Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Manchester Bridge Buffered Bike Lane Project

On September 9, Mayor Dwight Jones and Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Bike Walk RVA, joined in opening the new bike lanes on the Manchester Bridge. Here are the Mayor's remarks from today about the Buffered Bike Lane Project.

Good morning residents and cyclists of the city of Richmond. Thank you all for joining us here today.

I really enjoy telling everyone I can that we have a very enthusiastic and significant cycling community here in the city of Richmond. That is why I am so pleased to be here today to mark this very important milestone.

As a “river city” bridges are critical linkages within our transportation network, providing limited opportunities to literally and metaphorically bridge the gap between downtown and other destinations north of the river with communities south of the river.

Our James River bridges carry high volumes of vehicles and are often unwelcoming environments for bicyclists.

The City is making a concerted effort to reduce these significant barriers to safe and comfortable bicycling corridors and the improvements on the Manchester Bridge and Lee Bridge, as well as last year’s MLK Bridge enhancements, have created bike lanes that go beyond a simple 4” wide stripe of paint.

We are building bike lanes with spacious buffers separating bike and motor vehicle traffic and utilizing green pavement markings in conflict zones such as turning lanes, merging points, and busy intersections to further increase bicyclist safety and motorist awareness of these bikeways.

Richmond is joining other forward-thinking cities in adopting these newer, but proven design treatments to make cycling a safer, more attractive transportation option for our residents and visitors, whether they bike by choice or necessity.

These bridge improvements, along with the buffered bike lanes on W. Leigh Street, Brookland Parkway, Oliver Hill Way and N. 18th Street all stem from the detailed work that went into creating the City of Richmond’s first Bike Master Plan which received tremendous public input.

These projects are only a first step towards building a robust network of bikeways across and throughout the City, whether they be additional buffered bike lanes, barrier-separated bike lanes such as the proposed Franklin & Main cycletrack, shared-use paths such as the Cannon Creek Greenway and long-awaited Virginia Capital Trail, or bike boulevards such as the Floyd Ave bike-walk street, set to start construction in October after a lengthy design and public involvement process.

The City is continuing with implementation of additional bikeways now, and into the future in order to bridge the network gaps and create connected and continuous bikeways.

These projects have begun the development of several critical “spine” routes throughout the city that we will continue to build upon and connect to, and we are aggressively pursuing funding sources such as federal transportation grant funds and state revenue sharing funds to leverage City dollars and maximize our investments in creating more multimodal transportation infrastructure.

The work that we are celebrating today also moves us closer to welcoming the world as the Cycling World Championships begin in a mere nine days. And I want to take a moment to acknowledge some of the infrastructure improvements we have completed in preparation for that event.

Over the past four years, we have paved 43 lane miles along the race route at a cost of about $3 million. To put this into perspective our entire paving budget for that four year period is $27 million.

We have completed eight miles of sidewalks, installed 275 ADA ramps, planted 180 street trees, finished 83 intersection markings, installed 950 signs and will have completed four new gateway signs before the race starts. The final sign, sitting along I-95 North at the 64 East interchange, will be completed by September 11.

Bike related infrastructure improvements include the installation of 420 bike racks, 2.57 miles of bike trails, and today’s event that acknowledges the completion of 23.5 miles of bike lanes.

I am extremely pleased that we are working to change our communities to accommodate more active modes of transportation. Even as we welcome the world, all of these infrastructure improvements will be here for future generations to enjoy.

I would like to thank all of our partners who have helped us move forward. In particular, I would like to thank Sports Backers and Bike Walk RVA for all of their efforts in not only promoting active lifestyles, but for supporting pedestrian-friendly infrastructure projects.

Now, I am pleased to welcome Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Bike Walk RVA, to the podium to help detail how to use and what these bike infrastructure improvements mean for the people who ride bicycles and for people who drive cars.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Slave Trail Improvements and Plans for Lumpkin's Jail

Mayor Jones, along with Delegate Delores McQuinn, Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille, Virginia Union University President Claude Perkins, Joy Bailey of LORD Cultural Resourcs, and Matt Laird of the James River Institute for Archaeology spoke on Thursday, August 13, 2015 about the importance of the Slave Trail improvements and the plans for Lumkin's Jail moving forward. The following are Mayor Jones prepared remarks.

Good afternoon. I am so pleased to be here today to talk about the progress that has been made by the Slave Trail Commission. 

