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Transportation

New ‘All Streets RVA’ aims to collectively map out conditions of all 1,900 miles of city streets in Richmond

Participants will walk, run, or bike to provide feedback on conditions of city streets.

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The new ‘All Streets RVA’ event from Sports Backers aims to inspire a collective mission to accomplish the biggest biking, walking, and running effort the City of Richmond has ever seen while collecting feedback on the conditions of all 1,900 miles of city streets. The feedback and data collected will help inform efforts to make all areas more comfortable and connected for residents and visitors and encourage active living on a daily basis. All Streets RVA takes place between June 8-June 30, and registration is free and currently open at www.sportsbackers.org.

After taking part, participants will report back where they were active and Sports Backers will map that section as completed. Participants will complete a brief survey after biking, walking, or running their section to provide detailed information on their experiences. Using an activity monitor app (like Strava, MapMyRun, Nike Run Club, etc.) is recommended, and it is also helpful to try to cover the distance between two intersections (rather than stopping mid-block).

Participants interested in covering multiple sections of city streets can opt to be a ‘Street Superhero’ during registration and will be notified of additional streets that Sports Backers and Bike Walk RVA need help covering.

“Our hope is that All Streets RVA will be an innovative way for our fellow community members to get active while taking part in an important civic project,” said Louise Lockett Gordon, Director of Bike Walk RVA for Sports Backers. “We know that there are so many physical and mental health benefits of active living, and this particular project will also help determine the state of our streets in a way that we don’t think has been done before.”

When completed, All Streets RVA will provide a good understanding of the condition of the streets around the City of Richmond, with participants encouraged to provide both an objective view of the existing infrastructure as well as a subjective view of the ease or challenges of getting around our community. Registration for the event and a full map of the All Streets RVA area can be found at https://www.sportsbackers.org/events/all-streets-rva/.

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Transportation

VDOT preparing to use artificial intelligence to predict traffic

“We’re not just reacting to conditions, we’re actually using real time and historic data to predict future conditions and to prepare the network,” said VDOT Chief Deputy Commissioner Cathy McGhee at a meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board Tuesday.

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By Nathaniel Cline

State transportation officials are gearing up to use an artificial intelligence system that will monitor emerging conditions to predict the impacts of traffic disruptions in Northern Virginia and the Fredericksburg metropolitan area.

The rollout will mark the first time that artificial intelligence will be used to predict traffic disruptions in Virginia.

“If the system performs well, expansion to other parts of the state will be a distinct possibility,” wrote Marshall Herman, acting director of communications for VDOT, in an email.

The new AI support system is intended to improve the effectiveness of real-time integrated transportation information, an agency report states. Information is expected to be provided through digital message boards, 511 Virginia and third-party applications including Waze and Google Maps.

Officials hope the system will reduce congestion, improve safety, mobility and travel time and make travel times more reliable.

“We’re not just reacting to conditions, we’re actually using real time and historic data to predict future conditions and to prepare the network,” said VDOT Chief Deputy Commissioner Cathy McGhee at a meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board Tuesday.

The rollout is planned as part of a broader transportation monitoring program known as the Regional Multi-Modal Mobility Program, or RM3P, that started with a proposal from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority in 2018 and has since expanded from the region down the I-95 corridor to Fredericksburg.

Staff from the Virginia Department of Transportation said the next step is to award the contract to develop the artificial intelligence-based decision support system for a rollout in 2023 and full operation by 2026.

The tool is expected to support both agency operations and travelers.

It will first be deployed within a single subregion of Northern Virginia and later expand to cover the whole region and the Fredericksburg area.

“We really believe that that’s the only way to manage a network like we have for Northern Virginia and metropolitan Fredericksburg because it takes all of the [transportation] modes together to serve the demand in those regions,” McGhee said. “So we’re looking for that proactive, predictive capability that RM3P gives us.”

The evolution of RM3P

In 2018, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority submitted an initial proposal to VDOT for funding the development of a region-wide transportation management system.

Since then, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, VDOT and Northern Virginia Transportation Authority have all been involved in the development of the program that came to be known as RM3P, officials said.

VDOT is hoping to find ways to incentivize commuters and partners to use RM3P, which is focused on improving travel disruptions, making travel times more reliable, and supporting all transportation options for travelers.

McGhee said it’s unclear what the nature of the incentives will be, but the agency has been in discussions with stakeholders including major employers about instituting staggered work hours and releases that could help even out traffic loads and public transportation demand.

The contract for RM3P is also expected to be awarded in the coming months, McGhee said.

The deputy commissioner said staff have learned through the procurement process that there are private sector applications that have used elements of the artificial intelligence system idea, but she believes RM3P is the first program to bring it all together.

“I think we’re plowing new ground,” she said.

Traffic diversions

One of the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s concerns was that a new artificial intelligence system could detour travelers to secondary roads, ultimately leading to potentially worse conditions.

McGhee said VDOT is careful about detouring travelers and is in talks with third-party services about the potential for diverting traffic into sensitive areas and not recommending those routes.

“That’s a real concern for us because very often, particularly smaller companies don’t have GIS [geographic information systems] that are specific to heavy vehicles, and so they use Google or Waze and they often get routed inappropriately,” she said.

Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller III said that while VDOT is “sensitive” about the impact of diversions, “at the end of the day it’s a network.”

“The counties and the cities are part of that and we have to work together to make the best decisions for the traveling public and sometimes it’s not an easy choice,” he said.

