Thoughts from Director Beth O’Donnell
A seed was planted in the summer of 2015. On the first day of my first National LTAP Association conference in Savannah, GA, I sat down next to a person who introduced himself as the Kentucky LTAP Safety Circuit Rider. I learned from him and others that week that there was a small, but growing network of Safety Circuit Riders across the country. The job of these individuals was to collaborate with their LTAPs, DOTs and other relevant partners to make significant progress in reducing the number of crash and fatalities nationally by improving safety on local roadways through technical assistance, training and other safety-related services to local agencies. It was clear that the Virginia LTAP should pursue the possibility of joining the national network of SCRs by establishing its own SCR Program.
In the fall of 2016, and based on my preliminary work to establish a program, I was invited to a Safety Circuit Rider Peer Exchange that was sponsored by the Federal Highways Administration. At the time of the exchange, 7 states had existing SCR Programs and 7 additional states had programs that were very similar in nature. The peer exchange provided a forum for participants to discuss and exchange ideas on Safety Circuit Rider program startup, budgets, contracting, types of tasks (training, technology transfer and technical assistance), program evaluation, and noteworthy practices.
On December 27, 2017, the Virginia Safety Circuit Rider was launched with the support of the Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC) and the VDOT Traffic Engineering Division. Virginia is considered an early adopter and is an active participant in national calls with FHWA and its peer SCR programs.
During the early months of 2018 Virginia, SCR program staff laid the groundwork which led to the hire of its own Safety Circuit Rider, Becky Golden, P.E., in the fall of 2018. Calendar year 2019 represents the first full year of program activity with Becky at the helm.
Communication and collaboration with key partners at VTRC and VDOT has evolved and improved since the inception of the program. The learning process and resulting changes have set us up well for clear guidance, information exchange and mutual feedback in 2020 with the addition of the Highway Safety Project Delivery Team Leader to the management team. Weekly check-ins with the SCR have already proven extremely valuable to the direction of the program.
The UVA Program Manager role, filled by Matthew Bradley, PMP, has grown to become a critical role from an administrative point of view. Matthew ensures consistent communication with VTRC and VDOT, is responsible for building and managing the SCR Advisory Board and keeps all parties informed and on schedule with tasks and deliverables.
The training aspect of the program draws on extensive experience from its sister program, the VA LTAP, which therefore has imposed very high standards for the SCR. Attendance at the NHI Instructor Development Course and a willingness to revamp training curriculum and delivery methods have been expected, but also embraced. So far 15 classes have been held with 167 attendees totaling 1,136 hours of delivered training. Continuous improvement will be a focus in 2020 in an effort to reach more students and meet newly identified needs as they are discovered.
Several Road Safety Assessments have been completed in this first full year of the program. So many aspects of this effort required learning, adjustments and second and third attempts including stakeholder engagement, communication, perspectives and even procurement and reporting best practices. Lessons learned in 2019 have paved the way for productive results in 2020 – from site selection to implementation of countermeasures.
Technical assistance has proven to be a valuable avenue to relationship-building. Always a goal of the program, each phone call, email sent or resource provided creates and solidifies a relationship with a local agency. The Virginia Safety Circuit Rider is able to stretch local resources by providing an extra pair of hands or a quick answer to a problem, ultimately having a hand in addressing critical safety issues on local roads.
Thoughts from Safety Circuit Rider Becky Golden
The varied backgrounds of attendees in our workshops allows me to adjust the instruction examples to fit their own work experiences and to draw out their examples and methods to add to the course delivery as time goes by. I find it challenging but also enriching to engage law enforcement and utility inspectors as well as Transportation Planners and Engineers throughout the day including group exercises.
Each RSA or Tech Assist interaction has provided outcomes that far surpass the initial expectation through knowledge sharing between local officials, District and Residency VDOT staff, and RSA team members. While meeting on one RSA intersection VDOT and the locality talked through and resolved several other challenges including a road diet, pedestrian safety ideas for their budding uptown area and traffic signal coordination using their existing infrastructure. These meetings established an ongoing relationship with the locality and VDOT District staff, and resulted in another Tech Assist request for pedestrian and mobility scooter safety near the uptown area.
The knowledge sharing also occurs at times of initial disagreement. For instance, after initially struggling to build stakeholder consensus regarding another RSA, a breakthrough was achieved when we met with the Director of Public Works sharing current mid-block pedestrian crossing methodology, taught by Ron Eck, West Virginia LTAP instructor, in his ADA / Pedestrian Safety course. The relationships and open communication that was fostered will serve the community well in the future.
Communication and relationships are cornerstones of our program. I am there for our constituents like when a local City of Charlottesville employee felt she had nowhere to turn for information on the topic of downloading crash data when the method on the site’s instruction sheet wasn’t allowing users to do so that day. After a quick e-mail, the requester was relieved and thankful to realize the resources she needed were straightforward and readily available with another method. This interaction served to position the Safety Circuit Rider Program as an accessible resource that is only an email or phone call away.
The Safety Circuit Rider is a component of the Virginia Local Technical Assistance Program, which is administered by UVA’s Center for Transportation Studies. The Safety Circuit Rider is a full-time professional engineer who works to reduce crashes and improve safety in Virginia by assisting cities, towns and local agencies responsible for more than 11,000 miles of roadways that are not maintained by the state. The program is supported by the Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC), VDOT and the Center for Transportation Studies at UVA. Contact the Safety Circuit Rider at the information below to find out how the program can assist your locality.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 833-330-3428 | cts.virginia.edu/safety-circuit-rider-program