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Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority Recognized with Governor’s Award, Grows Staff to accommodate increasing demand

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RVBA Board Members (left to right) Tom Gates, Gary Larrowe, Kevin Boggess. Chris Morrill; not pictured Mike McEvoy

Roanoke Va. – (Sept. 27, 2016) – On September 7, 2016, the City of Roanoke and the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority received the prestigious Governor’s Technology Award for Cross-Boundary Collaboration at a ceremony during the annual COVITS conference in Richmond, Virginia.

The Award recognizes local, state and educational public sector information technology (IT) projects that have improved government service delivery and efficiency as chosen by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson and Chief Information Officer of the Commonwealth Nelson Moe.

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What is in a name? Environmental Justice (EJ) may not mean exactly what you think it does!

EJ Map - Allison Homer

Maps provided by Allison Homer

Environmental Justice (EJ) has a slightly misleading name.  It is more of a social justice and fairness concept.  It does have a connection to the physical environment through emphasizing that traditionally underrepresented communities, low-income and minority communities, should not be adversely affected by disproportionate exposure to pollution, or other adverse impacts, from transportation projects.  However, the central meaning behind EJ is more about not disrupting the social fabric, cohesion and development of traditionally underrepresented communities.  Disruption could occur by separating communities with large thoroughfare transportation projects that don’t directly serve the communities and may serve as barriers.  At its core EJ seeks to learn from the mistakes of the “Urban Renewal” era of the 1960s and 70s in which vibrant and successful urban neighborhoods were divided by freeways and highways subsequently harming the economic health and social fabric of the neighborhoods.  More information about the official history of the EJ concept with its origins in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Orders 12898 and 13166 in the late 90s and early 2000s can be found in the RVTPO Title VI, Environmental Justice and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Plan.

EJ concepts extend beyond the planning phase through the project development, engineering and construction phases.  For our purposes as a federally recognized Metropolitan Planning Organization (We go by the name Transportation Planning Organization in our region), EJ concepts will primarily be implemented at two separate levels:

  • In the long-range plan at the planning level to the financially constrained list of projects; and,
  • When RVTPO implements long-range plan by applying for SMART SCALE High Priority funding  (the Virginia Prioritization and Programming system) over successive application cycles.  SMART SCALE is the effective link between the long-range transportation plan and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

These two levels, separated in time, allow us to use a “canary in the coal mine” approach in the long-range plan. The EJ Framework will primarily identify red flags and screen out any patently inappropriate projects from the long-range plan. Later, before projects are actually applied for in SMART SCALE, we can use the framework again, in a more robust manner, to modify the scope of the SMART SCALE application to address any additional EJ concerns that arise.

In order to evaluate EJ impacts, both positive and negative, we will use our new EJ Benefits and Burdens Framework that was developed for the RVTPO  in the form of a Master Degree Thesis by Allison Homer at Virginia Tech.  We are fortunate to have this up-to-date framework that can incorporate new tools such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s EJSCREEN and go beyond these tools for a robust planning level implementation of EJ concepts.  Please look forward to more news on the applying EJ through the new Constrained Long-Range Multimodal Transportation Plan 2040 in the coming months.

Roanoke River Blueway Wins 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award

roanokeriverblueway-logoThe Roanoke River Blueway has won the 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Silver Award in the Virginia Outdoors Plan Implementation category. The 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards were announced on April 7, 2016 at the 27th Environment Virginia Symposium in Lexington.  The awards recognized the significant contributions of environmental and conservation leaders in four categories: sustainability, environmental project, land conservation, and implementation of the Virginia Outdoors Plan.  They are given to businesses and industrial facilities, not-for-profit organizations, and government agencies. The Roanoke River Blueway pblueway-award-photorovides cost-free opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, tubing, wading, wildlife viewing, and watershed education with convenient access to other outdoor and cultural amenities in Virginia’s Blue Ridge all year long. The 45-mile Blueway, which includes 15 public boating access points, aims to promote healthy living and economic sustainability through increased use and awareness. Access points are located in local parks allowing for shared parking. In addition, information is provided for using the Valley Metro and bicycle accommodations. Watershed management and stewardship through education are supported through a dedicated webpage to water quality. Another educational tool is the Roanoke River Blueway Interactive Map which provides a range of information to facilitate safe use and enjoyment of this regional resource. Funding for the Blueway was leveraged from a variety of sources including private donators, the Virginia Tourism Cooperation (VTC) Market Leverage Program, American Electric Power, and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF).

