Notice of Design Public Hearing for I-81 Northbound & Southbound Auxiliary Lane Project

Design Public Hearing
Tuesday, November 14, 2017, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Inclement Weather Date:
Tuesday, November 21,2017, 4:30 -6:30 p.m.
Northside High School
6758 Northside High School Road
Roanoke, VA 24019

Find out about a project to add an additional lane along northbound and southbound 1-81 between exit 141 (Salem) and exit 143 (Roanoke) in Roanoke County. Adding a two-mile auxiliary lane in both directions will alleviate congestion and provide for safer traffic movements at these exits. As part of the project, sound walls will be considered along northbound 1-81.

The hearing will be held in an “open-house” format and VDOT representatives will be present to answer questions.

Review the project information and the National Environmental Policy Act document in the form of a Categorical Exclusion at the public hearing or after the hearing at VDOT’s Salem District Office located at 731 Harrison Ave, Salem VA, (540) 387-5353, (800) 367-7623, TTY/TDD 711. Please call ahead to ensure the availability of appropriate personnel to answer your questions.

Property impact information, relocation assistance policies and tentative construction schedules are available for your review at the above address and will be available at the public hearing.

Give your written or oral comments at the hearing or submit them by November 24, 2017, to Mr. Kelly Dunn, P .E., Project Manager, 731 Harrison Avenue, Salem, VA 24153. Comments also can be emailed to Kelly.Dunn@vdot.virginia.gov. Please reference “1-81 Auxiliary Lanes – Roanoke
County” in the subject heading.

VDOT ensures nondiscrimination and equal employment in all programs and activities in accordance with Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you need more information in regards to your civil rights on this project or need special assistance for persons with disabilities or limited English proficiency, contact Kelly Dunn at the phone numbers listed above.

RFP for Transportation/Economic Development Study Consultant Services

Notice of Request for Proposals for

Transportation/Economic Development Study Consultant Services

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission is seeking proposals from qualified firms to perform a Regional Study on Transportation Project Prioritization for Economic Development and Growth.  The RFP is available on this link.

Responses will be accepted until 3:00pm EST on Thursday, September 28, 2017.  A non-mandatory pre-proposal conference call will be held at 2:00pm EST on Monday, September 18.  To obtain the conference call number or for any other questions, contact Cristina Finch at 540.343.4417 or cfinch@rvarc.org. This public body does not discriminate as outlined by the Code of Virginia. Minority and women-owned businesses are encouraged to apply.

UPDATE: After reviewing the proposals and conducting interviews, the Selection Committee has determined the final ranking to be 1.) Economic Development Research Group, Inc. and 2.) Foursquare ITP.  Contract negotiations will proceed with the top ranked firm.

UPDATE: Two firms submitted proposals for this RFP – Foursquare ITP and Economic Development Research Group, Inc.

Public Comment Period – Vision 2040: Roanoke Valley Transportation

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) extends an opportunity for public review and comment on the plan for the future of transportation in the Roanoke Valley.  The region’s Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Vision 2040: Roanoke Valley Transportation, is available at http://rvarc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Vision-2040-plan-draft-6-14-17.pdf. The public comment period will be in effect for no fewer than 45 days from the publication of this notice.  An official “Public Hearing” will be held after the public comment period has elapsed.  Said “Public Hearing” will be duly advertised according to applicable laws. The LRTP development process includes a program of projects (POP) for transit. Public notice of public participation activities and time established for public review of and comments on the LRTP satisfy the transit POP requirements. The RVTPO strives to provide reasonable accommodations and services for persons who require special assistance to participate in public involvement opportunities.

To submit comments in writing or by phone, please contact Cristina Finch at 540-343-4417 or at:

Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission
P.O. Box 2569
Roanoke, VA  24010

For special accommodations or further information, contact Cristina Finch (Ph: 540-343-4417, Fax: 540-343-4416 or E-mail: cfinch@rvarc.org). Hearing impaired persons can call 711 for access. 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.

To submit your comments on the Long-Range Transportation Plan, please complete the form below.

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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.

 

 

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 Pokemon Go Can be Used in Urban Planning

It has been almost two months since Pokemon Go was released and I still have not caught a Pikachu. I have walked 84.4 kilometers and caught 539 Pokemon in Roanoke, Blacksburg, and Northern Virginia, but the one Pikachu I encountered ran away from me.

Pokemon Go is the augmented-reality smartphone game from the 20 year-old Pokemon franchise, in which players search for Pokemon in the real world. Pokemania ensued upon the game’s initial release as millions took to the streets wandering aimlessly and gathering in parks at all times of the day and night in pursuit of Eevees, Psyducks, and Squirtles. It is so popular that businesses in Roanoke and across the world have been using it all summer to attract customers. The craze has simmered recently, but how and where people play Pokemon Go has potential to help urban planners identify desirable locations and engage communities.

Because Pokestops, map points where players can collect items to be used in the game, are located at landmarks and public art, they are heavily concentrated in urban environments. Pokemon are also more common and more diverse in denser areas, making it a city-centric game. Downtown Roanoke has a Pokestop around every corner and you are more likely to find a Tangela on Campbell Avenue than you are in Tanglewood Mall.

