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The Virginia ABC Authority, backed by Virginia State Police troopers, raided a Spotsylvania County restaurant that defied orders to close in the face of government-ordered coronavirus restrictions in 2021.

Agents came to Gourmeltz on Route 1, seized $10,000 of liquor, and downloaded data from the restaurant's computers. It was the latest move in a chess game between the state and restaurant owner Matt Strickland, going on since January 2021, when the health department ordered Gourmeltz to close for not adhering to former Gov. Ralph Northam's executive order requiring restaurants to limit the number of patrons inside their restaurants due to coronavirus fears.

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Interstate 95 crossing the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg.

Interstate 95 northbound travelers planning to pass through the Fredericksburg area between 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, and 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, are advised to use alternate routes to avoid heavy traffic and major delays expected from Improve 95 project construction.

Lane closures and temporary traffic patterns are needed over nearly 36 hours on Dec. 5-7 to support the opening of a new interstate bridge over the Rappahannock River. The new bridge is located at mile marker 132, between the City of Fredericksburg and Stafford County.

Heavy congestion is anticipated to start north of I-95 exit 118 (Thornburg) in Spotsylvania County. Northbound I-95 travelers with destinations north of the Washington, D.C, area, should detour at exit 104 (Carmel Church) in Caroline County, and travel Route 207 eastbound to Route 301 northbound to avoid delay. Overhead message boards on interstates 95, 85, 295 and 64 in Virginia will direct through travelers to use this alternate route.

Work zone details include:

5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5 – Single lane of I-95 northbound closed, starting north of exit 130 (Route 3) in Fredericksburg

7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5 – Two lanes closed

4:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6 – All lanes open, but in a temporary pattern. Two lanes will cross the new interstate bridge. A single lane crosses the existing Rappahannock River bridge, providing access to exit 133 (Route 17) and continuing to points north.

7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6 – Single lane closed. Exit 133 (Falmouth/Warrenton) off-ramp in Stafford closed. Alternate exit to access Route 17 is exit 136 (Centreport Parkway) in Stafford.

4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7 – All lanes open, and exit 133 (Falmouth/Warrenton) reopens. Northbound traffic exiting to exit 133 (Falmouth/Warrenton) will use temporary off-ramp beginning at mile marker 131, crossing the existing Rappahannock River bridge.

View a day-by-day timeline of this work zone plan.

Weather conditions may postpone this work. If delayed, the work zone may occur on Dec. 6-8 or Dec. 7-9, or if postponed to the following week, on either Dec. 12-14, Dec. 13-15, or Dec. 14-16.

No travel impacts are anticipated for I-95 southbound in the Fredericksburg area during this work zone. All interstate on- and off-ramps will remain open in the Fredericksburg area except for the northbound off-ramp to exit 133 (Falmouth/Warrenton), which will close from 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6 until 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7.

Virginia State Police personnel will be staged at multiple points in the work zone to assist with traffic control. Heavy-duty towing equipment will be prepositioned to assist with quick incident clearance and removal of disabled vehicles.

Opening this interstate bridge is a milestone for the I-95 Northbound Rappahannock River Crossing project. The $132 million project is adding three additional travel lanes on the busiest segment of I-95 in the Fredericksburg area, which carries around 150,000 vehicles a day.

While the bridge is scheduled to open in December, the project will not be complete until spring 2024. Construction will continue over the next 18 months to finish the local travel lanes and to perform maintenance on the existing northbound Rappahannock River bridge while it is closed.


Untrim-A-Tree continues to collect toys for children in need this holiday season.

About 600 children in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park still need a gift; according to Volunteer Prince William, the organization sponsors the gift collection.

The group will collect new-toy donations during the Greater Manassas Christmas Parade tomorrow, Saturday, December 3, 2022. The parade begins at 10 a.m. and runs from Mathis Avenue south to Center Street Downtown, ending at Harris Pavilion.

Donors may place the gifts on the parade float.


