Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission: 2021 Annual Report

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2 | 2021 ANNUAL REPORT

REGIONAL C O M M I S S I O N COMMISSION MEMBERS (July 2020-June 2021)

ALLEGHANY COUNTY The Honorable Shannon Cox Jon Lanford The Honorable Joan Vannorsdall BOTETOURT COUNTY The Honorable Stephen Clinton Erin Henderson Gary Larrowe The Honorable Billy Martin, Sr. CITY OF COVINGTON Krystal Onaitis The Honorable Allan Tucker CITY OF ROANOKE The Honorable Robert L. Jeffrey, Jr. The Honorable Bill Bestpitch Dr. Elda Stanco Downey Frederick Gusler The Honorable Stephanie Moon Reynolds Peter Volosin CITY OF SALEM The Honorable Jim W. Wallace III The Honorable John Saunders Denise P. King Melinda Payne CRAIG COUNTY Dan Collins The Honorable Jesse Spence FRANKLIN COUNTY The Honorable Mike Carter The Honorable Ronald Mitchell Roy Enslow The Honorable Lorie Smith Christopher Whitlow

ROANOKE COUNTY The Honorable Kevin Hutchins Dean Martin, Treasurer The Honorable Phil North, Vice Chair Dan O’Donnell J. Lee E. Osborne The Honorable David Radford TOWN OF CLIFTON FORGE Chuck Unroe The Honorable Pam Marshall TOWN OF ROCKY MOUNT Vacancy The Honorable Mark Newbill TOWN OF VINTON The Honorable Bradley E. Grose, Chair Richard “Pete” Peters LIAISON MEMBERS (NON-VOTING) Beth Doughty/John Hull Roanoke Regional Partnership Teresa Hammond Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Landon Howard Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge Beth Bell Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce Dr. John Rainone Dabney S. Lancaster Community College Dr. Robert H. Sandel Virginia Western Community College Joyce Waugh Roanoke Regional Chamber

THE MISSION To be a leader in driving collaboration and strategy within our communities on issues that are critical to the economic growth, quality of life, and sustainability of this region.


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CHAIR’S LET TER T

he Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) completed its 51st year in what we might charitably call interesting times. The report you have in your hands details the work of the RVARC during the period of the global COVID-19 pandemic, when all of us – public and private sector organizations alike – had to find new and creative ways of serving our communities while keeping our staffs and their families safe. This meant new ways of working, new technologies to learn, and of course new ways of communicating with each other to keep our projects moving forward. As you will see in this annual report for fiscal year 2021, the Commission and its staff succesfully navigated Zoom meetings and working from home to advance the projects and programs that support our 11 localities and the over 330,000 citizens that live within them. When the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission was formed in 1969, our Chair Norman Scott, Sr. of Clifton Forge could probably not imagine the work of the Commission being carried out from home offices, via video conference and Microsoft Teams, and yet his words in our first ever annual report are as true now as they ever were: “The need for cooperation on problems of area-wide concern among all participating governments is clear. Through this close coordination and harmonious relationship, an effective means of planning and coordinating federal, state and local

efforts can be established.” The COVID-19 pandemic showed yet again that there are problems and challenges that span jurisdictional boundaries, and whose solutions will require the collective energy, creativity, and commitment to the common good that is more than evident in the many member governments of the RVARC. As I write this, there are positive signs that the pandemic is retreating, and that the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany region has stood resilient against the worst of its damages over the last 18 months. At the same time, state and federal agencies are marshalling resources to undo what damage has been done and to buttress the region against stronger challenges - whatever their source - in the future. Again, the RVARC stands ready to convene and support our localities in seeking, obtaining, and deploying these resources to make our communities better and more resilient, to fund needed infrastructure and environmental improvements, to bring broadband to every business and citizen that we can, and to continue the stewardship and expansion of the natural and leisure resources that make this region such a wonderful place to live. During a year when many of us escaped the confines of our home offices by spending more time outside, it’s more evident than ever how important natural resources are to the economic and social well-being of our citizens.

