Join us for the 10-year Greenway Plan Update

Greenways are a great asset to the Roanoke Valley. Our community loves walking, biking, and skating on greenways throughout the valley. These trails range from the heavily used Roanoke River Greenway, which extends past Roanoke Memorial Hospital in the City of Roanoke and also contains sections in Salem and Roanoke County, to the winding cinder path of Wolf Creek Greenway in the Town of Vinton. While the size and shape of greenways may vary, all of them are part of a conceptual network for the broader Roanoke Valley which was created with the 2007 Greenway Plan Update.

Now the Greenway Commission and its member localities, with help from RVARC, are ready to revisit that vision. You can participate in shaping that vision by attending one of the meetings below.

Meetings will be broken into two types for this update. Regional Meetings, which focus on the broader regional vision, will be held on March 21st at the Greenfield Education and Training Center in Daleville, and on March 30th at Fishburn Elementary School in Roanoke.

Additional local meetings will drill down into specific, local greenway networks. One will be at Mountain View Elementary in the Hollins area, and will focus on Tinker Creek Greenway. That meeting takes place on March 27th. Two other meetings in Roanoke County will take place at the Glenvar Middle School on April 6th and South County Library on April 3rd. The Town of Vinton will also hold an input meeting in conjunction with Roanoke County at the Vinton War Memorial on April 10th. Additional local meetings may be scheduled by Botetourt County and the City of Salem.

Attendees of all meetings will have a chance to speak to new regional connections and priorities for greenway construction. All meetings will be held at 6:30 pm.

If you cannot make one of these meetings, we encourage you to take the online survey. It should take you about 10-15 minutes on a computer, and a bit longer on a smartphone.

 

 

Region Designated an Economic Development District (EDD) by the Economic Development Administration

In January, the U.S. Economic Development Administration designated the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany region an Economic Development District (EDD). This designation enhances our ability to obtain grants from EDA. A key function of EDDs is to develop, maintain and assist in implementing a regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and support local governments in short-term planning activities.

The EDD area will be comprised of the counties of Alleghany, Botetourt, Craig, and Roanoke; and the cities of Covington, Roanoke and Salem.

Commenting on EDD designation, Congressman Bob Goodlatte said “The ability to attract new economic development, and with the jobs, educational opportunities, and innovation, is key to the growth of any community. This Economic Development District designation is encouraging news for the Roanoke and Alleghany region! I am pleased that the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission’s hard work and perseverance has brought this great opportunity to fruition to help strengthen local economies. I look forward to seeing how our part of the Commonwealth continues to grow.”

Wayne Strickland, Executive Director of the Regional Commission, stated “The Commission recognized the benefits of our region in being designated an EDD. The designation process took several years to complete, but the time and effort put into obtaining EDD status will result in expanding opportunities for funding important economic development projects in the region.”

See the coverage on WSLS TV-10.

Notice of Public Comment Period for Fiscal Year 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program

Today begins a 45-day public comment period for the Draft Fiscal Year 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program for the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO).  The Transportation improvement Program (TIP) is a four-year capital improvements program for all regional transportation projects receiving federal funding.

The draft TIP document is being made available for public comment by accessing the following link.  Comments may be made by contacting Bryan Hill at 540-343-4417 or bhill@rvarc.org.  Public comment on the draft TIP will be open until Friday, March 24, 2017.  Additionally, on April 27, 2017, a public hearing will be held by the RVTPO Policy Board to consider adoption of the TIP.

Safety Is the New Level of Service

Traffic fatalities (red) and injuries (yellow) in 2015

I attended the Safety Performance Measures Target Setting Workshop in Richmond, VA. That lengthy title might not mean much to you. I’ll try to explain why I was excited.

The U.S. Congress requires cities and states to report Performance Measures to the Federal Highway Administration every year, such as bridge conditions, freight movement, and traffic congestion.

The five required Safety Performance Measures are:

  • Number of fatalities
  • Number of serious injuries
  • Rate of fatalities per vehicle mile traveled
  • Rate of serious injuries per vehicle mile traveled
  • Number of bike/ped fatalities and serious injuries

Recently, Congress also required cities and states to set targets for their Safety Performance Measures. This requirement confused me. What possible fatality target can you choose other than ZERO?