On any day of the week during lunchtime you can walk into the Elmwood Park Amphitheater and see about 10 people sitting and walking around staring at their phones and every few minutes a new person will walk in or walk out. During the first two weeks of Pokemon Go, this crowd was more than double. Informal gatherings like this are happening elsewhere such as New York’s Central Park and Blacksburg’s Market Square where it can be so crowded at midnight that there is nowhere to sit but the ground.

The game has caused more people to gather in public places than normal, especially at times of the day or night that those places are usually empty. Most planned public gathering spaces or parks are Pokestops, but some of those spaces are attracting large gatherings and others are not. Identifying places where people are gathering and comparing those to where they are not can inform planners about what spaces people want to come to and linger.

For instance, Elmwood Park at lunchtime is a quiet getaway spot from the rush of downtown Roanoke with plenty of green and places to sit. Market Square in Blacksburg at night has good lighting and is only a few steps away from a multitude of food options. Identifying these gathering spots is easy. People collect around Pokestops with lures which attracts more Pokemon than usual to that location. When playing the game, these stops will glow pink, and when a few stops in a small area are all glowing pink at the same time you can be sure that a public space has become an informal gathering spot

The location of these gathering spots may be based more on how many Pokestops are there rather than the place itself. Both Elmwood and Market Square are located at a triangular convergence of three stops making it easier to collect items and, when all three have active lures, are more likely to catch Pokemon. If places with multiple Pokestops in close proximity have the same type of gatherings, regardless of what the space is like, then gatherings are based off the location of the stops. But spaces with multiple stops, such as the Roanoke City Market, that would seem to attract more players don’t have the same effect on Pokemon gatherings that places like Elmwood has. The City Market has two stops close together and, although it could be the premier Poke-spot downtown, it does not seem like Pokemon Go is a significant factor in people gathering there. While these three comparisons–City Market, Elmwood, and Market Square–aren’t enough to base an assumption on, the latter two hint at which spaces are more desirable. Lures, ever present in Elmwood, are not activated at the same rate at City Market, making Elmwood the key spot for Poke-gatherings, and an important location to study.

There is also a potential for increased awareness and engagement for urban planning issues. Of course, Pokemon Go is a game based on players walking around searching for Pokemon. The game actually rewards you for walking–there are eggs which are hatched into Pokemon after you have walked a certain distance, and if you are over a certain speed it won’t calculate the distance you have traveled–you can’t cheat the game by driving. This basic function has brought people out on foot in swarms over the past month, and it has brought up concerns and complaints about player experiences.

The opportunity to play is not equally available to all who want to. Concentrations of Pokestops in cities have shown redlining. Poor neighborhoods with high populations of African-Americans have less Pokestops and gyms, giving these neighborhoods less access to the game. Since Pokestops are located around public art and other landmarks, it is possible that these neighborhoods lack those landmarks to merit a Pokestop. It is more likely that members of those communities did not play Niantic’s earlier game Ingress which gathered points of interest that would later become Pokestops. Either way, planners can use this redlining to study what can be done in these neighborhoods to improve walkability and vitality.

Because Niantic focused the game around walking and landmarks, suburbanites stand in stark contrast to city dwellers. There seems to be plenty of Pokemon Go players in suburbia, but they have been almost completely left out of playing because of the clash between the design of sprawl and the design of the game.  The center of a suburban town is the shopping center, a place with lots of parking and few landmarks. Tanglewood and other strip malls are empty spaces on a Pokemon Go map, with no Pokestops because there are no public destinations, and many times no Pokemon to catch.

Suburban players are inconvenienced because in a game based around walkability those shopping centers are not usually within walking distance of the homes of the people it serves, hence the large parking lots in front. Even when they are, there usually isn’t a safe way for people to walk to these shopping centers, meaning if there is a Pokestop there you are most likely driving and not collecting walking distance or catching wild Pokemon. Some suburban neighborhoods are built without sidewalks giving players no safe way to hunt. The exact reasons the game has worked so well in cities is the same reason it barely works at all in suburbs designed around the car.

Why is this important to planners? The majority of Pokemon Go players are young, the prized millennial generation, who are upset that they can’t play this game in their neighborhoods. They want destinations (and not just for Pokestops) that are within walking distance or only a short (bus, bike, or Uber) ride away, a point especially relevant for players without cars. There is an opportunity to educate and engage this younger generation on the issues of land use. They are interested in how the built environment affects them and they want access to more vibrant places. While this is not necessarily a new trend among this generation, they may be more interested when put in terms of the augmented reality of a game like Pokemon Go. They have become aware to the problems of where they live, and it’s now important for planners to put that awareness to action.

Pokemon1

Sarah’s Place in Roanoke offers Pokemon Go players a place to recharge their phones

Pokemon2

FPS in the Patrick Henry building uses lures to attract lunchtime customers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article written by Ben Wolfenstein, Intern for the Regional Commission.

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.

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.

 

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).