Job Announcement

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission is seeking a energetic, passionate, and public-minded professional to serve as the Director of RIDE Solutions, the Commission’s commuter assistance and active transportation program.  As Director of RIDE Solutions, candidates will manage the multi-regional commuter assistance program applying creative marketing, public outreach, event management, and other strategies to educate and encourage drivers to switch from single-occupant vehicles (SOVs) to high-occupant vehicle modes (HOVs) such as transit, vanpool, bicycle, walking, and carpool.  Successful candidates will show expertise in developing, deploying, and measuring successful behavior change marketing campaigns, working with diverse constituents and organizations to identify needs and develop appropriate services, and will demonstrate knowledge and enthusiasm for the ability of mobility and transportation choice to transform communities, neighborhoods, and individuals.  Candidates should also be familiar with the ways that historical mode-specific investments have shaped the physical form of our communities and supported or limited the opportunities of diverse populations with those communities.

The Director of RIDE Solutions will be responsible for managing and growing the program capacity, including increasing the capacity of RIDE Solutions to deliver services in the realm of commuter services, mobility and safety.  As a Director-level position within the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, the Director of RIDE Solutions will also be responsible for setting and meeting the RIDE Solutions budget, managing and evaluating staff, including one direct staff report, participating in regional projects and planning efforts, increase the Commission’s capacity to deliver relevant services to our local governments, and will be a responsible and knowledgeable representative of the Commission to the public and our stakeholders.

Director of RIDE Solutions–Full Job Description

To apply:  Interested professionals should email a resume, cover letter, and three professional references to sdean@rvarc.org by Friday, July 9th.  The position is open until filled, with the first round of review beginning Monday, July 12th.  Please note that only electronic submittals will be accepted.

 

Faster, Dangerous Traffic: What is Roanoke doing about it?

This article appeared in the Roanoke Times on June 28, 2021

Pedestrian crashes in the Roanoke Valley from 2015 to 2020

The pandemic brought less driving – but more, and worse, crashes

During 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, driving dropped and traffic fatalities climbed – particularly pedestrian traffic fatalities. In Virginia, driving decreased 16.6% yet traffic fatalities increased 2.4% to 847 people killed in traffic, similar to national trends.

This is unexpected. In the past, the crash-rate rises when people drive more. When driving plummeted in the 2008 recession, traffic fatalities dropped too. As the economy rebounded, Americans drove more  and traffic fatalities climbed. In 2017, traffic fatalities in the U.S. hit a high at 37,473 and pedestrian fatalities reached 5,977. In the ten years before the pandemic, Virginia’s roadway deaths have grown from less than 700 in some years to over 850 in others.

The difference this year is that driving decreased but traffic fatalities didn’t. They increased.

Pedestrians are disproportionately represented in traffic fatalities and injuries

Traffic safety professionals say that pedestrians are “overrepresented” in traffic fatalities and injuries. meaning people walking are far more likely to get hurt or killed in a crash than we would expect, considering how many trips are made by walking. Two percent of travelers in Roanoke are pedestrians, but almost half of the people killed (7 of 16) and one-quarter of the people injured (70 of 297) in 2020 were walking and the outlook for pedestrians has gotten worse in recent years.

In 2020, the number of pedestrian fatalities in Virginia were about the same (123) as in 2019 (126), but when you consider that less driving happened, the rate of pedestrian traffic deaths actually increased 17%. The pandemic year was deadly for pedestrians in the Roanoke Valley. More pedestrians were injured (70) and killed (7) in 2020 than in any year since 2013.

The burden is not shared equally. Black and brown pedestrians are at greater risk of being injured or killed in a traffic crash than other people. In Roanoke, most pedestrian crashes occur in neighborhoods where more than ten percent of the population are minority race or ethnicity.

What’s going on?

There are many contributing factors, but one key suspect stands out: an increase in speeding during the pandemic.

Speeding is deadly. In a collision with a car traveling 20 mph, 95% of pedestrians survive, but in a collision with a car traveling 40 mph, 85% of pedestrians do not survive. And although traffic congestion feels dangerous, congestion actually slows down traffic speeds. Even if there are more crashes overall because of traffic congestion, they are fender benders with no injuries. Last year, with fewer people driving, there was less traffic congestion and therefore, faster (and deadlier) traffic speeds.

