On November 5, residents in Henrico County’s Tuckahoe District will vote for a member of the Board of Supervisors.
According to the U.S. Census, approximately one-third of Richmond area residents do not own a car or do not drive on a regular basis because they can’t afford it, are not mentally or physically able, have had their license revoked, or are not yet driving age. Whether by choice or out of necessity, many Henrico County residents walk or ride bikes for transportation to get to essential destinations such as work, school, to run errands, or to shop. Many families and residents also enjoy walking or riding a bike for recreation or exercise.
The next member of the Board of Supervisors from the Tuckahoe District will have the opportunity to make the County’s streets safer for all users – people in cars, on bikes, and people walking. To find out where the candidates stand on issues of street safety, Bike Walk RVA administered a candidate questionnaire to Patricia O’Bannon and Marques Jones.
Question 1 – Safe Streets
Some of the most dangerous streets in the Tuckahoe District include Quioccasin Road and Patterson Avenue. These roads are also home to many important destinations such as shopping centers, schools, and churches, and each of them have been the site of numerous pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries in recent years. In fact, the rate of traffic-related pedestrian deaths continues to rise in Henrico County.
What will you do to see that these streets are made safer for all users?
“The deaths and injuries at that intersection are heartbreaking and every day I work to make our community safer. Over the past twenty years, I have added sidewalks on Quioccasin Road and now, sidewalks and crosswalks are in the design phase for the Regency area as well (in addition to other parts of Tuckahoe). I will continue to work with the county to ensure the three E’s are upheld: Education, Engineering and Enforcement. Education – of cyclists, walkers and drivers to make certain everyone knows the rules of the road; Engineering – building facilities to make them safer; Enforcement – police monitoring the area to keep everyone safe. Patterson Avenue is a state route and is controlled by VDOT. A sidewalk from the Village Shopping Center to Westham Parkway has funding, but it is up to VDOT to complete the project.”
“As a local resident, I have witnessed and personally experienced the difficulties with safe access to public transportation. Simply trying to walk my daughters to school is a challenge. On top of that, talking with constituents has reinforced the current dangers pedestrians and cyclists face on a daily basis, due to the lack of infrastructure. As Supervisor I will work to increase county investment in sidewalks and bike lanes especially along Quioccasin Rd and Patterson Ave. I will also work to have covered bus stops with benches installed as the current practice of having a poll in the middle of the grass is off-putting to professionals and blatantly unacceptable. The current infrastructure makes it difficult for people to utilize public transit and that needs to be corrected. We also need to work with developers and ensure they consider the larger impact of their plans on the existing community, particularly by including bike lanes and sidewalks in any new or redevelopment projects. Through this relationship I will ensure they include sidewalks, a mix of housing, retail and office space, and more compact development adjacent to transit stops in these areas.”
Question 2 – Funding
Making changes to roads in Henrico County will sometimes require funding for capital projects. Federal grants, state revenue sharing, or local capital improvement dollars can be used in combination to both retrofit existing infrastructure and to build new, safe streets.
Do you support pursuing funding for biking and walking infrastructure projects? If so, how?
“Yes, I do. I will continue to work on funding with RSTP/CMAQ funds, matching funds with General Funds from the county. I’m excited that many projects are currently in design or in planning and over the past twenty years I have averaged one mile of sidewalk per year.”
“Yes, I definitely support funding for biking and walking infrastructure projects. In the proposed budget for FY 19-20 there is $2.5 million specifically for “Countywide Pedestrian Improvement projects” out of the $11,005,000 designated for Public Works Roadway projects. In FY 18-19 there was $19.6 million in grant funding from FY18-19 for roadway and pedestrian capital projects. The current funding in the budget needs to be protected at minimum and I will work to increase that number. It is also critical that we aggressively pursue grant funding. The current board has touted their projects that target adding 20 miles of new sidewalks and multi-use paved trails over the next 3 years. We should have our sights set much higher than 6-7 miles of biking and walking infrastructure per year. Aside from direct county funding I will work with developers to ensure they are including pedestrian and biking infrastructure in their plans moving forward.”
Question 3 – Policies and Programs
In addition to on-the-ground infrastructure, what policies and programs need to be put in place to make biking and walking safer and more enjoyable for people of all ages in Henrico County? What steps will you take to see that these policies and programs are approved or put into practice?
