Celebrating Bike Month: Pedaling Towards a Greener Future in Virginia

May is not just another month on the calendar; it’s Bike Month – a time to celebrate the joys and benefits of cycling! As we dust off our bicycles and hit the roads and trails, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the importance of sustainable transportation and the positive impact it has on our communities. CSPDC and RideShare join the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) in promoting biking as a viable and eco-friendly mode of transportation.

Bike Month serves as a platform to raise awareness about the numerous benefits of cycling. Beyond its environmental advantages, biking offers a host of personal benefits, including improved physical health, reduced stress levels, and cost savings on transportation. Whether it’s commuting to work, running errands, or simply enjoying a leisurely ride, cycling enriches our lives in countless ways. During May, riders are encouraged to log their bike-to-work trips for a chance to earn rewards and win prizes. DRPT is giving away an e-bike and helmet to one lucky winner! Each trip logged in the ConnectingVA app increases your chances of winning.

Together with our state and regional partners, we recognize biking as an integral part of Virginia’s transportation system. Both the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro (SAWMPO) and Harrisonburg-Rockingham (HRMPO) Metropolitan Planning Organizations actively promote the development of bike-friendly infrastructure, including dedicated bike lanes, trails, and bike-sharing programs.

As we celebrate Bike Month this May, let’s reaffirm our commitment to sustainable transportation and embrace the power of the pedal. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or just starting out, there’s never been a better time to hop on your bike and explore all that Virginia has to offer. Together, we can pedal towards a greener, healthier, and more vibrant future for our communities!

Paula Melester Selected as Director of Transportation

The Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission has selected Paula Melester to be the next Director of Transportation. Paula has been at the PDC for two-and-a-half years working with the transportation and transit team first as a Regional Planner and most recently as a Senior Planner. In her previous role, Paula served as the coordinator of the Rideshare Commuter Assistance program, worked with the BRITE Transit System, and managed the Afton Express Commuter Bus Service.

The Director of Transportation serves as the administrator for the Harrisonburg-Rockingham and Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Metropolitan Planning Organizations, coordinates rural transportation planning efforts, manages the CSPDC’s On-Call Consultant Program, and oversees the BRITE Bus Transit System. Paula will take over leadership of these programs from Ann Cundy, who was recently selected as the CSPDC’s Executive Director. “Ann has set the bar high for leading this team and managing these programs, so I have big shoes to fill. But I am inheriting an excellent team of planners and will strive to continue to deliver the same level of service our partners have come to expect from our transportation team” Paula says.

Paula holds a Bachelor’s Degree (B.S.) in Organizational Communication and Human Resource Management, and a Master’s Degree (M.P.A) in Public Administration, both from James Madison University. Paula is excited to continue her work with our regional, state, and federal transit and transportation partners, and she looks forward to forging new relationships with our member jurisdictions to promote safe, equitable, and accessible transportation solutions throughout the region.

GO Virginia Region 8 Council Approves Talent Pathways Initiative Proposal

GO Virginia’s Region 8 Council convened for their regular session at the Aviation Technology Park’s newest hangar located within Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. The Council met in one of two recently constructed 14,000 square foot corporate aircraft hangars, funded with support from USDA Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

At the meeting, the Region 8 Council approved funding for the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board’s Talent Pathways Initiative Project Proposal. This initiative focuses on analyzing the region’s manufacturing, transportation, and logistics industries, with the aim of identifying labor demands and opportunities for training and workforce development. The council also approved a planning grant for a workforce study for the Winchester Regional Airport. Both applications will be considered by the State GO Virginia Board at their next meeting.

Additionally, the Council announced significant changes to the administration of GO Virginia grants. Going forward, applicants for grants must now only provide a 2:1 match, a shift from the previous requirement of a 1:1 match. Moreover, the maximum award for planning grants has increased from the $250,000 cap to 25% of the total project cost. Lastly, recognizing that a shortage of healthcare services was impeding regional growth, previously ineligible healthcare projects are now eligible for GO Virginia funding if they address demonstrated needs for healthcare workers and services.

CSPDC Welcomes New Staff

Garreth Bartholomew, Kimberly Miller and Philippe Bone have been hired to fill open positions at the CSPDC.

Garreth Bartholomew joined the CSPDC as their newest Transportation Planner on April 18.  He is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy with a Masters in Public Policy, specializing in rural economic and community development.  He was a Graduate Assistant for both UVA Student Health and Wellness for basic needs and a Graduate Assistant at UVA School of Architecture, along with Director of Special Projects for the Remote Area Medical Free Pop-up Clinic at the Augusta Expo Center in Fishersville. His hobbies are riding his folding bike and volunteering with local non-profit entities in the SAW and Piedmont regions.

Kimberly Miller recently rejoined the CSPDC as Office Manager replacing Rita Whitfield, who retired.  Kimberly has over 10 years of experience at the PDC and was the primary administrative support for the SAWMPO, oversaw the HOME Downpayment and Closing Cost Assistance program, and assisted with many planning grants and programs in her tenure.  In 2023, she took time with her husband and three cats to travel in their RV and is now back in the area full time to be near family.  She is looking forward to assisting the PDC in the role of Office Manager.