I especially want to thank Delegate Dolores McQuinn for her introduction. Her passion and labor for this commission’s work is why we are as far along as we are today.

I also want to thank Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille and Dr. Claude Perkins from Virginia Union University for being here. Additionally, I want to welcome Joy Bailey Bryant from LORD Cultural Resources and Matt Laird from the James River Institute for Archaeology. Thank you for joining us.

Since the Slave Trail Commission was established in 1998, it has been tasked with not only preserving the history of slavery in our city, but helping tell the story that has been overlooked for far too long. Because of the hard work of this group, the city has tangible memorials and increasing opportunities to tell a fuller picture of our history. 

Over ten years ago, the slave trail commission began branding and design work and began distributing brochures throughout the community and tourism centers. In 2006, there began an archaeological assessment of the Lumpkin’s Jail site in Shockoe Bottom and two years later, an archaeological excavation backfilled the site to protect it until it can be safely revealed. What is there today is a commemorative landscape and interpretation of the original site.

In 2009 through 2011, the commission conducted extensive community engagement and research to create the 21 historical markers that are presently along the trail.
Then in 2014, my administration secured $11 million from the Commonwealth of Virginia to begin to develop a heritage site at the site of Lumpkin’s Jail and the burial ground.  Working with Richmond City Council, the City has committed another $8 million to this project, for a total of $19 million – a level of financial support that his project has not had before. This funding has helped us with the latest in a long series of accomplishments, which is the installation of the 53 new path markers along the trail.

These markers are just the beginning of the improvements that this funding will allow us to move forward with. I want to thank the General Assembly for their commitment to making enhancements to the slave trail. 

Standing here, at the beginning of the Slave Trail at Ancarrow’s Landing, I also want to thank and acknowledge the Exxon Company for the improvements that we can see have been made at this site. Exxon has made this site safer, more accessible, and beautiful. When I take in the various improvements that have been made and the work that has been done, I just want to say that we must keep this momentum going. 
That is why I am announcing today that we will begin the process of making the first phase of the heritage site a reality.

The location of Lumpkin’s Jail, also known as the Devil’s Half Acre, was the holding site for slaves before they were taken to auction houses and sold. During Robert Lumpkin’s ownership, the site was known for being a particularly cruel place. Those who tried to escape were publicly beaten and tortured.  However, out of a site of unspeakable and detestable acts grew a place of higher learning with the founding of Virginia Union University. The site went from the Devil’s Half Acre to God’s Half Acre. I have always found solace that despite the abhorrent treatment that the slaves in our city had to endure, something beautiful and important has grown. 

In this year, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation and the founding of Virginia Union University, I can think of no better way to honor our heritage than to begin to build up the telling of our story, a fuller and more complete history of our city and our country.
However, we cannot do this in a vacuum. A complete history cannot be told only in an academic setting. We cannot build a world class pavilion without world class community participation.

I am excited to announce that we will be holding the first in a series of community engagement opportunities on September 10th at Martin Luther King Middle School. We will also be hosting a meeting at Huguenot High School on September 15. Our series is called Richmond Speaks, and will essentially be a citywide conversation about the Lumpkin’s Jail Site.

Joy Bailey Bryant, of Lord Cultural Resources has been engaged to lead this process.
Joy led the process during the first phase of the commission’s public engagement and I am so pleased that she will be leading this phase as well.

At this time, I’d like to bring her up to provide more information about our public engagement efforts.

Mayor Jones, Delegate Delores McQuinn, and the Richmond Slave Trail Commission invite all residents to participate in "Richmond Speaks: A Conversation on the Lumpkin's Jail Site".
Here is the flyer for "Richmond Speaks".

Friday, July 31, 2015

Mayor Kicks Off Kanawha Plaza Renovations

Mayor Dwight Jones, Debra Gardner, DCAO for Human Services, Barry Russell, Deputy Director for Parks and Recreation, John Snyder, Enrichmond Foundation, and Dwight Snead of Dwight Snead Construction Company joined in announcing the renovation of Kanawha Plaza on Friday, July 31, 2015. The following are Mayor Jones prepared remarks.

Good afternoon and welcome.

We appreciate all of you joining us for our Kanawha Plaza Renovations Kick-off today, as this is an important project for our downtown and an important project for our city.

Kanawha Plaza was conceived of over 40 years ago – back in 1972.

This park was designed to reconnect our central business district and the James River.

