaks for Mr. Lipscomb’s company while Ms. Holton was chairwoman.


Landfill fence breaks, spreading trash

Strong winds last week damaged a protective fence around the Newland Park Landfill, causing trash to blow out of the landfill into the trees and grasses around local roads, the Wicomico Public Works Department said.

Inmates from the county detention center will be used Friday to pick up the trash.

The cleanup and the fence repairs will be complete within two weeks.



Man sentenced in moonshining

A Franklin County man will spend 30 months in a federal prison for his role in an operation that distributed thousands of gallons of moonshine across Virginia.

John David Fralin was among six people convicted in the operation. He pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy and producing untaxed liquor.

U.S. District Judge James Turk sentenced Fralin on Wednesday and ordered him to serve two years’ supervised probation after completing his prison term.

Two other defendants already have been sentenced. Sentencings are pending for the remaining three.

During the investigation, federal agents found four 1,200-gallon pots used to make moonshine at a site in Halifax County.


UVa., William & Mary named best value

The University of Virginia has been named the top university in the Princeton Review’s latest Best Value Public Colleges list.

The College of William & Mary ranked third in the 2009 list, behind New College of Florida. State University of New York at Binghamton and Florida State University round out the top five. The University of Virginia came in fourth in the previous rankings, released in 2007.

The “Best Value” rankings, which the test-preparation company jointly released with USA Today, are based on surveys of students and administrators at hundreds of colleges and universities.


Ordnance cleanup could take years

It could take years to remove unexploded ordnance from Plum Tree Island National Wildlife Refuge, the Army Corps of Engineers said.

The cleanup’s cost and length won’t be known until a baseline study of the area is completed, said George Follett, the corps’ project manager.

The 3,276-acre refuge served as a bombing and gunnery range for the U.S. military for more than 40 years.

The corps awarded a two-year contract to Shaw Environmental Inc. to conduct the study, which will determine how much ordnance remains and where it is. Shaw also will determine whether soil or surface water has been contaminated.

Any exposed ordnance found during the study will be detonated on site.


Government jobs top workplace woes

New numbers show more workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in Virginia from those in government jobs than in the private sector in 2007.

According to a Virginia Department of Labor and Industry report released Thursday, 104,200 workers were injured or became ill on the job in 2007.

Of those, 5.2 of every 100 full-time workers in state and local government jobs reported an injury or illness, compared to 3.2 per 100 private employees.

The 37th annual survey of job-related injuries and illnesses was done in cooperation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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