RVARC Executive Director, Wayne Strickland has been Elected to the National Association of Development Organizations Board of Directors

Wayne_nadoWashington, DC – Wayne Strickland, Executive Director of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission in Roanoke, VA, was elected to the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) 2016 – 2018 Board of Directors on April 13, 2016.  Founded in 1967, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 540 regional development organizations.

NADO member organizations serve local governments and the public within their regions through various programs focused on diversifying local economies, assisting businesses, creating jobs, and providing community services.  The NADO Board of Directors oversees the association’s budget and operations and develops policy on issues affecting regional development organizations.

“We are honored to have Wayne serve on NADO’s Board of Directors.  Wayne brings a wealth of expertise, knowledge, and leadership on regional community and economic development issues to the national level,” stated Joe McKinney, NADO Executive Director.  “Most importantly, Wayne is focused on helping our nation’s local communities pursue comprehensive regional strategies for remaining economically competitive in today’s rapidly changing global environment.”

NADO’s Board of Directors includes member organizations that represent a broad section of the United States including the Central, Eastern, Midwestern, Southeastern, Southwestern, and Western regions.  The two-year term for Board members begins on May 1, 2016 and runs through April 30, 2018.

 

Strengthening our Livable Roanoke Valley with Transit

Bus-Roanoke 2

Buses, transit, public transportation;
Connecting parts but not enough of our region.

Imagine the future where service abounds
My ride is coming, not a long wait.
See a friend, how have you been?
See another, a new connection,
Nice to meet you, let’s talk again.
Time on my hands to read, text, and relax.
Drop me off, no need to park.
A breath of fresh air,
A short walk,
A smile and hello,
A refreshing energy to my day.

The opportunity has been there for 2 ½ years to provide input;
Citizens young, citizens old, Citizens employed by transit,
Citizens who take transit a lot, some or not.
Thank you to more than 4,000 who have contributed.

Guided by stakeholders who value transit as a means to support:
Businesses, Neighborhoods, Economic growth, Opportunities,
Personal development, Health, Independence,
Clean air and water, Intentional land development.
A care for others,
and an option for oneself.

Transit stands instrumental to a livable future in the Roanoke Valley.
The time is now to invest in our future;
The time is now to grow strongly not stiflingly;
The time is now to be unlike any other place to live.
We are the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Review the Roanoke Valley Transit Vision Plan by Friday, May 27 (www.rvarc.org/transit).

Talk with staff about the draft at the Commission’s Annual Open House on May 9, 2016 or send your feedback to Cristina Finch at cfinch@rvarc.org.

Your input is important to the future of the Valley!

What do regional long-range plans and business books have in common?

Bike and Pedestrian Lanes Mulhouse #3

It can be difficult to craft a long-range transportation plan.  As you can imagine, much of the feedback we get from citizens and stakeholders involves day-to-day questions such as; “Who will pay for all of this?”  This natural question helps to illustrate the basic challenge that we have as long-range planners; “How do we develop and communicate a long-term vision, when many people naturally think in terms of day-to-day decisions?”

The ultimate goal is to craft a long-term leadership vision that can be implemented through prudent and strategic day-to-day decisions.  It is the old “Eat the elephant one bite at a time!” proverb.  However, we live in a world of complex social and economic interactions that defy “one size fits all” approaches.  One way to think through this tension between long-term vision and day-to-day decisions is to use economic frameworks.  I do a lot of personal study and reading in economics.  It is a deep interest of mine, and I think it helps inform our work as planners.  I especially think that Behavioral Economics  will prove to be very informative to planners in the coming years.