It was meant to also beautify our downtown, sitting astride the Downtown Expressway which was built after land was cleared for urban renewal.

Parks can be complex elements of a city, but in Richmond, we pride ourselves on our park amenities.

With over 100 parks in our city, ranging from our widely recognized James River Parks System to beautiful Maymont where we hold our growing international jazz festival, we’ve got a little something for everyone here and I believe our park system is a strong reason we are continuing to grow as a destination of choice.

Our downtown is our gateway to the city of Richmond, and Kanawha is a particularly important amenity right in the heart of the center of our city.

So it pleases me greatly to get to this point today of beginning the much needed renovations on the downtown jewel.

To understand the significance of the park at Kanawha Plaza,
it helps to understand a little Richmond history.

When this park opened back in 1980, a decade of prosperity had begun for many Americans.

But a transition was already underway in our country’s history.

Middle-class flight to the suburbs had already begun—white AND black—,

and the decline of cities was well underway across America. 

Crime started to tick up in most cities. 

Slowly at first, and then dramatically, here in Richmond.

So it was no surprise that businesses moved to new places like
suburban corporate parks like Innsbrook, which opened soon after this park.

Back then, Richmond was on just one “top 10” list: The murder capital of the country. Our population plummeted, and few people were proud to call Richmond home.

That experience seems a long time ago,
but we’re only now getting out of it.

This trip down memory lane is important for two reasons.
Number one, everyone needs to understand that OLD Richmond is gone,
and it’s not coming back.

Today, our downtown is thriving. 
Our population is rising, not shrinking
Our average age is getting younger, not older.

We’re showing up on “top ten” lists – but this time,
it’s for the best restaurants, the best beer, the coolest tattoos,
the best city to visit in the country this summer, and the home of the world cycling championships, back in the US for the first time since the James Center was built.

Here’s the other reason why that history lesson is important.
It explains why the park is in bad shape today.

As one resident said, “It looks the overgrown ruins of a Soviet era apartment block.” 
I agree. That’s why your employees don’t hang out there at lunch.

That’s why there’s no “tai chi” classes in the morning, or jazz concerts after work.
It’s a mess because the city deferred maintenance for too long.

I wish that hadn’t happened, but when Richmond was at rock bottom,
investing in park maintenance …was a luxury we couldn’t afford.

I wasn’t here for those decisions, but I understand why they were made.
For most of Kanawaha Plaza’s life, the city had been in decline. 

But today, it’s rising…and that’s why the time is right to fix up this park,
and return it to the downtown jewel it was a generation ago.

We are pleased that the City’s Planning Commission has approved designs for the first phase of renovating the park, and City Council has allocated $1 million in public funds to begin paying for it. 

We are also very pleased that our contracting team has been chosen for this first phase.

And we are especially pleased that several corporate donors have stepped up to the plate and are helping us make this happen.

I particularly want to thank Dominion Resources and McGuire Woods.

I’m also offering an appeal for others to step up and help us restore this park.

This upgrade will significantly improve access to comfortable green space in the middle of downtown. 

For the neighbors who work in the buildings surrounding the park, this upgrade will significantly improve your view and the way you experience the area and its connection to the James River.

And for the growing number of people who live downtown, this upgrade will help keep the transformation of our downtown from becoming a concrete jungle, and turn it into a thriving, diverse, and welcoming urban space.

That’s our goal in the short term: To make the park an inviting and welcoming space.

Our goal is to renovate it in a way that allows for any future concept that makes downtown more friendly to pedestrians, especially ideas that connect downtown with Manchester across the river.

So with that, I’d like to invite John Sydnor, our partner with Enrichmond Foundation, to say a few words, and then our DCAO for Human Resources, Debra Gardner, will introduce the project team.

Thank you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Statement on Port of Richmond

Mayor Dwight Jones and Port of Virginia CEO John Reinhart today announced that the Port of Virginia has requested to renew its lease on the Port of Richmond for a second five year term. In addition, the Port of Virginia intends to bid on a long-term lease proposal that will allow it to make greater capital investment in the Port of Richmond terminal. The Mayor will introduce the related papers on Monday, July 27 for consideration by City Council on September 8.

The announcement comes one day after Governor McAuliffe announced the Port of Virginia is forecasted to post its first yearly operating profit since 2008 and has set a new record for cargo volume.

