Greenways project approved for $12.7 million - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Greenways project approved for $12.7 million

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A Roanoke Valley greenways project has been approved. A Roanoke Valley greenways project has been approved.

The Roanoke River Greenways will be getting $12,775,000 to finish the greenway from Green Hill Park to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Roanoke Valley Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved $28.2 million for 15 regional transportation projects over the next 6 years.

The money for the Greenway will allow them to finish the remaining nine miles.

"To have them all connected actually allows us to blend across all our jurisdictions and neighborhoods and to meet new people, but it also is an opportunity to commute by bicycle" said Liz Belcher, the Roanoke Valley Greenway coordinator, who got a little emotional when talking about the decision. "This really was a dream for people and now it's going to be a reality, that's great."

Also funded in fiscal year 2014:

-$300,000: A study in downtown Roanoke to help with planning for passenger rail service

-$560,000: replacing a Smartwaybus

-Improvements to Plantation Road in Roanoke County: almost $27,593 in the first year, with more than $1.2 million the following year.

-$1.6 million: Interstate 81 exit 140 park-and-ride

-$177,956: West Main Street sidewalks and signals in Roanoke County

-$100,000: improvements for Walnut Avenue in Vinton

-$200,000: a study on a freight-intermodal center to move cargo by rail in Elliston

However, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation expressed concern with the last money allotment .

"They simply felt the $200,000 that was going to be spent on that study could be better spent on other eligible RSTP projects" said Rob Cary, the District Administrator for Salem VDOT.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization members were surprised by that statement and will discuss moving that money in upcoming meetings.

The funding must be programmed for a six-year cycle and is flexible for use on a variety of federally qualifying projects. However, the projects are reviewed yearly and the MPO Policy Board can open the process up to new applications as needed.

"It is possible that projects not obligated in the first year of the six year cycle in the financial plan could be reassessed if a higher priority project comes along", says MarkMcCaskill, a senior planner with the Roanoke Valley Area MPO.

Projects listed in the first year of funding are committed for full funding; projects listed in the remaining years of the financial plan are not guaranteed funding, due to the possibility of the MPO Policy Board deciding to call for new applications and re-prioritize in any future year.

The plan now goes to the state Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) for approval.  We're told the CTB will receive the project list and financial plan as voted on by the MPO and generally will abide by their decisions.

The funding is referred to as "RSTP" for Regional SurfaceTransportation Program, where Federal Highway Administration funds are allocated to urban areas with populations greater than 200,000. While the Roanoke Valley has been a federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for many decades, the region crossed the 200,000 population threshold after the 2010 US Census. At the same time, Montgomery County was also added to the Roanoke Valley Area MPO, since the2010 urbanized area now includes the US Route 460 corridor towards Elliston.

All RSTP project applications background information can be found at www.roanokempo.org.