“The Board of Supervisors previously had a policy for biking, but with a new policy that we instituted for sidewalk plans, we will work to establish new bike policy consistent with what we area already doing for sidewalks.”
“Henrico County has recently (since early 2019) stepped up its focus on biking and walking safety. The police chief, Humberto “Hum” Cardounel Jr, has spearheaded efforts to increase education, enforcement, and designs focusing on safety. He assembled a work group to address these issues. The Board of Supervisors should be more involved. We need to be supporting this working group and funding studies and programs in order to improve safety. A lot of success with getting policies and programs approved and implemented will be because of good working relationships between me, the other members of the board, and the relevant agencies (be it the police, firefighters, Commonwealth’s attorney, or the department of public works). Thanks to my experience as a project manager at Capital One and now as a small business owner, I’ll have no trouble forging tight bonds with all the stakeholders and working together to move Henrico forward to address one of my top issues in biking and walking safety.”
Question 4 – Vision Zero
Henrico County leads the region in pedestrian deaths with six this year, and saw nine pedestrian fatalities and 110 injuries last year. Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.
Will you support the creation of a Vision Zero Action Plan by Henrico County leadership to coordinate the participation of multiple County agencies in contributing to eliminating fatalities and injuries on County roads?
“Yes, absolutely. We can and must do better. The 2017-2021 Strategic Highway Safety Plan offers numerous suggestions on how to achieve such a goal. A lot of it comes down to the “4 E’s”: engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency medical services. We need to continue to ensure we conduct studies around current transit infrastructure so we can make design improvements that promote safety and incorporate pedestrian safety concerns into any future developments. We must address funding needs for first responders – and we must step up our education attempts.”
Question 5 – Plans and Projects
In the last four years, the City of Richmond has developed a Bicycle Master Plan, Chesterfield County has developed a Bikeways and Trails Plan, and Hanover has developed an Active Living and Healthy Neighborhoods Plan. These plans set long-term visions for those localities for how to improve biking and walking for transportation and recreation. Henrico County does not yet have a comparable plan.
If elected, would you support development of a walking/biking infrastructure plan for Henrico County during your term in office? How?
“The Board of Supervisors has an established walking/biking plan by Magisterial District. There is a plan for Tuckahoe with walking and biking paths that is currently in a tabletop study. The draft of that plan is currently in the Planning Department. I advanced a $950,000 project (funding through the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization – TPO) about three years ago where sidewalks and bike paths were built in the River Road Shopping Center area. The City of Richmond, University of Richmond and Henrico County cooperated on this regional project, and U of R should soon be opening their bike/walk trail portion of the project on Gambles Mill Corridor, to complete the original project.”
“Yes. It is disappointing that we lag behind our neighbors in addressing this issue. On a basic infrastructure level, making sure that we have sidewalks and bike lanes improves both quality of life and safety. Too often I see parents walking children on the edge of a road to reach a bus stop because there is no sidewalk. Too often I see disabled individuals in motorized wheelchairs forced on the road because again there is no sidewalk. We can do better. We can use the plans from Hanover, Chesterfield, and the City of Richmond as models and work with the neighboring localities to create our own. We will most likely need to start with a county wide study to determine the areas most in need of immediate infrastructure improvements. I am dedicated to establishing a long-term plan for the county and seeing it implemented while I am supervisor.”
Question 6 – Regional Connectivity
The Virginia Department of Transportation is currently pursuing the study of a new Ashland to Petersburg Trail, a north-south paved multi-use trail that has the potential to connect several localities and intersect with the Virginia Capital Trail and Appomattox River Trail, contributing to what will ultimately become a regional trail network. This project would have major safety benefits for people biking and walking, as well as significant economic development potential for nearby communities in Henrico County.
If elected, what will you do to advance this project?
“I will continue to work with the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization (TPO).”
“This is an important development, not only for Henrico County, but the region in general. I very eagerly await the results from the conclusion of the study. As it concludes in early 2020, I will be eager to work with VDOT to assess and begin the next step in this process. Being on the Board, the most significant impact will be to work to secure the necessary permits to begin construction based on the studies conducted to this point and examining methods of funding so that our residents can enjoy such a useful development.”
Sports Backers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and does not endorse candidates or political parties. Sports Backers’ candidate questionnaire is strictly educational in nature. For more information about safer streets projects and policies, join our email list! We’re always talking about opportunities to improve our region’s roads and infrastructure.