This report reflects the hard work of our talented RVARC staff, and the much-appreciated support of our member governments. I encourage you to explore the work of the RVARC over the last year, and to support us as we continue to work on behalf of the region for many years to come. We should all be excited about the future of our region as we have been blessed with wonderful citizens, breathtaking surroundings, and unlimited opportunities.

The Honorable Bradley E. Grose Chair


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COMMISSION STAFF WAYNE STRICKLAND

Congratulations to Wayne Strickland on his retirement as of June 30, 2021. We would like to thank Wayne for his service to the commission and his devotion to making the region a better place for everyone to live, work, and play.

Jeremy Holmes Executive Director

Sherry Dean Director of Finance

MATT MILLER

Congratulations to Matt Miller on his acceptance of a new position at the Roanoke Regional Partnership. We would like to thank Matt for 27 years of service to the commission and the region.

Amanda McGee AICP, Regional Planner III

William Long Transportation Planner II

Cristina Finch AICP, LEED AP, Director of Transportation

Virginia Mullen Office Manager

Andrea Garland Director of RIDE Solutions

Tim Pohlad-Thomas Public Engagement Manager

Bryan Hill AICP, CZA, Regional Planner III

Rachel Ruhlen AICP, Transportation Planner II

Gabriel Irigaray Regional Planner I

Eddie Wells AICP, Director of Community Development Programs

As chair of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, I am grateful for the immense role that the staff play in the success and growth of our beautiful region and surrounding areas. Without their expertise, incredible work ethic, and love of what they do, the future of our region would not be as bright.

-Mayor Bradley E. Grose - Chair


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FINANCIAL STATEMENT Revenue, Grants, and Appropriations

$

%

Federal Grants and Appropriations

$623,399

45.0%

State Grants and Appropriations

$327,184

23.6%

Local Grants and Appropriations

$389,003

28.0%

Contract Income

$45,443

3.3%

Other

$1,679

0.1%

Total Revenues

$1,386,708

Expenses

$

%

Personnel

$1,060,129

77.3%

Contract Services

$132,480

9.7%

Operations & Other Expenditures

$178,676

13.0%

Total Expenses

Federal Funding

$1,371,285

$

%

Regional Transportation Programs

$457,867

73.5%

Appalachian Regional Commission

$60,029

9.6%

Economic Development Administration

$39,625

6.4%

Envvironmental Protection Agency

$57,022

9.2%

USDA Forest Service

$8,856

1.4%

Total Federal Funding

$623,399


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REGIONAL ECONOMY COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) serves as the coordinator of the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) designated Economic Development District (EDD) and maintains the regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

The EDD designation supports the CEDS which documents and prioritizes the strategic economic goals of the region. This strengthens the capacity of localities, institutions of higher education, and other eligible recipients to undertake and promote economic development programs. It also creates a more straightforward process for localities from the entire region to apply for EDA funds Additions to the 2021 CEDS Annual Update include a section summarizing the housing needs studies for the Alleghany Highlands, Botetourt County, and the RVARC region, an updated Project Package listing, and most significantly a set of regional priorities. In an effort to focus the Committee’s work a list of Regional Priorities was developed with the intent of creating a short list of projects that the CEDS Committee members will be able to actively support and advocate for moving forward. Priority Projects • • • • • • •

Expand broadband access across the greater region Implementation of recommendations from Regional Career and Technical Education Center Study Additional flights and runway capacity at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport Alleghany County & Covington site development under Joint Revenue Sharing agreement Wood Haven Technology Park development and related Transportation Network Improvements Explore Park (joint efforts by Roanoke County and Bedford County) Implementation of recommendations from Regional Housing Studies

The current Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy is available on the Regional Commission’s website at rvarc.org/CEDS.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROJECTS • • • • • • • •

Alleghany County Wrightsville Neighborhood Planning Grant assistance Alleghany County “Bridging the Gap” Calls for Service Mapping Project City of Covington Downtown Revitalization Planning Grant assistance Broadband Mapping for Botetourt County Craig County Tourism Map Economic Impact of Arts and Cultural Organizations in the Alleghany Highlands Staff Support to the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority Staff support to the Western Virginia Industrial Facility Authority


