Local Leads: 5/20/09

News you need to know

Twenty-five percent of American homeowners have no savings to cover living expenses if they lose their jobs, according to a recent survey. The survey discovered that to cut costs, homeowners are taking extreme actions; 34 percent said they have had family or friends move in with them in the past year. (Washington Business Journal)

Maryland transportation officials plan to build a Purple Line using money now envisioned for two major road projects in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and the proposed rail line's estimated construction costs have climbed to $1.68 billion -- a $330 million increase from the most recently publicized projections. One of the road projects would have widened 10 miles of Routes 28 and 198 between Georgia Avenue and Interstate 95 through northern Silver Spring and Burtonsville. The other would have widened about three miles of Robert Crain Highway (Route 3) between U.S. 50 and the Anne Arundel County line, according to state documents submitted to the region's Transportation Planning Board. Both projects were years away from construction. (Washington Post)

Come June 1, getting a Maryland driver's license could be a lot tougher for some people. In addition to proving they can parallel park or pass an eye exam, potential Maryland drivers also will have to prove they belong in the United States.  The change is part of a federal anti-terrorism law called Real ID that requires states to issue photo identification cards only to people who are lawfully in the country. (Gazette)

Four members of the Prince George's County Council have sponsored a bill that would keep future councils from getting pay raises when county employees don't get an increase. Union leaders and taxpayers have complained about the county's fiscal 2010 budget, which takes effect in July. It includes a 5.3 percent raise for County Executive Jack Johnson and the nine council members, while county employees have been threatened with furloughs, salary freezes and layoffs. Apparently, the council has no authority to block those raises. The bill was introduced on Tuesday. (wtop.com)

Amtrak is reducing fares this summer for many of its trains out of Washington. The train service said Tuesday that it was offering 25 percent off fares for service between the District and New York, Boston, Newport News, Va., or Springfield, Mass. That means a $72 ticket to New York could cost about $49, according to Amtrak. The deal runs on travel between June 2 and Sept. 3. Amtrak also is extending reduced fares begun in February on the Acela Express through the summer, with tickets as low as $99 between D.C. and New York. Reservations must be made at least 14 days in advance. (Examiner)

Four Virginia localities are among the top 50 when it comes to per capita income. Alexandria, Arlington County and Fairfax County, including Fairfax City and Falls Church, took the No. 12 through No. 14 spots with average incomes ranging from more than $70,000 to close to $68,000. (AP/wtop.com)

Starting Aug. 31, the University will no longer accept Visa credit cards for payment of tuition and fees. Visas will still be accepted at other locations such as the bookstore and dining facilities. The change will be made because Mason was spending approximately $1.5 million per year on credit card fees. Residential students were informed of the change through notices placed in their mailboxes. Students without on-campus mailboxes have not received an official announcement of the change but, says University Press Secretary Dan Walsch, "we will be getting the word [out]…students will be informed."  (connect2mason.com)

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