I learned that “setting targets” means to calculate evidence-based “targets”, or forecast. We forecast the number of fatalities we think we’ll have based on the numbers of fatalities we’ve had over the past several years. In Virginia, it’s been declining by about 2%, so Virginia’s target is a 2% decrease.

Congress next directed the Federal Highway Administration to assess whether cities and states are meeting their targets. If Virginia’s traffic fatalities decrease by 2%, we pass! But if we see less than a 2% decrease, we don’t necessarily fail. The Federal Highway Administration will determine if we had any decrease at all. If so, we pass! If not—we fail.

The challenge doesn’t seem to be particularly stringent at first glance. If the trend of the past few years continues, we pass. Sounds like we can do nothing and get an A+!

But that’s not true. We hope that recent efforts to improve traffic safety is one of the factors causing the decline in fatalities (although we know that there are many factors). To pass, we must at least keep doing what we’ve been doing.

What are the consequences for failure? Well, nothing really. I wonder if the original legislation did include consequences, and it was watered down. Still, I’m happy with the outcome, because what elected officials wants their city or state to be the one that had too many traffic fatalities? “What gets measured, gets managed”, and we are moving away from measuring Level of Service—how many cars we can move—and moving toward measuring Safety. What Congress has done is initiated a change in culture.

With 40,000 people dying every year on US roads, it is high time.

Compensation Study RFP

Notice of Request for Proposals for Compensation Study Consultant Services

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission is seeking proposals from qualified consulting firms and individuals to perform a regional compensation study.  Responses will be accepted until 4:00pm EST on Friday, February 17, 2017.  This public body does not discriminate as outlined by the Code of Virginia. Minority and women-owned businesses are encouraged to apply. For the complete RFP, click here. 

4-to-3 Lane Conversions

Cities around the nation are phasing out their four lane roads (2 lanes in each direction) because they are not safe or efficient. A popular method is the 4-to-3 lane conversion: Replacing two of the travel lanes, one in each direction, with a single center turn lane.

A 4-to-3 lane conversion in Reston, VA

A 4-to-3 lane conversion in Reston, VA

4-to-3 lane conversions reduce crashes and injuries[1], but the idea of removing lanes from a congested road alarms some people. Counter-intuitively, 4-to-3 lane conversion projects carry MORE traffic, despite ‘losing’ a lane[2].

The number of crashes decreases without impairing the number of vehicles after 4-to-3 lane conversions.

The number of crashes decreases without impairing the number of vehicles after 4-to-3 lane conversions.

 

The reason 4-to-3 lane conversions reduce crashes and carry more traffic is because of the center turn lane. Without the center turn lane, left-turners block a lane. Drivers are stuck behind the left-turner, waiting for traffic to clear in the right lane so they can go around. With the center turn lane, left turners are out of the way.

Many crashes involve attempts to merge from one lane to another. Reducing the number of vehicles that have to merge reduces the number of crashes. Providing a place for left-turners to wait that doesn’t block a lane allows traffic to flow more freely and efficiently. On a congested road, a 4-to-3 lane conversion actually improves traffic flow! On a lightly traveled road, the conversion has no effect (good or bad) on traffic flow, but does reduce crashes. The conversion paradoxically slows traffic even while carrying more vehicles—the traffic flow is steadier and more consistent, leading to faster travel times with slower speeds and less stop-and-go.

A bonus feature of the 4-to-3 lane conversion is that it frees up space for bicycle lanes, improving the safety of bicyclists as well as drivers. Nearly all 4-to-3 lane conversions include bicycle lanes. The 4-to-3 lane conversion is makes pedestrian crossing safer and easier as well—the middle lane can be used as a ‘refuge’ when crossing the street.

Of course, nothing is free, right? An amazing thing about the 4-to-3 lane conversion is that it is nearly free! Roads are expensive, but paint is cheap. Many 4-to-3 lane conversions happen when a road is due to be resurfaced. The stripes would be repainted anyway, so the conversion costs virtually nothing!

[1] The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) examined data from 4-to-3 lane conversions at 45 sites in Iowa, California, and Washington and found as much as a 47% reduction in crashes. The effect on safety was lower on roads that did not have as many crashes to start with. Furthermore, the FHWA found that average annual daily traffic increased after the 4-to-3 lane conversions—an indication that traffic flow improved.

[2] 4-to-3 lane conversions are not appropriate for roads that carry more than 20,000 vehicles per day. Examples of 4-lane roads in the Roanoke area that carry less than 20,000 vehicles per day include Williamson Rd in Roanoke, Main St in Salem, and By Pass Rd in Vinton.

