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UVa and VDOT Join Research into Helping Public and Officials Talk Traffic Issues

December 6,2012

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) has been awarded a $192,885 grant from the second Strategic Highway Research Program of the Transportation Research Board.

The grant is to find better ways for Virginians to communicate transportation issues with officials.

The University of Virginia and VDOT are contributing research groups to help TJPDC test methods for raising awareness to the public on transportation issues.

“This grant will lead the way in improving the ability of area residents to participate in the transportation planning process,” said Stephen Williams, TJPDC executive director. “In collaboration with our partners on this project, it will help community members better understand how transportation projects will affect their daily lives and the quality of life in the Charlottesville, Albemarle County and beyond.”

The project is set to begin January 2013 and conclude in January 2014.

The official press release is presented below.
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) will use a $192,885 grant to develop new ways to improve understanding of transportation issues by the public and decision makers.

The grant recently was awarded through the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), part of the National Academies.

TJPDC will partner with research groups from the University of Virginia (U.Va.) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to test the use of advanced analytical techniques and methods for community outreach to enhance the public’s awareness of transportation issues that affect Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the surrounding region.

“This grant will lead the way in improving the ability of area residents to participate in the transportation planning process,” said Stephen Williams, TJPDC executive director. “In collaboration with our partners on this project, it will help community members better understand how transportation projects wi ll affect their daily lives and the quality of life in the Charlottesville, Albemarle County and beyond. In turn, such understanding at the grassroots level will help the community provide better input to our local decision makers.”

UVa’s Center for Survey Research will conduct surveys at the beginning and end of the project to determine the extent to which various approaches improve community understanding of transportation plans.

“We are excited to be teaming up with TJPDC and VDOT on this study," sai d Tom Guterbock, Ph.D., director of U.Va.'s Center for Survey Research. "We plan to incorporate these transportation questions as part of our third semiannual Jefferson Area Community Survey, and we know from our previous surveys that transportation issues are of great interest to residents of this area."

VDOT’s Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research (VCTIR) will provide input to the U.Va. survey center on the transportation issues. Examples include: identifying possible performance measures, such as impacts of certain projects on emissions or ridership; alternatives for prioritizing transportation investments; and methods for estimating future impacts of proposed transportation investments.

“VDOT believes that partnerships such as th is with local planning organizations ultimately will produce a better transportation system for the commonwealth,” said Jose P. Gomez, Ph.D., P.E., VCTIR director. “The results of this project will help bring the transportation planning process closer to the people who use Virginia’s roads and bridges every day and inform them that they, too, have a valuable role in that process.”

Application of these new methods and techniques, such as those found in the SHRP2 “Decision Guide for Long-Range Transportation Plans” and developed through the federal program entitled “Transportation for Communities – Advancing Projects through Partnerships” (TCAPP), is expected to result in better public dialogue on state and local transportation plans and lead to long -term sup port for selected projects.

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) then will have the opportunity to employ these techniques, once they are developed, as proposed new transportation projects move through the local planning process.

The project, entitled “Additional Pilot Projects to Improve TCAPP,” will start in January 2013 and conclude in January 2014.

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Background:

• Congress authorized the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) to address some of the most pressing needs related to the nation’s highway system: the high toll taken by highway deaths and injuries; aging infrastructure that must be rehabilitated with minimum disruption to users; and congestion stemming both from inadequate physical capacity and from events that reduce the effective capacity of a highway facility, situations where improved planning could help alleviate such problems. These needs define SHRP2’s four research focus areas – safety, renewal, reliability and capacity. For more information, see http://www.trb.org/StrategicHighwayResearchProgram2SHRP2/Blank2.aspx .

• The U.Va. Center for Survey Research (CSR), part of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, employs expert faculty and staff to use the best social-science and survey tools for sound research. CSR’s mission is to help its clients achieve their goals by providing survey-based information that is objective, accurate, relevant, timely and clear. For more information, see http://www.coopercenter.org/csr .

• The Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research , VDOT’s research division bas ed in Charlottesville, has been a partnership of VDOT and U.Va. since 1948. VCTIR works with VDOT, other transportation agencies and the private sector to test and implement innovative, cost -effective solutions to extend the service life of the commonwealth’s roads and bridges and make them safer and to fuel Virginia’s multimodal transportation program. For more information, see www.vtrc.net.


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