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.

Continue reading

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!

USDA Rural Development program adopts new environmental review process

USDA_logoRVARC staff recently attended a training held by the USDA at the Greenfield Training and Education Center on new review processes for assessing the environmental impacts of USDA funded projects. This training followed adoption of a new set of environmental policies and procedures on the part of the USDA Rural Development Agency (the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and the Rural Housing Service) that went into effect on April 1st of this year. These regulations meet the requirements for the USDA to “assess and consider the impacts of proposed federal actions…to the human environment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and other applicable federal, state, and local environmental laws.” (RD Instruction 1970-B, Exhibit C)

The new rules can be found under code 7 CFR 1970, and replace previous regulations 7 CFR Part 1794 and 7 CFR Part 1940-G. The rules simplify the review process, bringing reviews for all services and projects under the same regulations. Recipients of assistance from the Rural Development Agency will find their project classified as following one of three review paths. Projects will require documentation in the form of Categorical Exclusions (CE), Environmental Assessments (EA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). An applicant to a Rural Development program is responsible for consulting with agency staff to determine which track they should follow early in the process. They are also responsible for contacting relevant state and Federal agencies as appropriate. Applicants should be aware that the USDA environmental review process does not replace other required review processes at the state or local level, and should contact the relevant officials accordingly.

The USDA Rural Development programs offer valuable opportunities in the form of grants and loans to localities, businesses, and individuals. More information about their programs can be found here. RVARC staff is happy to provide more information to the public about the new review process as requested.

 

 

 

Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority Completes Network

Roanoke Valley Broadband AuthorityIn July, Roanoke County approved funding to build a 25-mile, $3.4 million expansion of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority’s (RVBA) fiber network. Once finished, the total network will cover 72 miles throughout the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the Counties of Botetourt and Roanoke. The Roanoke County expansion will run near 650 commercial properties.

Roanoke County leaders have said that the network’s current course misses several key commercial clusters in the county. The county’s design of the additional 25 miles of fiber hits areas such as Virginia 419 between Tanglewood Mall and Salem and the town of Vinton.

Continue reading

Roanoke River Blueway Designated as a Virginia Treasure

Roanoke River Blueway Designated as a Virginia Treasure

VirginiaTreasures_FINALThe Roanoke River Blueway has been designated as a Natural, Cultural and Recreational Treasure as part of the Virginia Treasures program, an initiative by Governor McAuliffe to preserve, protect and highlight Virginia’s most important ecological, cultural, scenic and recreational assets as well as its special lands. A recreational treasure is a one that provides new public access to a natural, cultural or scenic outdoor recreation resource. These are projects that help the public by enhancing outdoor recreation and foster stewardship of natural and cultural resources.

Read more about the Roanoke River Blueway here…

Volunteers Needed for NBPD Survey

flyer pictureThe Roanoke Valley – Alleghany Regional Commission is partnering with the City of Roanoke for the annual National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation week! Volunteer on Wednesday from 5-7pm or Saturday from 12-2pm to count the number of pedestrians and bicyclists at designated locations. For more information, contact Amanda McGee at amcgee@rvarc.org.

 

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!