RVARC Receives Transportation Planning Excellence Award from FHWA and FTA

bustop accessibility covershot

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) jointly announced the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) as one of this year’s eight Transportation Planning Excellence Award (TPEA) recipients.

“Building a world-class transportation system doesn’t happen overnight, and never by accident,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These important awards recognize the critical role planning plays in meeting America’s future transportation challenges.”

The RVARC’s “Bus Stop Accessibility Study” was recognized as a national example of addressing the link between pedestrian and transit, and developing new ways to determine, evaluate and compare bus stop activity. It used survey data to identify the most active bus stops and those with the greatest number of mobility impaired riders. The study’s results led to more accessible bus stops with better overall system efficiency.

“Given the limited funds available for infrastructure improvements, data-driven tools like this one help to prioritize local transportation investments,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “Thanks to pioneering work like theirs, the transportation community is now able to specifically pinpoint the areas needing improvements, and why they are needed.”

Selected by an independent panel, the awards are a biennial recognition by the FHWA and FTA of outstanding transportation planning practices performed by planners and decision makers in communities across the country.

Project leader, Cristina Finch of the Regional Commission, states, “We are so grateful for this award; there is no higher honor than to be recognized as a national leader in planning.  This Study reflects new ways to use existing data to better understand and justify the improvements needed for people to access transit.  With so many bus stops in the transit network, this Study provides direction on where investments are most needed.”

This year, eight winners were selected of 35 TPEA submissions from around the nation. Criteria for selection included: community, public involvement and partnerships; context sensitive solutions; innovation and effectiveness; equity; implementation and strategy; multi-modalism; and potential for long-term benefits.

“It’s important to recognize the creative efforts of the nation’s transportation planners,” said Acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese W. McMillan. “The future of our infrastructure system begins with their vision. RVARC’s innovative evaluation process led to a major bus route adjustment and pedestrian enhancements to bus stops along a high-activity, low-income corridor.”

National Association of Development Districts features the Roanoke Valley

NADO recently featured the Livable Roanoke Valley project as part of the Sustainable Communities Learning Network. Since 2011, the NADO Research Foundation has participated in the Sustainable Communities Learning Network as one of the capacity building teams supporting communities and regions that received planning grants as part of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI). Through this program, 143 communities and regions across the country conducted three-year locally-driven planning and visioning efforts to address critical issues such as housing and transportation, economic and workforce development, natural resource protection, education, and other important areas. You can read more from NADO here. 

Wayne Strickland, Executive Director, Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission from NADO on Vimeo.

Introducing the “Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization” (RVTPO)

TPO Name Change Resolution 09-25-2014 – small (Resolution establishing that the RVAMPO should be commonly referred to as the RVTPO)

It has been observed that the term Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) does not directly communicate the transportation planning focus and role of the MPO to the public at large.  Therefore, the RVAMPO Policy Board decided that henceforth the RVAMPO should be commonly referred to as the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO).  The use of RVTPO more clearly communicates the purpose and role of the body.  The official name for contracts, agreements and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) will remain the RVAMPO.  For day-to-day planning activities, plans and routine matters facing the public, we will henceforth refer to ourselves as the RVTPO.  Please bear with us as we make the transition over the next several months.  The Policy Board did not want us to go through undue extra expense in this transition.  So we will be gradually transitioning letterhead and other items as our stock is used up and replaced.

You can think of RVTPO as a friendly nickname that makes us more personable.  Instead of going by William we are now going by Bill by way of analogy.

Regional Surface Transportation Program Applications Due September 26, 2014

Currently, the Roanoke Valley Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is accepting applications for new RSTP projects until September 26, 2014.  The projects will be scored throughout the fall/winter of 2014, and approved by the RVAMPO Policy Board in the spring of 2015.

Eligible recipients of RSTP funds in the Roanoke Valley Area include:

  1. Member local governments who have all or a portion of their territory in the RVAMPO Study Area Boundary (Bedford County, Botetourt County, Montgomery County, City of Roanoke, Roanoke County, City of Salem and the Town of Vinton)
  2. Greater Roanoke Transit Company (Valley Metro)
  3. Unified Human Services Transportation Systems, Inc. (RADAR)
  4. Virginia Department of Transportation
  5. Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation
  6. Roanoke Valley Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (RVAMPO) and Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) – RVAMPO and RVARC for planning studies.

 

For more information on project selection and the application process, click here for the RSTP Project Selection Procedures. (RSTP Application is included within the Project Selection Procedures Document)

New Local Foods Initiative

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission is working with area stakeholders to develop a Regional Food System Plan to promote and expand existing local food systems in the greater Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas.  Our first stakeholder meeting will be held on July 31st at 9 am. Area groups that may be interested in participating in this meeting are encouraged to contact the Commission at rvarc@rvarc.org or check out our new website devoted to Local Foods.

What is food system planning?
The expanded Downtown Market area in the City of Roanoke.

The expanded Downtown Market area in the City of Roanoke.

Food system planning is gaining recognition as an integral area of interest for local governments. Learn more about food system planning and its importance to economic development by reading through some of the resources on our website, including the APA Policy Guide on Community and Regional Food Planning. Food system planning seeks to spur local economies by supporting local businesses and farmers; to preserve agricultural and natural landscapes by encouraging sustainable farming practices; and to improve access to healthy food items such as fresh produce in our local markets and stores.

Get involved.

If you cannot attend the meeting or are a citizen interested in learning more about local foods, consider checking out some of the resources on our webpage. Use our Local Foods Map to find markets and farms, or look through our list of area nonprofits who are working on food projects in our community. More information can be found on our Local Foods webpage.

The Roanoke River Blueway is Under Development

blueway-photo6The Regional Commission is working with a stakeholder committee composed of local governments, non-profits, paddlers, fishermen, local outfitters and watershed groups to develop the Roanoke River Blueway, a 45-mile water trail on the upper Roanoke River.  A blueway (also known as a water trail, paddle trail, or float trail) is a navigable waterway with sufficient capacity (flow, depth, and width) for successful progress of canoes, kayaks and other non-motorized vessels, with sufficient access and amenities to facilitate other recreational uses of the waterway.  The Roanoke River Blueway flows through or borders the Cities of Roanoke and Salem, the Counties of Montgomery, Roanoke, Bedford, and Franklin, and the Town of Vinton, providing river access for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, tubing, wading, wildlife viewing, and other recreational opportunities. The Blueway also connects to numerous local parks; Roanoke River Greenway, Tinker Creek Greenway and Mill Mountain Greenway; Blue Ridge Parkway; Explore Park;  Smith Mountain Lake; and businesses proximate to the river.

The overall goal of the Roanoke River Blueway project is to facilitate and encourage recreational use of the Upper Roanoke River and tributaries by residents and visitors. Additionally, the project seeks to encourage watershed awareness and sustainable stewardship of the region’s water resources. To date, the Roanoke River Blueway stakeholder group has developed a website, interactive and printable maps, brochure, and other information to facilitate the safe and enjoyable use of the blueway including river access descriptions, hazards and portages, recommended minimum and maximum streamflow levels, contact information, and links to useful websites.

Moving forward, the Regional Commission, local governments, and the Roanoke River Blueway stakeholder group will work to improve and promote the blueway; seek grant funding and other financial support; work with local outfitters, businesses, and other entities to promote the blueway and increase river related recreation and tourism; and increase watershed awareness.