Friday, April 28, 2017

Analyze Crash Trends With VDOT’s Data Visualization Tool

The Virginia Department of Transportation has shifted gears in its approach to open data.
Since 2013, the agency has used data visualization software Tableau to present its data on accidents and crashes in a more intuitive and useful way.

This can help citizens pull the lever of change if the numbers prove an intersection or road is dangerous.
“You can say I want to see I-95 in Fairfax County and only see fatalities,” said Keith Donley, the enterprise data manager at VDOT.
This can fuel “conversations about where the most dangerous roads are.”
Read the rest of the story here.

Try the visualization tool here.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Prescription For Savings

It's a virtuous cycle that may come as no surprise: build bike lanes, and watch health care costs drop. Recent research from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University shows just what a bargain bike lanes can be.
Jing Gu, Babak Mohit and Peter Alexander Muennig wanted to learn whether investing in bike lanes produced better (or worse) outcomes than investing in other health interventions, such as expanding health care services or injury prevention programs.
First, the researchers quantified "If you build it, they will come." The team calculated that the estimated 45.5 miles of new bicycle lanes (protected and otherwise) that New York City built in 2015, at a cost of $8.1 million, increased the probability the people would ride bikes by 9.2 percent. They estimate that the 9.2 percent increase in turn produced future health savings as a result of fewer injuries, better individual health due to increased physical activity, and improved air quality—which improved health for cyclists and non-cyclists alike.
Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Oslo: The Journey to Car-Free

In 2015, the newly elected city government of Oslo, Norway, announced its intention to make the downtown car-free by 2019. I immediately put it on my list of places to check out for Streetfilms. Last fall I made the trip, not knowing exactly what I'd find.
There are a number of reasons Oslo is looking to shift away from driving and get cars out of downtown. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, and leaders see more efficient streets and transportation as essential to managing this growth. But the biggest factor is that air quality in Oslo and many places in Norway is deteriorating. In winter, especially, air pollution from diesel vehicles can reach dangerous levels and keep vulnerable children and seniors restricted indoors.
Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cycling To Work Can Cut Cancer And Heart Disease

Want to live longer? Reduce your risk of cancer? And heart disease? Then cycle to work, say scientists.
The biggest study into the issue linked using two wheels with a halving of the risk of cancer and heart disease.
The five-year study of 250,000 UK commuters also showed walking had some benefits over sitting on public transport or taking the car.
The team in Glasgow said cycling took no willpower once it became part of the work routine - unlike going to the gym.
The five-year study compared people who had an "active" commute with those who were mostly stationary.
Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

CTB Awards Two Contracts Worth $69.6 Million

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved two contracts at their monthly meeting today totaling $69.6 million for maintenance and construction projects in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Salem and Northern Virginia districts.
  • Safety improvements on Route 220 in Botetourt County will widen shoulders, realign intersections, add rumble strips and turning lanes
A design-build contract totaling $64.5 million was awarded to Faulconer Construction Company, Inc. of Charlottesville for safety improvements on an 8.9-mile stretch of Route 220 in VDOT’s Salem District. The work will begin just south of Route 43 (Narrow Passage Road) and run to Route 727 (Farm Fork Road).
The project will widen shoulders, realign intersections, add turn lanes, create additional passing zones, and add raised centerline pavement markings as well as rumble strips in the center and on the edge-line of the road.
The three-phase project is expected to be complete by August 2021.
  • Bridges on Interstate 495 in Fairfax County will be repaired
A $5.1 million contract was awarded to Martins Construction Corp. of Falls Church to repair two bridges along the ramp from southbound I-495 (Outer Loop of the Capital Beltway) to northbound I-395 in the Northern Virginia District.
The bridge over northbound I-495 (the Inner Loop) will receive a new concrete overlay, work on the deck joints, new beam bearings, paint on the steel superstructure, and repairs to the concrete piers and abutments. The bridge was built in 1975.
Repairs to ramps over the Norfolk Southern Railroad will include replacing the concrete bridge deck and beam bearings, repairing the pre-stressed concrete beams, concrete piers and abutments, and pavement on the approach to the bridge. This section was built in 1959.
The project is expected to be complete in June 2018. The following chart tracks the dollar amount of major contracts the CTB has awarded in calendar year 2017:
In advance of each CTB meeting, VDOT Commissioner Charles Kilpatrick also approves contracts up to $5 million in value. From the February 22, 2017 bid letting, the commissioner approved 56 contracts worth an approximate total of 103.5 million for construction and maintenance projects on Virginia’s interstates and primary and secondary roads.
Appointed by the governor, the 17-member CTB establishes the administrative policies for Virginia's transportation system. The CTB allocates highway funding to specific projects, locates routes and provides funding for airports, seaports and public transportation. The board normally meets on the third Wednesday of the month in months when action meetings are scheduled.
For more information:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Redesigning Main Street

This week, we're sharing stories from Strong Towns members who will be speaking at our transportation summit in Tulsa, OK beginning on Thursday, March 30. Paul Fritz, along with his friends and colleagues Dave Alden and Mitch Connor, are leading a workshop entitled "Building Citizen Organizations to Reintegrate Commuter Rail into Communities." Their workshop will share insights about how to organize your community to promote beneficial, financially sound rail initiatives as an alternative to car-centric cities. Today's article by Paul Fritz is a repost from his blog, Small Town Urbanism. It takes a deep dive into a local street in his town of Sebastopol, CA and considers how it could be better designed to prioritize pedestrian safety—not just car traffic— as well as economic productivity.