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REGIONAL HOUSING RVA REGIONAL HOUSING MARKET STUDY ANALYSIS On December 10, 2020, the RVARC Board adopted the Roanoke ValleyAlleghany 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. The goals of the study are to: • Identify housing needs. • Identify housing supply and demand issues and opportunities within the region and within each of the four sub-geographies. • Advance economic development opportunities. • Develop regional and locality-specific recommendations to address housing needs. • Engage stakeholders to help understand housing needs/challenges. The study determined that barriers to addressing housing are: 1. The lack of housing choice across the region is not attracting and retaining residents and workers long-term. 2. The resident population is growing older and in need of additional housing choices to allow them to move out of single-family homes and into units that require little to no maintenance and have universal design features. 3. The region’s employment base is projected to continue to grow, but there is a need for more affordable housing options to match the incomes of the lowest paid workers. 4. Housing prices are continuing to rise. 5. Older housing needs rehabilitation and remodeling to create safe housing, that will also appeal to today’s buyers. The study determined that Regional Housing Strategies are to: 1. Use zoning as a tool to incentivize housing diversity and choice. 2. Utilize developer agreements or inclusionary zoning to boost housing production. 3. Create affordable housing trust funds to collect, leverage, and distribute money toward affordable housing projects. 4. Incentivize affordable housing production through zoning, fast-tracked permitting, reduced permit, or utility fees, or even property tax abatements. 5. Focus resources on owner and renter residential rehabilitation programs. 6. Create a regional housing coordinating body. 7. Prioritize the best locations for housing development in the near-term. 8. Coordinate regional investments in infrastructure to both open new sites for residential development and strengthen the market position of existing developed areas that could accommodate more housing. In June 2021, RVARC staff began major implementation efforts of the Study by applying to Virginia Housing for a $2 million grant to develop the RVARC Housing Development Program. The goal of this program is to select and coordinate with public/private partners to create 20 new housing units. Notification of grant awards are in July 2021.


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ROANOKE VALLEY TRANSPORTATION PLANNING ORGANIZATION

(July 2020-June 2021)

BEDFORD COUNTY

The Honorable Mickey Johnson

BOTETOURT COUNTY

The Honorable Steve Clinton The Honorable Billy Martin, Sr., Chair

MONTGOMERY COUNTY

The Honorable Steve Fijalkowski

REGIONAL TRA FY22 SMART SCALE FUNDING

On May 19, 2021, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the Ro the six total projects submitted by both the RVARC and the Roanoke Valley apiece), a total of three were funded. These projects are included in the FY2 Commonwealth Transportation Board on June 23, 2021. Following are the three projects funded in Round 4: RVARC

ROANOKE COUNTY

Locality Served

Project Name

Project Description

CITY OF ROANOKE

Franklin County

Roadway Improvements on Routes 220/613 (Naff Road)

Construct a new southboun and extend the existing nor 220.

The Honorable Phil North, Vice-Chair The Honorable David Radford The Honorable Robert L. Jeffrey, Jr. The Honorable Stephanie Moon Reynolds

CITY OF SALEM

The Honorable Renee Turk The Honorable Bill Jones

RVTPO

TOWN OF VINTON

Locality Served

Project Name

Project Description

GREATER ROANOKE TRANSIT COMPANY (VALLEY METRO)

Roanoke County

Route 460 Intersections from Carson Rd. to Huntridge Rd.

Improve a series of four intersections wi Restricted. Crossing U-Turns at Carson Rd., Country Corner and channelized di

Roanoke County

Route 460 at West Ruritan Road Intersection Improvements

Construct a Thru-Cut at the intersection Rd. to prohibit northbound and southbou 460. Movements will instead make U-tur Valley Gateway Blvd. ADA curb ramps, c signals will also be included.