The Roanoke Valley saw a 178% increase in speeding-related fatalities. The City of Roanoke and Roanoke County both had double or more the number of speeding related-fatalities in 2020 compared to 2019.

What are we doing about it?

The City of Roanoke launched a pedestrian safety campaign in 2020, “Every Corner is a Crosswalk”, and this year is focusing on traffic speed awareness with the “No Need to Speed” campaign. Brandon Avenue, which was due for repaving, is getting a safety make-over which involved trying out temporary lane closures and a survey with hundreds of responses before the final design. In 2020 alone, the City invested over 1 million dollar in pedestrian safety improvements focused on intersection upgrades such as pedestrian push buttons, audible signals and more street lighting in the City Downtown and other pedestrian corridors like Williamson Road and 9th Street SE.

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization developed a Pedestrian Vision Plan in 2015 with an interactive map. The Virginia Department of Transportation worked with the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission on the Roanoke Valley Regional Transportation Safety Study to understand regional issues.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has two initiatives that should make a difference. Its Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Arrive Alive, is similar to a Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities as the guiding principle of its transportation planning. Its Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, created just a couple years ago and has already been updated, comes with funding to guide cities and counties to invest more in pedestrian safety. In the state legislature, a handsfree ban and removing a barrier for localities to lower speed limits may help.

Having local, regional, and state plans and initiatives in place is important to take advantage of federal funding that will have a strong impact in reversing the trend of rising traffic fatalities.

Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization Seeks Public Comment on an Amendment to the FY2021-2024 Transportation Improvement Program

The Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) is accepting comments on an amendment to the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to include a new project receiving Federal Transit Administration funds of $119,008 for Roanoke County to operate its CORTRAN service for seniors and people with disabilities next year. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has recommended this project for its FY2022-2027 Six-Year Improvement Program.

Comments will be accepted until June 23, 2021 and a hearing will be held at 1:00 pm on June 24, 2021 in an online meeting. Visit the website www.rvarc.org for information on how to participate. For more information on this amendment contact Bryan Hill at (540) 343-4417 or E-mail: bhill@rvarc.org.

Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission Names Jeremy Holmes as Next Executive Director

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission announced today that Jeremy Holmes has been named the new Executive Director. Holmes follows Wayne Strickland, who retires June 30th after 42 years with the Regional Commission.

Holmes has served as director of the Commission’s RIDE Solutions Commuter Assistance Program for the past fifteen years and in January of 2020 became the Commission’s Associate Executive Director. In addition to his leadership of the RIDE Solutions program, Holmes has been involved in a number of regional community advocacy efforts, including the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition, the Greater Roanoke Valley Asthma and Air Quality Coalition, Roanoke Valley Reads, and Healthy Roanoke Valley. Holmes holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Roanoke College and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Hollins University.

“I am thrilled and honored with the trust the Commission’s Board has placed in me,” Holmes said. “As the region emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, this period before us presents not just the promise of recovery from the worst of its impacts, but a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tap into resources for growth in areas like expanding broadband access, enhancing our regional transportation system, and promoting regional economic growth. I am excited at the chance to serve the region’s local governments in achieving these goals.”

Vinton Mayor Bradley Grose, Chairman of the Regional Commission and the Search Committee to hire a new Executive Director, said, “The committee members were impressed by Jeremy’s understanding of regional issues and priorities and his passion for the work.” The search committee conducted interviews after the announcement of Strickland’s retirement in March. The committee made their recommendation to the Executive Committee at their May 13thmeeting, who then made their recommendation to the full Board today. The Board voted unanimously to name Holmes to the position.

Holmes plans to focus his first several months on the job in assisting localities and other regional organizations to take advantage of the many funding opportunities being made as a result of the American Recovery Act and related COVID-recovery programs at the federal and state level.

Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission hiring Greenway Coordinator

The Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission has posted the following job opportunity for a new Roanoke Valley Greenway Coordinator.  See the full job description and application information here:

GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The Coordinator serves as staff to the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission (Commission) and reports to its Executive Committee.  The Coordinator performs complex, multi-level and cross-functional professional and administrative work coordinating the development of a comprehensive greenway and trail system in the Roanoke Valley with the member localities. The position manages regional planning, coordination, and implementation processes for greenways and trails. The Coordinator represents the Commission to the public and the media and serves as a liaison to the member localities, including Roanoke County, the City of Roanoke, the City of Salem, Botetourt County, and the Town of Vinton, and to agencies and partners, such as Pathfinders for Greenways. Performs other duties as assigned.

Please note, there are 4 supplemental questions that must be answered and included with your application. 

ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS

•    Promotes greenway and trail development in the Valley, working from the Goals, Objectives, and Strategies outlined in the Intergovernmental Agreement and in the Roanoke Valley Conceptual Greenway Plan, as amended, under the direction of the Commission and in consultation with the member localities.
•    Coordinates Commission functions in accordance with the bylaws and Intergovernmental Agreement in collaboration with the Executive Committee and Commission.
•    Serves as a liaison to the member localities, including staff and elected officials; represents the Commission at Council/Board meetings.
•    Coordinates the volunteer work of Pathfinders for Greenways and other volunteer organizations, including design, compliance, funding and locality approvals of projects.
•    Coordinates and manages volunteers for work on trail building, greenway amenities, and maintenance projects.
•    Represents the Commission to local, state, federal and not-for-profit agencies and organizations involved with greenways, blueways, tourism, transportation, open space and natural resource issues.
•    Represents the Commission at meetings and conferences providing information regarding the status of the greenway system, financing, and technical design issues; prepares written and/or oral reports for presentation to a variety of individuals and groups.
•    Writes grants and applications and assists in finding funding, including in-kind contribution sources, for greenway construction and various greenway projects and events.
•    Serves as spokesperson for the Commission with respect to inquiries from the public and the press, including presentations to groups and partners.
•    Coordinates an annual audit and develops an annual report for presentation to member localities and other agencies.
•    Prepares and manages budget processes, performs accounting documentation and ensures compliance with procurement regulations of the fiscal agent.
•    Responsible for correspondence and record-keeping for the Commission.
•    Assists and advises the Commission, participating localities and other government entities with planning/funding/design/development of greenways and other trails.
•    Manages periodic updates to the regional Greenway Plan.
•    Coordinates development of the greenway and trails system with locality staff, elected officials, volunteers and other partners.
•    Coordinates with Pathfinders for Greenways and other volunteer organizations on projects, fundraising, meetings, volunteers and equipment.
•    Represents the Commission on the Transportation Technical Committee, Pathfinders for Greenways and other local and state outdoor, conservation and transportation-related organizations.
•    Performs outreach and educational activities regarding greenways and trails.
•    Coordinates with Commission committees to achieve goals in marketing, public relations, special events, standards, and fundraising.

Community Mobility Design Challenge

In 2020, Botetourt County was selected as one of four communities by the National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM), for the Community Mobility Design Challenge to develop and test ways to address the particular mobility challenges experienced by low-income community members for whom a lack of transportation is an obstacle to the pursuit of economic, health, and social well-being. NCMM is a technical assistance center operated by the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and funded through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

The Botetourt County team, led by the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, focused on transportation access to healthcare for elderly and/or disabled people in rural Botetourt County. Before applying for the grant, the team researched the extent of the identified transportation challenge through interviews and other types of primary and secondary research. NCMM staff led the team in developing insights from a “deep dive” into the specific transportation needs of rural Botetourt County seniors and people with disabilities. The team has developed four options and is testing key assumptions about these concepts with potential users and other stakeholders. The team will modify the solutions to ensure they closely respond to the identified challenge and plan how to operationalize the solution, paying close attention to the financial viability and sustainability of the solution.

The project has brought together partners from the Eagle Rock Ruritan Club, Botetourt County, the Botetourt Resource Center, transportation, and other community agencies. The team will also create performance measures to show the projected impact of the project, among other key indicators.

Through research, conversations with stakeholders, and workshops, the team generated four options. The team identified assumptions underlying the four options and is in the process of testing these assumptions. For example, a ride-match app assumes that Botetourt seniors who need rides have access to the internet and are able to use the technology. Since that is probably not true for many residents, the team must consider strategies to overcome these limitations.