 

How do YOU go to work?

Annette Dickerson arrives at work on Bike to Work Day

Annette Dickerson arrives at work on Bike to Work Day

How do YOU go to work? Take the survey! (and enter to win one of ten $5 Starbucks gift cards)

Imagine if you didn’t have to sit in traffic on your way home, staring at the exhaust fumes of the car in front of you.

Imagine starting and ending your day with a leisurely 20-minute bicycle ride, waving at your neighbors as you pedal past.

Imagine coasting right up to the front door of your workplace, instead of circling the lot looking for the best parking spot.

Imagine all the money you save on gas and car repairs when you leave the car at home.

Imagine the look on your doctor’s face at your low heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

Imagine breathing cleaner air because you and your co-workers, and hundreds of others like you, bicycle to work.

Bicycling to work can be good for you, good for your workplace, and good for your community. Employees don’t have to bike far, or bike every day, to experience the benefits of bicycling. Whether you want to bike or not, we’d like to know more about how you or your employees get to work. Take the Bicycle to Work Survey and enter to win a Starbucks coffee!

Employees who bicycle to work:

  • Are healthier and happier
  • Save money on transportation
  • Enjoy the ride

Employers benefit when employees bicycle to work:

  • Fewer absentee days
  • Reduced parking costs
  • Healthier, happier, and more productive employees
  • Employee retention and recruitment
  • Showcase sustainability

However, employees face many obstacles to bicycling to work:

  • No bicycle parking at work
  • No place to clean up after bicycling
  • Dangerous roads
  • Managers and co-workers hostile to bicycling
  • Live too far to bicycle

We’re studying how employers in our area can facilitate bicycling to work. If you are an employer or an employee in the Roanoke Valley, please complete this survey and enter to win one of ten $5 Starbucks gift cards. Please encourage your employees, co-workers, and employer to complete the survey too!

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

municipal-representatives-of-rvba-board

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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How MY Bicycle Saves YOUR Life

Despite the title, this article isn’t about bicycle crashes. It’s about all kinds of traffic crashes. Auto vs. auto, auto vs. bike, and auto vs. person.

Traffic crashes are deadly, destructive, and common. They claim lives and inflict serious injuries that change lives forever. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among children up to age 19.

We can prevent that. We can prevent traffic crashes and we can alleviate the most destructive kinds of traffic crashes.

Let me reiterate that. We can save 700 lives per year in Virginia. We can prevent thousands of serious, life-changing injuries every year.

How can we do that? Before I explain what my bicycle has to do with it, let’s first consider an important element of crashes: speed.

The faster a car is moving, the more severe the crash. That’s not just common sense. It’s backed up by physics and observational studies. A difference of just 5 or 10 miles per hour can be the difference between life and death, between a close call and a lifelong disability.

The link between speed and crash severity is particularly clear when considering the auto vs. person crash.

  • When a car traveling 20 mph strikes a person, 90% of the time that person will survive.
  • Increase the speed to 30 mph, and only half the time will the person survive.
  • When hit at 40 mph, 90% of the time the person will die.
source: BikePGH

source: BikePGH

In Roanoke, 500 of the 600 miles of City streets have a 25 mph speed limit—but the typical speed is 33 mph. Just 7 mph over the speed limit can be the difference between walking away from a crash and paralyzed for life. It is literally the difference between life and death.

So how do we get people to slow down? I often hear, “Roanoke drivers are terrible,” or “People here just drive too fast.” (Every place believes their drivers are the worst!) We talk about traffic speeds as the result of driver decisions.

But many factors influence those decisions. A speed limit sign is just the beginning. We can use many tools to slow traffic speeds, depending on context: speed bumps, show-your-speed radar, enforcement, outreach campaigns, to name a few. New York, and other cities, found that bike lanes reduced injuries and fatalities for all users—not just bicyclists (for more data, see New York City’s Vision Zero report). Focusing on bicycle safety had the side effect of traffic calming.

When we make streets safe for my bicycle, the streets are safer for everyone—bicycling, walking, and driving.

Thank you Roanoke for new bike lanes, narrowing travel lanes, and other traffic calming efforts so we can ALL be safer traveling on streets.  Keep up the good work and motorists, keep an eye out for my bicycle and slow down!