And if you're interested in reading more from Paul, take a look at his hilarious and brilliant blog post about "Slow Down Cat," Sebastopol's own, larger than life, traffic calming kitty.
As someone who moves through town primarily on my own two feet I am constantly aware of how our public infrastructure is completely geared toward the automobile. Main Street feels as if it were designed to move cars through town as quickly as possible at the expense of any other user of the public right-of-way. To their credit, the city has been installing new crosswalks to help increase pedestrian visibility on the primary routes that cross our town, which include five along the roughly 1.5 mile length of Main Street. Generally, I think these have been successful in increasing pedestrian safety. But we still have a long way to go before we have a balanced system.

Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pedestrian Deaths Soar In The Uneven Battles With Cars

For Peggy Dickie, the end came when she tried to cross a street during rush hour in Northwest Washington. For Betty Lou Vest, it was just before 8 p.m. near an intersection in Clarksburg, Md. For Irma Taracena, it was on a poorly lit road around 9:40 in Falls Church, Va.
All three pedestrians were among the scores killed in the Washington region and the 28,642 killed nationally between 2010 and 2015 after being struck by cars.
Pedestrian deaths soared by 25 percent during the period, far outpacing the 6 percent overall increase in traffic fatalities.
“Unfortunately, this latest data shows that the U.S. is not meeting the mark on keeping pedestrians safe on our roadways,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which detailed the pedestrian fatalities in a report released Thursday.
Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reston’s Surprising Battle Over Paid Parking Was a Long Time Coming

In early March, several hundred people demonstrated in Reston Town Center against a major injustice. No, this wasn’t a protest about ending Obamacare or about violence against Muslim-Americans or gutting the EPA’s budget. It was against paying for parking.
Since January, shoppers and workers in the nouveau downtown off the Dulles Toll Road have had to pay $2 to $3 an hour, or up to $24 a day, to store their cars while visiting the likes of the Apple Store or Ted’s Bulletin. Drivers can pay either at a machine or using a smartphone app. Those who don’t pay get a bright-yellow shell called a Bumble Bee affixed to their windshield, preventing them from driving away.
Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Jim’s Journeys … Traveling the TTA Highway

Hey everybody!

Sorry I haven't been out much, but you guys have been keeping me busy busy busy with classes.  Just this month I've had full classes in Dinwiddie, Charlottesville, Arlington and Henrico.

I was pretty sure we were going to run out of room at our class in Dinwiddie (see photo), but we managed to get through and get everybody up to date on their work zone certification cards.

I did make it out to the Northern Neck this week and if there is one thing I've learned it is that Public Works Directors and City Managers are in more meetings than anybody else in government.  As a thank you for their dedication and hard work I think we should get together and get some gifts to show our appreciation.  Given the amount of time in meetings I think the following gifts would be appropriate:

1) Sun Lamps- Stuck inside in meeting all day so sunlight, even artificial, will do these guys a lot of good.

2) Lumbar Support Pillows- So much time sitting isn't good for your back- take it from a guy who spends most of his time in his car- so get that special Public Works Director in your life a pillow so he doesn't have to miss future meetings with a stiff back.

3) Starbucks Gift Card- If his meetings are as boring as the ones we have in our TTA offices then the caffeine will definitely be appreciated.

I did have a good visit Neiman Young, the County Administrator from King George County.  I tell you what, the secret to a good visit is finding the one guy who knows everything about anything  that might be going on in a county or city.  Neiman Young is that guy in King George County.  I'm pretty sure I'll be hearing from him soon or at least heading up to King George for a class by years end.

Do you need any training from TTA?  Have any questions you don't know where to find the answers?  Are you friend with your area's Neiman Young and want me to meet with him or her?  Contact me at and we can schedule a visit!

Florida's failure to protect cyclists, pedestrians

Walking or riding a bike in Florida can be risky business. One of Florida's best-known bicycle safety advocates, Alan Snel, recently was run over from behind by a distracted driver near Fort Pierce and ended up in intensive care. The 65-year-old driver who hit him was not ticketed, and this was too much even for Snel, whose advocacy for bicycling extends to the White House (he invited President Donald Trump for a ride, though the president didn't take him up on the offer). Snel is moving to Las Vegas. But that's no answer for the rest of us.

