“We don’t have transportation for the sake of transportation,” Eric Sundquist from Transportation for America (T4America, a program of Smart Growth America) told workshop attendees. “Transportation helps us achieve other goals,” such as getting to a job or moving freight. The link between transportation and the regional economy is strong, but their relationship is changing.
Chris Zimmerman, Vice President for Economic Development Smart Growth America, described this and how investments in transportation help economic growth. In the past decades, economic development was often cheap land near a highway. Mr. Zimmerman explained that the return on investment of that model is declining, and today’s successful economic development efforts will focus on walkability and infill development to attract high wage workers and their employers.
The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) recently received a technical assistance grant from T4America to incorporate performance measures into transportation planning. At the same time, the RVTPO hired Economic Development Research Group, Inc. (EDR) to identify 5-10 transportation projects that will promote regional economic development. The Regional Study on Transportation Project Prioritization for Economic Development and Growth steering committee directs both efforts.
T4America, EDR, and the RVTPO invited members of the steering committee, the RVTPO Policy Board, the RVTPO Transportation Technical Committee, and other business and economic development stakeholders to a workshop at the Green Ridge Recreation Center on November 29. Over 40 participants discussed:
- What makes a good transportation performance measure to assess progress toward economic development goals
- How to use performance measures to select projects, such as in VDOT’s Smart Scale funding process
- What a transportation need is
T4America and EDR will return in 2018 to follow up with a second workshop.