Option #1: Weekly Transport – Eagle Rock to Roanoke
A weekly shuttle for rural seniors and people with disabilities will pick up riders from their home or a central pick-up point and transport them to their appointments in the Roanoke Valley.

Option #2: Replacing Trips with Tech
Replace van trips with prescription delivery by drone and telehealth hubs at
community centers.

Option #3: Creating Community Connections
A customer map will help us better understand the needs and current gaps in service. An inventory of providers in Botetourt, Alleghany, and Rock Bridge Counties will allow riders to be seen closer to home and reduce travel time. A new scheduling technology will allow for scheduling more than one rider at a time. A strategic marketing and rider-engagement plan will reach seniors through social media, phone, e-mail, and engage with riders continuously to create community and connection.

Option #4: Connect to Healthcare
A web-based volunteer driver management app will match riders with volunteer drivers. Community organizations will assist riders and drivers with using the app, providing internet access and technical assistance. Volunteer drivers will receive incentives or subsidies to offset their costs.
For more information, please contact Rachel Ruhlen at rruhlen@rvarc.org.

Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Housing Market Study Analysis Adopted

At their Thursday, December 10th meeting, the Regional Commission Board adopted the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Housing Market Study Analysis.

This comprehensive study is composed of five individual studies: Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Housing Study; Franklin County Countywide Housing Study; City of Roanoke Citywide Housing Study; Roanoke County Countywide Housing Study; and City of Salem Citywide Housing Study. To view the entire study, click on the image to the right.

The goals and purpose of the Study are to:

  1. Identify housing needs and provide both a region-wide and locality-specific housing market analysis.
  2. Identify housing supply and demand issues and opportunities within the region and within each of the four sub-geographies.
  3. Advance economic development opportunities by addressing housing concerns.
  4. Develop regional and locality-specific recommendations to address housing needs.
  5. Engage stakeholders to help understand housing needs/challenges and create a shared understanding of that need.

Traffic Congestion Management Process

The Roanoke Valley doesn’t have much severe traffic congestion – and we want to keep it that way! After the population of the urbanized region exceeded 200,000, the RVTPO adopted its first federally required congestion management process in 2014. The 2020 Traffic Congestion Management Process, approved on October 22, is the first update, incorporating changes in technology and regulations, data analyses, and stakeholder input.

The update identifies five priority corridors for congestion management identified through analysis of real-time data collected from GPS-equipped vehicles and mobile devices as well as corridors of concern identified through public input. View the interactive map of corridors for congestion management here.

Learn more about the update of the Traffic Congestion Management Process here.

2020 Annual Report

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission is pleased to present its FY20 Annual Report. This report highlights the programs, projects, and events that took place over the past fiscal year.

We would like to thank our 11 member governments for their ongoing support of our organization’s programs/projects over the years.

Get To Know The Upper James River Watershed: Upper James River Edition

The convergence of the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers signifies the beginning of Virginia’s iconic James River. This river will go through extensive physical and scenic changes before it meets with the Chesapeake Bay almost 350 miles from its start in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains. Because of its length and changing character, the James River watershed is broken down into three different subsections: the Upper, Middle, and Lower James River. The Upper James River section is typically characterized as the river area above the confluence of the James and the Maury River at the town of Glasgow. The Maury River runs through the cities of Lexington and Buena Vista and drains a significant portion of the Upper James area. Other notable streams that are a part of the Upper James area include Catawba Creek and Craig Creek.

Image 1. Upper James River Watershed highlighted in yellow.

A unique feature of the Upper James area is that it along the Eastern Continental Divide. The Upper James borders the New River watershed that will end up entering the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River system. It is fascinating to think water from a rainstorm at this border will end up in coastal areas that are thousands of miles apart.

The mainstem of the James River from the confluence of the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers to the Rockbridge-Amherst-Bedford County line is a part of Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Scenic Rivers Program. To earn the designation of a Virginia Scenic River, a river must meet strict requirements. The designation is not easy to obtain and receiving the label indicates a river possesses outstanding scenic, recreational, historic, and natural characteristics.