That said, many people think of economics in terms of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand  . Although this is a useful metaphor for many basic day-to-day market interactions, there are times when it doesn’t necessarily hold.  For instance, imagine that you are at a football game and everyone is comfortably seated and can see the game.  Then a few people stand up to get a better view, then more and soon the whole stadium is standing.  The end result is that everyone pretty much has the same view as before; however, they are less comfortable.  If an announcer communicated the “vision” to request everyone to please sit down over the loudspeaker, or if stadium rules didn’t permit standing during the game then the cycle could be broken.

Long-range plans are similar in this regard.  In essence they are just trying to point out that everyone is standing, when they could be better off being comfortably seated and watching the game.  Popular leadership and business books espouse this idea when it comes to individual career development and organizational development.  In essence they tell readers to craft a personal vision (or organizational vision for leadership books) and then act on that vision through day-to-day workplace decisions.  This advice is well received by the majority of professionals in the workforce as evidenced by how big the business, management and leadership category of books is in bookstores or on Amazon.  All we are saying is to think of regional long-range transportation plans as crafting a vision for the community and then encouraging leaders to act on that vision through day-to-day decisions.  Most of us already accept this advice in our professional lives via business books.  Why not accept the same approach for the community through long-range plans?

 

Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority Completes Outside Construction

New High-Speed, Open-Access, Municipal Fiber Network now in final stages of preparation before first customer rollouts

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RVBA Chairman Kevin Boggess at Blue Ridge PBS

Roanoke, Va. (April 5, 2016) – The Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) is pleased to announce that forty-seven-miles of new, high quality, fiber-optic broadband cable is now buried beneath the cities of Roanoke and Salem, VA.

RVBA vendor partners Thompson & Litton and USC (Utility Service Contractors) completed the Outdoor Plant construction on April 5, 2016 at the Valley View Point of Presence (POP) location. The completion of the new network’s “outside plant” marks a major milestone for the public-private partnership’s regional investment.

The project, which broke ground last summer, was designed to spur regional economic development by increasing access to extremely secure, high-speed, affordable, and un-throttled fiber-optic Internet service.

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Crews use microtrenching to install fiber

The new conduit network has been threaded with 144 threads of fiber optic line, each thread capable of delivering secure, private, terabit-level upload and download connections for future RVBA customers.

It is anticipated that the new highly resilient, synchronous, and self-healing system will provide tremendous benefit to enterprise-level clients (corporate, government, and education) across the region. The new open-access network has also been designed to spur additional private sector telecommunications investment by lowering the barriers of entry required to deliver competitive services in the Roanoke Valley.

“Throughout the new networks’ physical build-out process, we worked hard to maximize the projects long-term value while minimizing any inconvenience for Roanoke Valley citizens and visitors. All in all, and thanks to the support of our team of experienced vendor partners, things went very smoothly.” Frank Smith, Executive Director of the RVBA, said. “We used a wide variety of cutting-edge techniques to both plan and build the physical network infrastructure and these efforts are sure to pay dividends over the long-haul. Now, with outside plant construction complete, our first customers are only weeks away from realizing the results of everyone’s hard work.”

The new network, built on defense-grade equipment, directly connects the Roanoke Valley to two international Internet switching stations. Now that construction of the outside plant is complete, local project teams will spend the next few weeks stress-testing the system and configuring the switching centers for an official service lighting event later this spring.

Prospective customers interested in learning more about the RVBA’s new service availability, packaged offerings, pricing, and adoption timelines should contact Frank Smith, Executive Director at (540) 904-1073 or, via email, at fsmith@highspeedroanoke.net. More information is also available online at www.highspeedroanoke.net

The next meeting of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority is open to the public and is scheduled for April 15, 2016 at 8:30 am in the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Region Commission Building (313 Luck Avenue SW, Roanoke, VA 24016).

