How do transportation projects get selected? That question covers one of the major themes of reporting here at Charlottesville Community Engagement as I seek to help more people understand how “they” decide what happens.
Who are “they” anyway? Can it be “us?”
Anyway, let’s start with one key document.
The U.S. Department of Transportation requires localities to have a document called the Long Range Transportation Plan to help prepare to meet the needs for the future population.
“The purpose of the plan is to consider the system-wide needs for improvements across all modes of the surface transportation system,” Sandy Shackleford, the director of planning and transportation for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “These include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements, transit improvements, and road improvements.”
As part of this work, Shackleford organizes an entity called the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization that’s made up of elected officials who make the local decisions.
A webinar was held on June 20 that’s worth reviewing. As of this morning, only nine people had done so. (view the materials)
The federal government wants areas to plan for twenty years into the future but the TJPDC takes a longer view. (learn more).
“As a region we have chosen to use the planning horizon of 25 years when considering future roadway operations and conditions,” Shackelford said.
For the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO, the next target year is 27 years away and the name for this plan is thus called Moving Toward 2050.
A primary reason for the long range transportation plan is to give the federal government a sense of what regional priorities are.
“As part of identifying our regional priority projects, we use the plan to answer questions about how we can improve general access to community destinations and jobs, how to improve safety for users of all travel moves, and how to better connect our bicycle and pedestrian networks,” Shackleford said.
To receive federal funding, a project must be in the long range transportation plan. That includes projects that go through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process.
“There are a lot of valuable improvements we could be making but this process gives us the opportunity to have a regional discussion about what types of projects would have the most benefit,” Shackelford said.
The development of the next long range transportation plan will include public engagement. That work has already begun.
“We began public engagement in February by meeting with several stakeholder groups who represent different segments of our community to discuss the draft goals and objective language that was initially developed,” Shackelford said.
That engagement is now widening out to a larger group. The TJPDC is looking for input through a survey. (fill out the survey)
Take a look at the video to learn more about the process. Let’s get that view number up!
Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the July 14, 2023 edition of the program. You can also listen to the audio version there in the podcast. One day I’ll have all of that audio cross-posted here, too!
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