The Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC) hosted a luncheon briefing with representatives of Virginia’s Congressional offices in mid-March. This was done in conjunction with the 2023 National Association of Development Organization’s Washington Conference. Staff from Senator Kaine’s office and five of our Congressional offices attended. We engaged in good discussion about regional projects, federal funding opportunities and other topics. VAPDC was represented by a good cohort of Board members, PDC Commissioners, Executive Directors, and staff. Bonnie Riedesel, CSPDC Executive Director attended the briefing and highlighted a number of the federally funded projects and programs in the CSPDC region.
May is National Bike Month – an annual celebration to increase awareness and participation in bicycling, and showcase its many health and environmental benefits. Bike to Work Week 2023 will take place May 15-21, 2023, and Bike to Work Day is on Friday, May 19!
The Advancement Foundation (TAF) hosted the April GO Virginia Region 8 Council meeting at its facility in Buena Vista. The Region 8 Council toured the space, now home of the Virginia Innovation Accelerator (VIA). TAF has received several grants, including a GO Virginia grant, to convert the former Mundet building into space for small-scale manufacturing, commercial kitchen use, business acceleration, and product development. The space also will promote training, outdoor recreation, tourism, and community events.
At the meeting, the Region 8 Council approved an application from the Shenandoah Community Capital Fund (SCCF) for the Capacitor Incubator Program for continued entrepreneurial ecosystem development in the Shenandoah Valley. Expanding on SCCF’s prior GO Virginia funded project, Startup Shenandoah Valley, the Capacitor Incubator Program will help entrepreneurs create their first proof of concept, identify target markets, and build the systems and financing to successfully launch their business. Augusta County and the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Waynesboro are locality partners on SCCF’s application. The State GO Virginia Board will consider the Capacitor Incubator Program application at its June 13 meeting. Also, a refreshed GO Virginia Region 8 website was announced during the Council meeting. Other news and information about GO Virginia Region 8 is available at https://govirginiaregion8.org/.
The US DOT’s Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) Community grant is the first electric vehicle (EV) charging station grant available for all localities under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The CFI program, which will fund EV infrastructure until 2026, promotes EV charging station installation on publicly available sites, and is focusing on stations in rural areas.
The CSPDC developed a survey to evaluate the level-of-interest of localities for installing EV charging stations, and for applying for CFI funding through a region-wide CSPDC application by the May 30, 2023 deadline. The CSPDC is assisting interested localities with the application process. Please contact Senior Planner Zach Beard at email@example.com to learn more.
Up to $1 billion in funding for projects that increase equitable access to urban tree canopy, broaden community engagement in local urban forest planning, and improve the community and urban forest resilience to climate change, pests, and storm events. Minimum funding is $100,000; maximum $50 million; all agreements are for 5 years.
More at: Urban Forests | US Forest Service (usda.gov). Applications due June 1st.
On April 19, the CSPDC hosted a USDA-Rural Development Programs Showcase at the Virginia Horse Center in Rockbridge County. The event was a great success with over 60 registrants, and presenters from USDA-Rural Development, Dupont Community Credit Union, BARC Electric, the Shenandoah Community Capital Fund, the Horse Center, and the Office of Congressman Ben Cline.
The event featured a comprehensive overview of the many grants and loans that USDA-Rural Development has to offer our region. Topics covered rural business, community facilities, water and environmental programs, housing, telecommunications, and electric programs. Dupont Community Credit Union and BARC Electric, both sponsors of the event, shared how USDA-RD funds have positively impacted their organizations and made regional improvements possible in the fields of housing and telecommunications.
The event was attended by local staff and elected officials, housing professionals, community service providers, farm market managers, lending professionals, and rural businesses around the region and served as a unique opportunity for organizations to discuss project ideas and funding resources with USDA-RD representatives.
Virginia Public Media (VPM) recently released a documentary series called Life in the Heart Land. The series takes a deep dive into the unique challenges facing Virginia’s rural communities, and the innovative solutions that are being implemented on the local, regional, and state level to solve them. The series spans across eight episodes covering food insecurity, justice reform, recycling and plastics, farming, housing, the Monacan Nation, agricultural workers, and broadband.
CSPDC Housing Program Manager, Olivia Raines, was featured in the Housing episode, and discussed some of the challenges surrounding the advancement of affordable housing as well as efforts to better understand our region’s specific housing challenges through the ongoing Central Shenandoah Regional Housing Study. The episode also emphasizes the lived experience of those experiencing housing insecurity, providing an in-depth look at the housing challenges that many families face daily. The docu-series features many other organizations that are working to promote rural prosperity in the Central Shenandoah region, including Jones Gardens, Allegheny Mountain Institute, Valley Community Services Board, Eastern Mennonite University, Blue Ridge Legal Services, BARC Electric Cooperative, and many more. If you are interested in viewing the series on the big screen, Visulite Cinemas in Staunton will be featuring two episodes for free each Sunday in May followed by a panel.
CHP Energy Solutions is a 501c3 non-profit providing zero cost home and energy improvements for qualifying renters AND homeowners in Staunton, Augusta, Waynesboro, Highland, Harrisonburg, and Rockingham. Improvements can include installation of LED lighting, repair or replacement of heating and cooling systems, adding insulation, select home repairs, health & safety improvements, and more. CHP Energy Solutions is the Virginia DHCD designated weatherization provider for central and northern Virginia. Households can apply for no-cost services by calling our office at 888 – 229- 3714 or by visiting their website.
On May 8, Regional Planner & Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Coordinator Paula Melester and Transit Planner Devon Thompson traveled to Warsaw, Virginia to meet with fellow TDM professionals to learn how microtransit is being implemented in rural Virginia. The Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT)’s Chesapeake Chapter organized the event. The Chesapeake Chapter is hosting a series of in-person meetings this year to discuss topics of interest in the Transit and TDM industries. Microtransit is a hot topic right now, as agencies are considering how it might supplement or replace fixed transit routes.
The meeting was hosted by the Northern Neck Planning District Commission. Bay Aging and Bay Transit staff presented their microtransit pilot program – Bay Transit Express. Michael Norvell, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations for Bay Transit, shared lessons learned and performance data from the first year of operations for Bay Transit Express. The service has been very successful in Gloucester, Virginia, providing on-demand transportation solutions in rural areas.
CSPDC staff talked with Michael about Bay Transit’s experience, from feasibility study through implementation. The CSPDC and BRITE Transit have plans to conduct a microtransit feasibility study for the BRITE service region in FY25 as part of the Transit Development Plan. Information gleaned from early adopters – particularly in rural areas – will help guide the scope of future studies.
Bay Transit Express is also featured in the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)’s recently published Rural Microtransit Case Study and Report. You can read more about microtransit in rural Virginia by reviewing the report on the DRPT website.
The review period for the Harrisonburg Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (HRMPO) draft 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) closes Thursday, May 18.
Physical copies of the draft 2045 LRTP are also available for review at the Harrisonburg City Hall, the Rockingham County Administration Center, Town of Dayton City Hall, Mt. Crawford Town Municipal Building, Bridgewater Community Center, and the Massanutten Regional Library.
HRMPO, which is staffed by CSPDC, developed the draft 2045 LRTP based on input from a record number of community members. Your review of the draft document, which includes 55 transportation projects across the region, will help ensure the plan captures our region’s transportation needs and that the projects and proposed studies in the draft plan help meet those needs.
Visit hrvampo.org/lrtp for more information and to sign up to receive email updates on the LRTP.