The Honorable Keith Liles The Honorable Mike Stovall

Kevin Price

ROANOKE-BLACKSBURG REGIONAL AIRPORT

Vacancy

VDOT – SALEM DISTRICT

Ken King, PE. (Alt: Michael Gray)

VIRGINIA DEPT. OF RAIL & PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Daniel Sonenklar (Alt. Grant Sparks)

NON-VOTING MEMBERS

Kevin Jones - Federal Highway Administration Vacancy - Federal Transit Administration J. Lee E. Osborne - Roanoke ValleyAlleghany Regional Commission Ben Tripp - TTC Chair Richard Caywood - Roanoke County Bob Cowell - City of Roanoke Craig Meadows - Montgomery County Anita McMillan - Town of Vinton Ben Tripp - City of Salem Gary Larrowe - Botetourt County

In addition, there were 13 locality projects in the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany R summary of the projects: •

Botetourt County – one project (for $7,623,347) to improve the intersectio

City of Roanoke – four projects (totaling $15,724,159) providing a combin U-Turns, and channelized left-turns;

Roanoke County – three projects (totaling $24,042,769) providing a singl sidewalk, and streetscape improvements;

City of Salem – four projects (totaling $11,689,276) providing streetscape lighting, left turn lanes, and a greenway trail connection; and

Town of Vinton – one project (for $7,399,781) that provides curb and g pedestrian lighting and ADA ramps.


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ANSPORTATION

ound 4 (FY22) SMART SCALE projects for funding. Of Transportation Planning Organization (RVTPO) (three 22-27 Six-Year Improvement Program, adopted by the

SMART SCALE Request

nd right turn lane on Route 220 rthbound left turn lane on Route

$5,866,387

FUNDING RVTPO TRANSPORTATION PRIORITIES

Each year, as part of its broader regional Transportation Improvement Program, the RVTPO Policy Board approves a six-year Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) financial plan worth approximately $5M/ year. It is one of a few sources of funding that the Board directly allocates for regional transportation. This year additional funding was provided to cover cost overruns on the following projects: • • • •

SMART SCALE Request

ith Innovative Intersections: Rd., E. Ruritan Rd./Bonsack irectional left at Huntridge Rd.

of Route 460 and W. Ruritan und movements to cross Route rns at Blue Hills Village Dr. and crosswalks, and pedestrian

$2,339,028

Roanoke River Greenway – Greenhill Park to Riverside Park ($3,083,069 extra), Walnut Avenue Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations - W. Lee Avenue to 1st Street ($336,110 extra), Gus Nicks Boulevard Pedestrian/Bicycle Crossing ($234,262 extra), and Oak Grove Streetscape Improvements – Crosswalk ($82,000 extra)

The Board also programmed $2,440,352 towards four new projects on Route 460 East which are also being funded through SMART SCALE. For more information about these or related programs visit www.rvarc.org/ transportation.

$6,751,948

Region funded in FY22, totaling $66,479,333. Here is a

on at U.S. 460 and Laymantown Rd.;

nation of pedestrian improvements, Restricted Crossing

le-lane roundabout, roadway widening, new turn lanes, improvements, bike/pedestrian amenities, landscaping,

gutter, sidewalks, crosswalks, designated bike lanes,

RVARC funded application - Roadway Improvements on Routes 220/613 (Naff Road) project in Franklin County.


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REGIONAL TRA R O A N O K E VA L L E Y TRANSPORTATON PLAN This year, Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission staff began to update the Rural and Roanoke Valley Transportation Plans with an eye on the future. This plan outlines the region’s transportation strategy for the next five years. A vital element of those plans is a new assessment of current transportation needs of the region. Public input was sought in fall 2021 on the transportation needs in the Roanoke Valley and Alleghany Highlands, and staff reviewed 34 related plans and studies, and 12 past surveys to establish a comprehensive assessment. In April 2021, the RVTPO Policy Board endorsed the Transportation Needs Assessment. This assessment will prioritize needs and guide solutions in the areas of congestion, safety, access, and system management. It is a key step in the creation of a performance-based planning and programming practice in the region. The needs assessment was nationally recognized by the National Association of Development Organizations’ 2021 Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Awards. The update to the Roanoke Valley Transportation Plan will be completed in the fall of 2022 with the Rural Transportation Plan update to follow.


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ANSPORTATION REGIONAL STUDY ON TRANSPORTATION PROJECT PRIORITIZATION FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND GROWTH

In 2021, RVARC staff worked closely with economic development and business stakeholders as well as the RVTPO’s Transportation Technical Committee to update the Regional Study on Transportation Project Prioritization for Economic Development and Growth, originally developed in 2018. The Study identifies and prioritizes 10 transportation projects that address four priority economic development needs. The results will be incorporated into the Roanoke Valley Transportation Plan.