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Transportation

Local leaders adopt BikePedRVA 2045 plan, calling for additional 770 miles of bike and pedestrian infrastructure

A recently approved plan is calling for an additional 770 miles of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to promote safety, accessibility, and equity across the region.

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A recently approved plan is calling for an additional 770 miles of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to promote safety, accessibility, and equity across the region.

On May 5th, the Policy Board for the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RRTPO) adopted BikePedRVA 2045, a visionary framework tied to immediate recommendations for activating bicycling and pedestrian transportation throughout the region.

Since the last iteration of the bike and pedestrian plan in 2004, the popularity and necessity of active transportation – a term used to describe travel by human energy, such as walking, bicycling, or by a mobile assist device – has greatly increased, and new micro-mobility options allow for longer trips using e-bikes, e-scooters, and other technology.

The adopted plan emphasizes mobility for people of all ages and abilities through a continuous and recognizable pedestrian and bicycle network across Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, and Powhatan counties, the town of Ashland, and the city of Richmond.

BikePedRVA 2045 focuses on building a cross-regional transportation network of shared-use paths, interconnected and supported by local-level projects for bike lanes, sidewalks, neighborhood connectors, bikeable streets, and complete streets elements that together will create more accessible systems for people walking, rolling, scooting, cycling or taking transit.

The greater Richmond region currently has an estimated 136 miles dedicated to safer cycling infrastructure, such as shared-use paths, cycle tracks, and bike lanes. Projects identified in BikePedRVA 2045 like the creation of the Fall Line Trail and the extension of the Virginia Capital Trail set a target for another 121 miles of shared used paths and over 650 miles of bicycle and pedestrian routes in the region over the next twenty years.

Improving public safety for individuals walking and biking is a central call to action for the regional plan. According to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) data, cyclist and pedestrian fatalities have increased by nearly 45 percent from 2015 to 2020. The plan’s authors point to how historically disinvested communities are the most vulnerable to pedestrian injury and fatalities connected to vehicular crashes.

“The BikePedRVA plan is a significant step forward for the region,” said PlanRVA Director of Transportation Chet Parsons. “We know that physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health and quality of life. When we create more equitable opportunities for walking and biking infrastructure, it’s an important investment in public health. I know this work will positively impact future generations.”

A steering committee of the region’s localities, transportation agencies, and advocates began meeting to guide the plan in 2019. Organizers fielded virtual surveys and met with a wide cross-section of community members throughout the final review period for public input in building a working website of resources to implement BikePedRVA 2045.

BikePedRVA 2045 serves as a companion plan to ConnectRVA 2045, a long-range transportation plan that guides the region’s transportation investments for all modes of travel including transit, highways, bicycles, and pedestrians. The active transportation best practices in the BikePedRVA 2045 framework will help guide bike and pedestrian infrastructure priorities in the overall ConnectRVA 2045 plan.

Created in 1974, the RRTPO helps facilitate collaboration and cooperation among residents and stakeholders related to funding and planning the future of the region’s transportation network. PlanRVA – a regional organization focused on community development, emergency management, the environment, and transportation – provides staffing to assist the RRTPO in its administration, project evaluation, prioritization, and other identified needs.

To access the plan and implementation resources, visit http://BikePedRVA.org.

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Government

Regional leaders seek public comment on $276.4 million in transportation investments

The Central Virginia Transportation Authority is seeking feedback on a funding scenario for approximately 30 projects planned for the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan, the City of Richmond and the Town of Ashland.

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Local leaders across Central Virginia will soon make funding decisions committing four years of regional revenue worth an estimated $276.4 million to improve local bike, pedestrian, bridge and highway infrastructure, but first, they want public input.

The Central Virginia Transportation Authority is seeking feedback on a funding scenario for approximately 30 projects planned for the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan, the City of Richmond and the Town of Ashland.

The public comment period is open until Thursday, April 28, 2022. Comments may be submitted online and during the public hearing at 8:30 a.m. on April 29 at PlanRVA, located at 9211 Forest Hill Avenue, Suite 200 or by joining the Zoom Webinar and submitting questions via the Q&A dialog box.

“The upcoming infrastructure investments will improve the mobility and quality of life for residents, while laying an important framework for transportation planning in our region,” said CVTA Chairman Frank J. Thornton, a member of the Henrico County Board of Supervisors. “We want to ensure everyone in our community has an opportunity to engage in the process. We are encouraging people to share feedback about what projects are most important to them.”

Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020, the Authority directs funding for priority transportation investments across the region.

PlanRVA – a regional organization focused on community development, emergency management, the environment and transportation – provides staffing to assist the Authority in its administration, project evaluation and prioritization, and other identified needs.

Projects in the current funding scenario include the Commerce Road Fall Line Trail Phases 1 and 2, Interstate 64 Ashland Road interchange, Interstate 95 & Route 10 interchange, Bottoms Bridge Park and Ride and several other highway and road improvements throughout the region.

The CVTA’s finance committee recommended the proposed funding allocation after reviewing five scenarios. CVTA scored and ranked projects based on their expected impacts and an evaluation of benefits compared with costs.

The CVTA will meet at 8:30 a.m. Friday, April 29 to hold a public hearing and vote on the projects to be funded.

In addition to providing feedback, the public can review the proposed funding scenario and learn more about the CVTA at planrva.org/transportation/cvta/.

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