 

Water Quality

The water quality of the James River is influenced by the land use along its banks and the banks of its tributaries. The water quality of the area is generally good, and the mainstem is lined with a riparian buffer that extends along a majority of the reach’s shoreline. This riparian area protects the river from receiving an excess amount of runoff from adjacent lands. The buffer assimilates pollutants from runoff, helps reduce erosion by stabilizing riverbanks, and provides habitat for organisms living in and around the river. The watershed area is mostly forested and rural, but it does contain cityscapes and agricultural lands that influence some of its tributary’s water quality. Non-point sources (NPS) are the main culprits causing stream impairments in the Upper James. Land uses are classified as NPS due to the difficulty of tracing a pollutant back to a specific source. Some examples include agricultural fields, urban areas, and residential septic systems.

Image 3. Scattered throughout the Upper James River are small rapids that will test your paddling skills.

Agricultural fields that allow for livestock to graze directly in streams increase nutrient loads in the water, reduce bank stability, and increase soil compaction around streambanks. Runoff from adjacent fields also impacts water quality. Riparian buffers and fencing along streams can help reduce water quality impacts associated with agriculture. Nutriment management plans can also be an effective way for crop farmers to reduce their environmental impact and save money by having a strategic plan for efficient fertilizer use and land management practices.

Urban areas contribute to stream impairments because they produce a large amount of impervious runoff. Runoff from streets, sidewalks, and parking lots enters the storm system and is released into local streams. The untreated water picks up oil, trash, and other pollutants on paved areas that is carried into the waterway. Increasing infiltration and detaining rainwater during storm events is an effective way of reducing urban runoff. Permeable pavements and vegetated roofs are examples of best management practices that can reduce urban-based pollutants from entering a stream.

Residential septic systems can also be a source of pollution. Unmaintained systems may not operate as designed and can cause excess nutrients from household wastewater to enter a local stream. It is important to regularly pump your septic system (at least once every five years) and limit items that cause clogging from entering the system. This will help limit your system’s environmental impact and reduce the risk of a system failing and causing damage to your house or yard.

Understanding the sources of pollution and the practices that help reduce nutrient impacts on water quality can help us prevent pollution to our waterways. The Upper James does not currently have a widespread problem with stream impairment, and we want to keep it that way. In fact, the 2019 Chesapeake Bay and Watershed Report Card awarded the Upper James with the highest score out of 23 watersheds assessed throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The score is a compliment to the region’s environmental stewardship efforts and local appreciation for keeping waterways pristine.

 

Recreational Opportunities

The entirety of the Upper James River mainstem is a certified blueway known has the Upper James River Water Trail. The trail spans 64 miles through some of the most scenic and undisturbed portions of the entire James River. The Maury River also contains 10 miles of blueway beginning in Lexington. The James River trail is broken down into ten different sections. Detailed maps are available that outline features, including rapids, hazards, and campsites, and can be used to plan your ideal trip.

Smallmouth bass is the most popular fish species targeted by anglers along the blueway. The ideal conditions and habitat of the Upper James help sustain a healthy population of smallmouth bass. When fishing for smallmouth, it is important to locate key water features that indicate ideal habitat. Some features you want to look for are downed trees and submerged ridges. The Upper James also hosts largemouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, and a variety of different sunfish.

There are multiple campsites located along the blueway. Gala, Horseshoe Bend, and Arcadia campsites are located along the Upper James in Botetourt County. These campgrounds are offered through Twin River Outfitters and are conveniently located along different sections of the blueway. Further downstream are Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp and Resort and Wilderness Canoe Company camping sites. Camping on the Maury River is available at Glen Maury Park in Buena Vista. Each of these campsites is highlighted on the Upper James River Water Trail maps, making it easy to choose which site will best meet your needs.

There are multiple outfitters that run different trips along the Upper James River blueway. Fishing guides run trips and will help put you on a trophy smallmouth bass. Adventure trips range from day excursions to paddling the entire length of the blueway over multiple days. Linking up with an outfitter is the best way for unfamiliar floaters to get a guided trip along the blueway and learn from folks who are out on the water most every day.

The Upper James River watershed has an endless amount of open water to explore. Visitors come from all over the state and the country to experience the unique adventures on a famous and historic river. Efforts to keep the Upper James reach pristine and untouched will help preserve its beauty, and our downstream neighbors will also appreciate the hard work.

Image 3. A group of paddlers make their way around a riverbend, waiting to see what’s in store.