“The City’s partnership with the Port of Virginia has turned the Port of Richmond around, and it holds promise for unlocking the value of one of the greatest economic drivers for the Richmond region,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “We are excited by the possibility of a long-term partnership with The Port of Virginia, and the prospect for integrating Richmond and Central Virginia into networks of global trade. We are eager to review the long-term lease proposal.”

Under The Port of Virginia’s management, cargo volumes at the Port of Richmond have grown year over year. In fiscal year 2013, the barge service transported over 6,400 containers. In fiscal year 2014, the barge volumes increased 49% with over 9,500 containers transported. Barge volumes increased another 49% and finished fiscal year 2015 with over 14,000 containers transported. Due to the consistent increase in volumes, the barge service increased from two trips a week to three trips a week in January of 2015 and is currently averaging approximately 200 moves per week. This steady increase in volumes is due in large part to direct marketing efforts of The Port of Virginia which have resulted in five international ocean carriers offering bills of lading directly to the Port of Richmond. The Port of Virginia has also made significant on terminal investment to include improvements to the rail infrastructure and the purchase of a new mobile harbor crane scheduled for delivery in early 2017.

“The Port of Richmond has become a critical part of The Port of Virginia network,” said CEO John Reinhart. Cargo moving up and down the James River provides a direct connection with shippers in Central Virginia and means less truck traffic on our roadways. We want to solidify the future of Port of Richmond so we can continue to make on-terminal investments that will attract additional shippers and strengthen our network. Our port is growing and facilities like the Port of Richmond are crucial to provide the necessary access to deliver the goods coming through the port to manufacturers and consumers throughout our market.”

The Port of Richmond is not only a valuable asset to the City of Richmond, but also an economic driver for the entire region. Strategically positioned to capitalize on intermodal freight activity by virtue of its location on the James River, it also possesses close proximity to the major transportation corridors of I-95, I-64, I-85, and direct access to rail with CSX.

“The Port is a great asset for the entire region,” said Chesterfield Country Administrator Jay Stegmaier. “We’re confident the Port of Richmond will play an increasingly important role in attracting jobs and new investment to Central Virginia.”

Chesterfield County Bermuda District representative Dorothy Jaeckle noted, “Improvements at the port will also add significantly to the revitalization of the Route 1 corridor in both Richmond and Chesterfield."

The lease and management of the Port of Richmond was assumed in July 2011 by The Port of Virginia from the City of Richmond, with the option to renew the lease for three successive five-year terms.  During this partnership, The Port of Virginia began operating a barge service carrying containerized cargo between the marine terminals in Hampton Roads and the Port of Richmond. Growth of the barge service is critical as it removes container traffic from the local roadways, significantly reduces undesirable emissions, and provides for the consistent and effective movement of freight to bolster economic development in the City of Richmond and beyond.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mayor Jones' Statement Concerning a Freestanding Children’s Hospital, Minor League Baseball, and Regional Cooperation

Mayor Dwight C. Jones today issued the following statement concerning a freestanding children’s hospital, minor league baseball, and regional cooperation:

“The conversation around a freestanding children’s hospital has driven a renewed commitment to regional cooperation among the City of Richmond, Henrico County, and Chesterfield County.

“Advocates for the hospital asked each locality for potential locations, and we each presented options. They have indicated the Boulevard is their preferred site.

“In recent days, I have met with Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas and Chesterfield County Administrator Jay Stegmaier to advance this important regional priority. This includes agreeing to a process to identify alternative locations in the region to ensure that the Richmond Flying Squirrels have a permanent home.

“Today, we met with representatives of the Squirrels and the President of the Eastern League. We agreed that the Squirrels should meet with all localities in the Richmond area to explore potential locations that have easy access and visibility for Squirrels fans.

“The Squirrels agreed to work with each locality to identify a site by the end of this year. To demonstrate the region’s commitment to the Squirrels, I propose to extend their current lease on the Diamond through the end of 2017.

“We agreed on an exploration process that will consider site selection options, financing opportunities including private investment, potential construction schedules, and that recognizes the financial constraints our localities are facing. We committed, together with our regional partners, to work with the Squirrels. Ultimately, the Squirrels will identify a site that best fits their needs.

“The Squirrels are a great asset for our region, and they are woven into the fabric of our community. When they came to town six years ago, they changed how our region experiences minor league baseball. They showed us that it’s about having fun, enjoying family time, and celebrating our community. We all know the community wants them to stay here forever.