I-66 E-ZPass Express Lanes at Haymarket [Photo: I-66 Mobility Partners]
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reminds travelers that starting Monday, Dec. 5, vehicles will need three or more occupants to qualify as a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) on I-66 in Northern Virginia. This change from HOV-2+ to HOV-3+ will apply across the entire I-66 corridor in Northern Virginia from Haymarket to the D.C. line.

On the newly-opened 22.5-miles of 66 Express Lanes, located outside the Beltway from Route 29 in Gainesville to I-495 (Capital Beltway), vehicles must have three or more occupants, and an E-ZPass Flex switched to the “HOV On” mode, to travel the lanes toll free. The 66 Express Lanes Outside the Beltway and HOV-3+ rule is in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

On the existing nine miles of 66 Express Lanes, located inside the Beltway from I-495 to the D.C. line, vehicles must also have three or more occupants, and an E-ZPass Flex switched to the “HOV On” mode, to travel the lanes toll free. The 66 Express Lanes inside the Beltway and HOV-3+ rule is in effect on weekdays only during peak periods in peak commute directions.

The HOV-3+ requirement on I-66 Express Lanes is consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia, and supports a regional policy and goal to increase the occupancy requirements on HOV lanes in the region to HOV-3 in order to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled and comply with the federal Clean Air Act Amendment of 1990. The change also will help VDOT to achieve its goal of moving more people through the I-66 corridor.

The change from HOV-2+ to HOV-3+ also will take effect on the stretch of I-66 west of the express lanes between Haymarket and Gainesville where there will continue to be a traditional HOV lane that operates during peak travel periods.

To learn more about opportunities to form new HOV-3+ carpools on I-66, visit


Children from Dumfries Elementary School visit Virginia Senator Mark Warner in Washington, D.C. [Photo: Senator Mark Warner]
Christmas cheer has spread to the Senate.

Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) welcomed students from Dumfries Elementary School to his Capitol Hill office to kick off the holiday season with carols, milk and cookies, and decoration of the office Christmas tree. This year’s tree, a 12-foot Fraser fir, is from Mt. Rogers Tree Farm in Grayson County, Va.

The fifth-graders helped Sen. Warner decorate his tree with homemade ornaments before serenading members of his staff with classic carols such as “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

This holiday tradition has been held annually, and Sen. Warner was thrilled to once again host students following a two-year pandemic pause.


Germanna Community College and its Educational Foundation thanked the Stafford Economic Development Authority for its support in bringing a new campus to the county during a check presentation ceremony on Tuesday, November 29.

The Stafford EDA presented the GCC Real Estate Foundation with a check for $750,000 toward the new campus at 25 Center Street in North Stafford, off Garrisonville Road.

Germanna President Janet Gullickson said the support of the Stafford EDA was essential to making it possible for the college to acquire its new $15 million Center of Educational Excellence at Center Street, set to open for classes in 2024.

Noting that nearly 80 percent of Germanna graduates remain in the area to put skills they’ve learned to use here, Gullickson said, “county residents and business people can count on Germanna and its graduates to help Stafford thrive for decades to come.”

“The Stafford EDA made a commitment to support Germanna’s expansion in Stafford years ago,” Stafford EDA Chairman Joel Griffin said, “and it is a pleasure to see this day come to fruition. With this expansion, Germanna will continue and expand its services to Stafford citizens, business,es and residents across our region, Northern Virginia, and the Commonwealth.”

Griffin said during Tuesday’s ceremony that the EDA “has really focused on workforce development. Germanna is a tremendous partner in that initiative. The nursing program and cybersecurity program Germanna offers to our community is first class –and I don’t mean for our region I mean across the nation. These are jobs that support our national security. I think COVID has brought to the forefront nurses and what they do every single day. So on behalf of the EDA, I’m very proud to represent to say that we are delighted about this partnership. We hope to see many more years of collaboration and work.”

Gullickson told the crowd at Tuesday’s ceremony: “We will transform this neighborhood. For example, this building will have a [free] wellness clinic where people can come in and get diabetes checks or get blood pressure tests and get some dental exams here…”

“The shortage of frontline healthcare professionals is real,” Gullickson told the crowd. She said that every year Germanna has 1,000 students apply to enter its nursing program and has to turn many away. She said the new facilities will help GCC meet its goal of doubling the number of nurses graduated each year from 200 to 400.