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 (CMP) in 2014. The 2020 Traffic Congestion Management Process incorporated changes in technology and regulations, data analyses, and stakeholder input. With analysis of real-time data collected from GPS-equipped vehicles and mobile devices, the update identified five Priority Corridors for Congestion Management. Additional Corridors of Concern were identified through public input. Key elements of the new CMP are being incorporated into the Roanoke Valley Transportation Plan.


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REGIONAL ARBOR DAY

C H E S A P E A K E B AY LOCAL FOOD PLAN PHASE III WATERSHED In 2019 staff began work on a Roanoke Valley Local Food Plan as part of IMPLEMENTATION PLAN an effort to address food system planning gaps in the Roanoke Valley foodshed. In the September meeting of the RVARC this plan was officially approved.

This fiscal year, RVARC supported tree plantings by securing Arbor Day funding on behalf of the City of Salem and Town of Vinton. Salem successfully planted seven trees in Beverly Heights Park. Plantings in Vinton occurred at the Farmer’s Market, along medians of Washington and Virginia Avenues, and along Hardy and By Pass Road. Tree plantings help improve landscaping, local air quality, and water quality. If your locality is interested in tree planting funds, contact Amanda McGee at amcgee@rvarc.org.

STORMWATER

The RVARC is proud to continue to serve as a catalyst for regional stormwater conversations. The Regional Stormwater Advisory Committee is a group of stormwater staff for localities in the Roanoke Valley and Roanoke River Watershed. The group meets on a quarterly basis, and members share information about individual efforts to improve stormwater infrastructure and create more resilient communities. Participants use meeting times to find opportunities to collaborate on stormwater activities that have regional significance. For more information, contact Gabriel Irigaray at girigaray@rvarc.org.

RVARC staff have continued to support restoration efforts to meet the 2025 Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) goals. We have continued to work with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) and local stakeholders to identify Best Management Practice (BMP) funding and implementation areas, expand educational outreach, and use Chesapeake Bay goals to achieve other regional initiatives that come with improvements in local water quality. Co-benefits include increasing public health and safety, improving outdoor recreation experiences, and building more resilient communities.

Food system planning is complex and impacts multiple sectors. Agriculture remains an important part of the character and economy of the Roanoke Valley, and also has direct impacts upon and is impacted by environmental factors such as water quality and climate. Food access continues to be a challenge in many census tracts within the Roanoke Valley, and can have direct impacts on health. This is the first Valley-wide document to address all of these food system aspects.

Recommendations include further study of Roanoke Valley’s agricultural resources, continued support of and potential expansion of existing food access and education programs, and exploration of alternative methods The Regional Commission will of food distribution and food waste continue to work with its local processing. stakeholders to find opportunities for BMP implementation. Increasing public awareness about the effectiveness of BMPs will be an important piece to help install these practices in our local communities. For more information about Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, please visit www.deq.virginia.gov/. If you wish to learn more about efforts to improve local water quality in the Regional Commission’s service area, please contact Gabriel Irigaray at girigaray@ rvarc.org.


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COMMUNIT Y COMMUNITY MOBILITY DESIGN CHALLENGE

BICYCLE FRIENDLY COMMUNITY The League of American Bicyclists honored the efforts of the City of Roanoke to build better places for people to bike with a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community award. The City of Roanoke, after working with the RVARC, joined 485 communities across the country in the movement for safer streets and better bicycling for everyone. The award recognizes the City of Roanoke for its commitment to creating transportation and recreational resources that benefit its residents of all ages and abilities while encouraging healthier and more sustainable transportation choices.

The National Center for Mobility Management offers the Community Mobility Design Challenge for communities that have a transportation problem but do not have a solution in mind. This was a perfect fit for northern Botetourt County. Through Virginia Department of Health Community Health Assessment meetings, the Eagle Rock Ruritans had noted that rural seniors and people with disabilities in northern Botetourt County struggle to find transportation to health care. RVARC worked with the Ruritans, Botetourt County, and the Botetourt Resource Center to apply for the Community Mobility Design Challenge. Through the human-centered design process, the team identified solutions. Now in Phase 2, the team is creating a detailed operations plan that may be launched in 2022.

ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ARTS AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS IN THE ALLEGHANY HIGHLANDS

In 2020, the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and local governments in the region requested that the staff of the RVARC provide estimates of the economic contribution of arts and cultural organizations in the Alleghany Highlands. Data on revenues, expenditures, employment, and visitation were collected for six organizations in the region. RVARC staff used special economic impact modeling software to estimate the economic impacts. The analysis showed that the organizations directly support 26 jobs, and an additional 17 jobs are supported through indirect and induced economic effects from the expenditures of the organizations, their staff, and through the spending of visitors. The total economic output of this sector in the Alleghany Highlands is almost $6 million annually.

Photo courtesy of Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism


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REGIONAL C ROANOKE RIVER BLUEWAY

The Roanoke River Blueway Committee, staffed by the RVARC, funded the creation of new blueway signage at kiosks along the Roanoke River. The Blueway Committee will install several more signs in 2021, with a planned eventual rollout to all official blueway access points. Special thanks to Roanoke City staff for installing the sign, and to Roanoke County, the Town of Vinton, and the Cities of Roanoke and Salem, and all of our community partners for their support for this and other blueway projects.

REGIONAL GREENWAY AND TRAIL USER COUNTS

The 2020 Trail Count Report data shows the impacts of the pandemic on our trails and greenways in

the region, and includes on-road reports generated over the year of 2020 through our collaboration with VDOT and Virginia Tech.

REGIONAL BICYCLE & PEDESTRIAN COMMITTEE

RURAL BIKEWAY PLAN UPDATED

Rural areas are beautiful places for bicyclists with scenic views and low traffic. Bicycling can also be a way to get around without a car in rural areas. RVARC produced the Rural Bikeway Plan in 1997 with its first update in 2006 and its second update in 2020. The Rural Bikeway Plan covers Alleghany County, Craig County, Covington, Clifton Forge, and rural parts of Roanoke County and Botetourt County. (The rest of the RVARC service area is included in the RVTPO Regional Bikeway Plan and the West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan.) The Rural Bikeway Plan recommendations for rural roads were based on analysis of data from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The Regional Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee added eight new members, bringing it to 23 citizens, locality staff, and representatives of organizations. Committee members walked on Brandon Avenue in August 2020. Their input was considered by City of Roanoke staff when deciding on the Brandon Avenue lane reconfiguration. The committee participated in the “No Need to Speed” pedestrian safety campaign kickoff walk on 9th Street SE in June 2021. Committee meetings and activities are open to anyone who is interested, visit rvarc. org/transportation/bicycle-pedestriangreenways/bicycle-advisory-committee/ to learn more.


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CONNECTIVITY 2020 CENSUS DATA

New census data shows the Roanoke Valley’s surprisingly deep employment ties to Bedford and Lynchburg to the east, and Franklin and Henry Counties to the south, with 10,000 and 9,000 daily commuters, respectively. In contrast, daily commute traffic from the New River Valley is 6,500 daily commuters. Of the approximately 141,000 people employed in the Roanoke Valley, over 90,000 of them are moving back and forth between the Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas. For the purposes of this study, the Roanoke Valley was defined as the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the urbanized portions of Botetourt and Roanoke counties. Census data shows that 55 percent of workers in the Roanoke Valley commute less than 10 miles to work. Out of the remaining 45 percent of workers (63,343 people), who commute more than 10 miles to work, it is estimated that over 24,000 people (17%) are commuting more than 50 miles for work within the Roanoke Valley. While some companies are talking about how jobs can be shifted to telework, this data highlights that 17% of workers in the Roanoke Valley commute over 50 miles to the kind of work that can be impossible to shift to telework. The RIDE Solutions Commuter Assistance Program and its free employer support services are one of the programs offered by the region that can assist these commuters in saving money and help employers build mobility solutions for a reliable workforce.