At one time or another, we are all drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. For safety's sake, everyone should understand and follow the law. Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. It's the law. Give bicyclists 3 feet of clearance. That's also the law. Drivers can be quick to blame the cyclist in dark clothing at night or the one who pedals through red lights. Fair enough. But are those same drivers contrite when they drive 10 or 15 mph over the speed limit or roll through a stop sign?

Read the rest of the editorial here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Agency Names New Chief of Technology and Innovation

RICHMOND, Virginia – Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Charles Kilpatrick, P.E., today announced that Robert H. Cary, P.E., L.S. will be the agency’s new Chief of Innovation and Technology.
“This is a new position at VDOT,” said VDOT Commissioner Kilpatrick. “Rob is bringing new opportunities to transportation infrastructure in the commonwealth. He will have the freedom and latitude to work across all aspects of our organization and guide us in implementing new ideas.”
rob caryCary will concentrate on finding and using new technology, innovative practices and other opportunities to advance transportation infrastructure in Virginia.
“New transportation technologies, such as connected and autonomous vehicles, are very exciting especially in relation to economic development and safety opportunities,” said Cary. “In this role, I plan to focus on implementable innovations – not just looking at what we can do in five to 10 years, but now. By working across the agency and together with industry leaders, I truly believe we can make Virginia the ‘Silicon Valley’ for transportation.”
Cary began his career with VDOT in 1992 as a transportation engineer in VDOT’s Staunton District and later became location and design engineer in the Salem District before being promoted to assistant district administrator for preliminary engineering. Cary held additional leadership roles as the district engineer in both the Lynchburg and Salem districts. He has served as the Richmond district engineer since 2014.
While in the Richmond District, Cary directed road maintenance, construction and operations across approximately 18,700 lane miles of roads in the Richmond District’s 14 counties overseeing a budget of approximately $450 million and leading the District’s 850 employees in delivering services to the 1.3 million citizens of the Richmond District.
Cary holds a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech. Following graduation, Cary joined William H. Gordon Associates of Woodbridge as a staff engineer and surveyor. In 2007, Cary was appointed chairman of the American Association of State Highway Officials’ (AASHTO) Technical Committee on Preconstruction Engineering Management. Cary is also a member of AASHTO’s subcommittee on design, and is active with both the Transportation Research Board and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.
Cary currently serves as the chairman of the American Association of State Highway Officials’ (AASHTO) Technical Committee of Project Management, a member of AASHTO’s Subcommittee on Design, and is active with both the Transportation Research Board and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

VDOT, Family to Honor Fallen Highway Workers

VDOT veteran’s name added to memorial this year  

Robert James Butler, a 25-year VDOT veteran, was killed in a work zone in 1959.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. — Nearly 60 years following a tragic work zone crash in Prince George County, a new name has been engraved on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Workers’ Memorial on Afton Mountain in Albemarle County. On Oct. 23, 1959, Robert James Butler, a Disputanta native, was working as a highway foreman when he was struck and killed by an errant vehicle. After recently learning the details of his death, VDOT staff added Butler’s name among the other 134 etched in the granite memorial.
 “The VDOT Workers’ Memorial and the addition of Mr. Butler’s name are a sobering reminder that the victims of work zone crashes are not just statistics,” said VDOT Commissioner Charles Kilpatrick. “We continue to make work zone safety our priority every day. We owe it to the names on the Workers’ Memorial and to all of our hardworking contractors and employees.”
“This tragedy, even many years later, emphasizes the dangers VDOT workers face on Virginia’s roads each day,” said Richmond District Engineer, Bart Thrasher, P.E. “We are grateful and humbled to honor Mr. Butler’s sacrifice and the legacy he leaves.”
 Based on local newspaper accounts shortly following the crash, the driver of a vehicle, trying to pass slower traffic, drove through a wooden barricade and struck Butler, only 66 years old.
 Jennie Wells, one of Butler’s granddaughters, remembers her grandfather fondly. His memory lives on through his sacrifice as her parents taught her to drive a car. “My parents would comment about the need to be observant in work zones,” she said. “I am more aware and passed that on to my sons. They know the history and the consequences.”
 Lisa Tuohey, another one of Butler’s granddaughters, shares his legacy:
The cousins would spend a week on our grandfather’s farm; it was magical! At the end of a work day, we’d run to the end of the long driveway and greet granddad as he came home from work. He jumped out of the DOT truck and turned to wave goodbye to his crew before greeting us with a hug. All of this came to an abrupt halt when our family received the tragic news of granddad's senseless death. Our world had been shattered and would never be the same. Life changed for all of us after that. The farm was sold, but I think each of us drove back by many times to remember the fond days we had as children with our granddad. He was a remarkable man who left us too soon. We hope in some way this memorial will be a reminder to all that those are not just names. Many lives are touched with each entry.
 VDOT will honor those fallen in Virginia work zones at a vigil at the Workers’ Memorial on Tuesday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. during this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week, observed April 3-7, 2017.
 The Workers’ Memorial sits on a scenic overlook on Afton Mountain off of Interstate 64. For more information, visit For more information about the Workers’ Memorial vigil, visit