Two buildings, named the Barbara J. Fried Center at 10 Center St. and the Kevin L. Dillard Health Sciences Center at 25 Center St., totaling over 74,000 square feet, will meet Germanna’s space requirements in Stafford for years to come, said Jack Rowley, also president of GCC’s Real Estate Foundation.

In 2018, Germanna leased an 18,921-square-foot building in Stafford that more than tripled the space available at a 5,000-square-foot GCC center opened at Aquia in 2009. The new facilities will more than triple that existing space.

Germanna will continue to offer classes at its Barbara J. Fried Center near Stafford Hospital until the Center Street campus opens.


A Prince William County Public Schools teacher receives a coronavirus vaccination at Unity Reed High School outside Manassas. [Uriah Kiser/PLN]
Beginning Friday, December 2, residents aged 50 and older in the Rappahannock Area Health District will receive text or voice messages reminding them they are eligible for the COVID-19 Bivalent Booster.

The health district includes Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania, Stafford counties, and Fredericksburg.

Residents will only receive a message if records indicate they are eligible for but have not yet received a bivalent booster.

The message will read: “VA Dept of Health records indicate you are eligible for a COVID-19 bivalent booster. Schedule an appt at or (877) 829-4682.”

Contact information from the resident’s immunization record will determine whether they receive a text message (for mobile numbers) or a phone call (for landlines).

Individuals do not need to wait for this notification to get a bivalent booster.

If you have questions about your eligibility to receive a bivalent booster, or believe you have been contacted in error, please contact the VDH call center for a review of your record. Call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.


Starting early tomorrow morning, Dec. 2, the temporary traffic signals that will direct traffic entering and exiting Interstate 95 northbound at the exit 133 (Route 17) interchange in Stafford County will go into full color operation.

Right now, the temporary traffic signals, located east of the interchange, are in flash mode.

Once the traffic signals go into full color operation tomorrow, all I-95 northbound traffic exiting to Route 17 northbound and southbound at exit 133 will use a single exit ramp.

Exiting traffic with a destination for Route 17 Business (Warrenton Road) toward Falmouth will use a right turn lane on the exit ramp.

Exiting traffic traveling to Route 17 northbound will have dual left turn lanes on the ramp.

To enter I-95 northbound from Route 17 southbound, motorists will enter dual left turn lanes controlled by the new traffic signals.

Click here to view an online graphic of the temporary traffic pattern.

Message boards are posted to warn motorists to the new signals and interchange modifications.

Drivers are urged to remain alert and expect brief delays with the new traffic pattern.

Signal timing will be coordinated with signals at adjacent intersections and along the Route 17 corridor to maximize traffic flow. Traffic conditions will be monitored closely after the signals activation, and signal timing will be adjusted as needed to reduce delays on Route 17 and along the I-95 northbound ramps.

The temporary traffic signals will direct traffic at the I-95 northbound on- and off-ramps through spring 2024 as part of the I-95 Northbound Rappahannock River Crossing Project.

The I-95 Northbound Rappahannock River Crossing project is rebuilding the remaining Route 17 overpass in need of replacement at the exit 133 interchange.

On Dec. 2, as the traffic signals are placed in full color operation, crews will close the single lane bridge over Route 17 that carries I-95 northbound ramp traffic, and the loop ramps from Route 17 southbound to I-95 northbound, and from I-95 northbound to Route 17 northbound.


Prince William fire and rescue crews are investigating a building fire in Dumfries.

Crews were called to the 17000 block of Colonial Port Road where they found a fire at a large warehouse building at 2:13 a.m., Thursday, December 1.

Crews entered the warehouse and extinghished the fire. No injuries were reported.

The building, which houses an autobody shop, sustained extensive damage.

The Dumfries Building Official posted that the building was unsafe to occupy. The Fire Marshal’s investigation into the cause and origin continues.


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