PEDESTRIAN SAFETY CAMPAIGN

RVARC staff served as the project co-lead for the City of Roanoke’s pedestrian safety campaigns. “Every Corner is a Crosswalk” ran through Summer 2020 and encouraged people to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, which is the law. Its second pedestrian safety campaign, “No Need to Speed” ran through Summer 2021 and encouraged drivers to slow down, because speed is a primary factor in how severely pedestrians can be hurt in a crash. In addition to media placement, the campaigns featured kickoff events, yard signs, videos, art contests, and more. The Department of Motor Vehicles sponsored both campaigns. More information is at planroanoke.org/ pedestriansafety/

Photo Caption: Renae Dower was one of five winners whose art sends the message that Every Corner is a Crosswalk. The winning art submissions are on traffic signal cabinets around the City.


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REGIONAL ENGAGEMENT PUBLIC PARTICIPATION The RVTPO often seeks public input on updates and amendments to the transportation improvement program, the Roanoke Valley Transportation Plan, and other plans. The public participation plan which guides these efforts lists four goals for public participation: high quantity of input, high quality of input, input from people with diverse perspectives, and public input opportunities that are meaningful to the public. Public participation in the past year has shown improvements in all four goals. For example, in September 2020, when asking the Virginia Department of Transportation to add lighting to exist on Interstate 81, RVARC and RVTPO considered input from 678 people who took a survey and submitted 272 comments. To assess progress toward the goal of receiving input from people with diverse perspectives, as well as to fulfill requirements related to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, RVTPO collects demographic data in its surveys. The first time RVTPO collected demographic data, only one survey respondent identified as Black (14% of the RVTPO population is Black). With events and gatherings prohibited during the pandemic, RVTPO held a series of live-streamed Transportation Equity Chats to engage people who are Black. Guests discussed opportunities for public engagement at localities and agencies and a local historian described historical transportation inequity and discriminatory urban renewal practices in the region. As a result of this and other outreach efforts, thirteen people identified as Black in the Roanoke Valley Transportation Plan survey, a tremendous improvement. However, that was just 4.7% of all respondents, far short of the 14% of the population that is Black, so RVTPO continues to experiment with outreach strategies. Public participation efforts need to keep up with rapidly changing technology and requirements, so the Public Participation Plan was updated with minor changes in 2021.

TRANSPORTATION EQUITY CHATS

To promote the Roanoke Valley Transportation Plan survey during the COVID-19 pandemic, the RVARC held a series of virtual Transportation Equity Chats hosted by citizen advocate Antwyne Calloway. Local historian Jordan Bell described how urban renewal replaced homes and cemeteries with I-581 and wider roads, setting the stage for why public input is so important today. Over the next few weeks, staff from localities, Valley Metro, and the Virginia Department of Transportation described how public input influences decisions and how people can get involved.


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REGIONAL SOLUTIONS Connecting the Region’s Commuters

RIDE SOLUTIONS SELF-GUIDED TOURS This year, RIDE Solutions celebrated Bike Month by expanding their offering of self-guided bicycle tours. During Bike Month, RIDE Solutions worked to update their current self-guided tour routes and added numerous new routes that allowed residents to explore their neighborhood and the broader community with solo or small group rides. In order to make the tours easier to follow, RIDE Solutions began using the Ride With GPS app which offers audible turn by turn directions, an easy to use app interface, the option to add links to interpretive videos, and the ability to share your route experiences with others. Using the app will greatly improved the rider experience when they were following one of RIDE Solutions’ many self-guided bicycle tours. By following these tours riders not only learned about the history and culture of the region, but also discovered new safe cycling routes between neighborhood centers. RIDE Solutions’ extensive list of self-guided bicycle tours can be found at ridesolutions. org/tours.

RIDE Solutions is a commuter services program operated by the RVARC that provides multimodal trip planning services for citizens and employers throughout Central and Southwest Virginia.


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REGIONAL

Clifton Forge, VA

Roanoke, VA

Alleghany County, VA

Roanoke, VA

Roanoke, VA

Alleghany County, VA


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L PHOTOS

Daleville, VA

Covington, VA

Alleghany County, VA

Roanoke, VA

Salem, VA

Craig County, VA


313 Luck Avenue, SW • PO Box 2569 Roanoke, VA 24010 Ph: 540.343.4417 • Fax: 540.343.4416 Email: rvarc@rvarc.org www.rvarc.org