Philippe Bone recently joined the CSPDC as their newest Regional Planner, stepping into his role on April 16. Prior to this, he supported corporate social responsibility at Ceres, Inc., and with the EIRIS Conflict Risk Network, where he collaborated with institutional investors to advocate for peace and stability in conflict-affected areas. He has also conducted multiple qualitative and quantitative research projects throughout West Africa on topics including violent extremism, good governance, and development for federal agencies.  Philippe holds an MA in Conflict, Security, and Development, along with a BA in History and International Relations from the University of Exeter.  He currently resides in Waynesboro, VA. Philippe looks forward to contributing to the CSPDC’s mission and aims to make a positive impact in our communities. In his free time, Philippe enjoys hiking and spending time with his two daughters.

Afton Mountain Transportation Site Assessment Being Finalized

The Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (SAWMPO) is completing a transportation site assessment at the Afton Mountain property located at the crossroads of I-64 and Rt. 250. The assessment is part of a larger, comprehensive site study being conducted by Augusta County.

The transportation assessment is reviewing existing transportation conditions, and also several future development scenarios at the site that could impact future traffic patterns along US 250. Depending on the extent of future development, study is recommending a roundabout at the intersection of US 250 and Howardsville Turnpike. The final draft of the report will be available on sawmpo.org later in May.

CSPDC’s Watershed Wellness Mini-Grant Program Awards Five Projects

The CSPDC is pleased to award five grants through the Watershed Wellness Mini-Grant Program. The grants are used for the planning and installation of stormwater best management practices through the Commission’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) program. The program is funded by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in support the State of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction goals.

The grantees include the towns of Bridgewater, Buena Vista, and Elkton, and the non-profit Rockbridge Conservation based in Lexington. Four installation projects were awarded for the planting of native trees, shrubs, and compost application in dense urban settings and along stream banks to address erosion, run-off, and sediment. One planning study was awarded to identify BMPs to address streambank run-off along a walking trail.

The grant program provides up to $3,500 in non-match funding for stormwater BMP planning and installation for localities and non-profits in the CSPDC region.

Town of Goshen Selected for ARC READY Local Governments Program

As reported in the February 2024 CSPDC Newsletter, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) commenced the READY Local Governments program as one of their READY Appalachia capacity-building initiatives. The READY Local Governments funding provides no-cost training to assist local government representatives with identifying, securing, managing, and implementing federally sourced projects. The course capacity was limited to 180 local government officials, with no more than two representatives per community.

On April 24, the ARC announced the 90 local government entities, representing 12 Appalachian states, selected to participate in the READY Local Governments program. The Town of Goshen was among the 90 selectees. Mayor Tom McCraw and Assistant Town Clerk Trudy Martin will participate in the virtual, cohort-based learning program. The 9-week training course is scheduled to begin in spring 2024.

ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin stated in the READY Local Government press release, “ARC’s local government partners have always been the backbone of our on-the-ground work throughout our Appalachian communities. Through our READY Local Governments initiative, we are proud to help these partners enhance their work through training, resources, and expanded support, because when our local communities thrive, the entire Appalachian Region succeeds.”

To further assist communities, these 90 local governments are each eligible for up to $50K in funding to initiate in-house capacity-building projects after completing the training. No match is required. Visit this ARC webpage for more information on the READY Local Governments program: https://www.arc.gov/ready/localgovs/.

2024 Virginia Transit Association Annual Conference and Bus Expo

The Virginia Transit Association (VTA) is hosting their Annual Conference and Bus Expo on May 22-23, 2024 at the Hotel Madison & Shenandoah Valley Conference Center Harrisonburg, Virginia. Industry leaders, policymakers, and innovators from across the state converge at the annual conference to explore the future of transit. From cutting-edge technology to sustainable solutions, this event promotes insightful discussions, networking opportunities, and actionable strategies to advance public transportation across the Commonwealth. Additionally, at the end of the conference there will be a graduation ceremony for the first cohort of Virginia Transit Leadership Institute (VTLI).

The conference is sold out, but if you would like to be added to a waitlist should there be a cancellation, please contact VTA at 804-643-1166.

Rita Whitfield Retires

Rita Whitfield, Office Manager of the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, retired after more than 46 years and was recognized for her outstanding and meritorious service at the Commission meeting on April 15, 2024.

Rita began her career with the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission on February 16, 1978, as Secretary I in the office Secretarial Pool, advancing to the position of Administrative Assistant; and then to the position of Office Manager that she held for 15 years.

Over her career, Rita worked for six Executive Directors and more than 150 Commissioners.  She supported dozens of planners and staff by providing high quality administrative and management support.

On behalf of Commission and the region, we extend our sincere and grateful appreciation for her dedicated service to the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission and congratulate her on her well-earned retirement, and extend our best wishes for continued success, happiness, and good health in the years to come.