History of the RVBA

In 2011, at the urging of several concerned citizens and local business owners, four regional municipalities (The City of Salem, The City of Roanoke, Roanoke County and The County of Botetourt) and several highly invested local business owners joined forces to conduct a study on fiber-optic Internet access across the region
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When it was discovered that the Roanoke Valley lagged behind the rest of the country with only 8% of the metro population having access to fiber networks (compared to the national average of 24%), a task force was formed to develop specific recommendations that would make the Roanoke Valley a better place to both live and work.

In January of 2014, the four municipalities officially took action on these recommendations by forming the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) to expand the regional broadband infrastructure and make it easier for both new and existing providers to deploy their technology and offer price-competitive services across the Roanoke Valley.

The RVBA was charged with a number of specific initiatives, including:
•Developing a master plan for construction and operation of a high-speed, redundant regional network “ring” to reach schools, industrial parks, large employers and other economic centers,
• Developing cooperative agreements for localities with technical specifications and commercial terms for operating the network and exchanging data across municipal boundaries
• Developing dig once requirements for construction projects, including the placement of open-access conduit for optical fiber cable
• Communicating broadband related activity to the public
Taken together, the RVBA was tasked with driving measurable improvements to fiber-optic Internet accessibility, affordability, reliability, and Internet speeds for the purposes of advancing the long-term economic prospects of the region.

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Related photo archive access and interview requests should be sent to:

Jennifer Eddy
Chief Strategist
540-878-9681 (C)
202-709-7509 (W)
202-706-7342 (F)

Eddy Communications Corp.
www.eddycommunications.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifereddy

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Public Meeting on RVTPO Planning Process

Notice of a Public Meeting to Receive Comments on the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization’s (RVTPO) Planning Process

march2 public meeting flyerThe Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will hold a public meeting in coordination with the RVTPO regarding the RVTPO’s Federal Certification Review. Representatives from the FHWA and the FTA will be present and are interested in hearing from the public. The primary purpose of the review is to certify that the RVTPO is satisfactorily meeting the planning requirements as defined in Federal laws and regulations. The review also provides FHWA and FTA the opportunity to add value to the RVTPO’s planning processes through the sharing of best or innovative planning practices, techniques, and/or technology.

This is an opportunity for the public to express their thoughts and comments about the transportation planning process; to allow the Federal Review Team to obtain a better understanding of the community’s issues; and to inform the public about the Federal transportation planning requirements.

A public meeting will be on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Campbell Court (31 Campbell Ave. SW, Roanoke, VA 24013) – Second Floor.  For questions or directions, contact Mark McCaskill at Ph: (540)343-4417, Fax: (540)343-4416, Email: mmccaskill@rvarc.org. The RVTPO will strive to provide reasonable accommodations and services for persons who require special assistance to participate in public involvement opportunities. Hearing impaired may dial TTY/TDD at 1-800-828-1120 or 711 for access. Contact the Public Involvement and Community Outreach Coordinator at (540) 343-4417 for more information.”  The RVTPO fully complies with Title VI of the Civic Rights Act of 1964 and related statutes and regulations in all programs and activities.  For more information, or to obtain a Discrimination Complaint Form, see http://rvarc.org/transportation/title-vi-and-ada-notices/ or call (540)343-4417.  If you are unable to attend the meeting in person you can provide your feedback at the following link from now until March 2ndhttps://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RVTPO

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Roanoke Valley Transit Vision Plan Currently Under Development

IMG_2888Transit is an essential tool for helping the Roanoke Valley achieve its goals related to developing our economy and workforce, improving our personal health, and preserving our natural environment. The Roanoke Valley Transit Vision Plan is currently under development, with a draft expected to be available for public review in May and a final plan submitted this summer.

For more information about the Roanoke Valley Transit Vision Plan check out the project website at www.rvarc.org/transit or contact Cristina Finch, Manager of Transit Planning and Programming at cfinch@rvarc.org or (540) 343-4417.