“I believe this renews our commitment to an open and comprehensive approach to advancing regional priorities, starting with the children’s hospital.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Richmond Times-Dispatch Person of the Year

I’m writing to nominate Craig Dodson as Person of the Year, because he embodies what I believe about community. To me, community means that we care about one another. We care about education even if we don’t have kids in the school system. We want small businesses to succeed even if we’re not the ones making a profit. We want a clean and sustainable James River even if we’re not the ones out on the rapids. In good times, we celebrate together as a community and in tough times, we fight back together as a community. 

Every day, I meet with Richmonders who embody that spirit. So many in our community give their time and talents to a cause much greater than themselves. We are a city full of vibrant businesses, remarkable entrepreneurs, enthusiastic students, and engaged residents. But it is no secret that Richmond is a tale of two cities. When you cross the Martin Luther King Bridge, you enter into a different Richmond. One that has been ignored, over-looked, and shunned. One that’s been forgotten and written-off. Decades of educational inequality, allowing violence and alienation to subvert once thriving neighborhoods, and the deliberate choices made in segregating our housing have created a generation that doesn’t believe that they have a chance to succeed. There is a generation that doesn’t believe that they can be better off than the circumstances they have been born into. It is generation without hope. 

We can work to provide opportunities to all of our young people, but we must also give them the hope and confidence that they have what it takes to seize upon those chances. This commitment guides Craig’s work. This past year, I have had the great fortune to work with Richmond Cycling Corps. Craig and his team use the lure of the bicycle as a tool to engage young residents from public housing to develop their character. Craig not only puts our young people through a rigorous regimen on the bicycle, but he also does some of his best work with them off the bicycle. He helps the program’s youth with needs chronic to those in public housing: providing legal aid, assisting with dental and medical needs, academic support, financial literacy, and sometimes, most importantly, emotional support. 

In 2014, Craig launched the nation’s first and only inner-city high school cycling team at Armstrong High School. He then expanded the program again earlier this year and brought a cycling team to MLK Middle School. He wasn’t done there. He organized and worked with community partners to transform a once vacant 15-acre parcel of land in Fairfield Court into a one-mile mountain bike course. It features 27 obstacles, a community garden, a 600 sq-ft barn, 41 newly planted trees, and metal sculptures. The Armstrong Bike Park is truly a “placemaking” one of a kind. By the way, the Armstrong Cycling team garnered a third place finish in the 2015 Virginia High School Mountain Bike Series championship race in just its first year.

However, we know the real results aren’t measured by trophies or in what place you finish the race. They’re measured in the pride and confidence these kids have when they tell me about how much they are growing because of Craig’s program. We all owe it to them to keep working on those opportunities. I am so proud of people in our community like Craig, who work on the hope. That is why I am submitting Craig Dodson, Director of the Richmond Cycling Corps, for Richmond Times Dispatch’s Person of the Year.    

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Call for Volunteers to Serve as 2015 Richmond Training Camp Ambassadors

The Washington Redskins Training Camp is ready to kick off its third year, from July 30 through August 16, at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center, 2401 W. Leigh Street. The City of Richmond’s Neighbor-To-Neighbor initiative and the Washington Redskins are seeking 250 volunteers to serve as Richmond Training Camp Ambassadors during this year’s camp.

There will be two shifts for both types of ambassadors, Fan Experience Ambassadors and Security Ambassadors. For Fan Experience Ambassadors, the morning shift will be from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the afternoon shift will be from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. For Security Ambassadors, the morning shift will be from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the afternoon shift will be from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There will be a few dates with only a single practice which may result in only one shift.

“For the past two years the Richmond Training Camp Ambassadors have displayed a tremendous amount of civic pride and have provided a positive visitor experience at the training camp. We have received an incredible positive response to how Ambassadors have provided assistance in and around the facility,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “The upgraded incentives Ambassadors can achieve this year underscores this incredible opportunity to serve as the ‘face’ of Richmond at training camp.”

Richmond Training Camp Ambassadors who volunteer for a certain benchmark number of shifts will receive awards, including the opportunity to attend an exclusive autograph session with Redskins players and coaches, tickets to a regular season Redskins home game, and a top award of an autographed Robert Griffin III jersey.

Preference will be given to individuals who can commit to volunteer to higher number of shifts. Click here for a complete list of details about this fantastic volunteer opportunity.

Click here to register to become a Richmond Training Camp Ambassador.