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image of busThe Southern Virginia Regional Transportation Project took a giant leap forward with recent funding approval from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC).

At its January 9th meeting, the full TRRC approved the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s (SVHEC) request for $317,490 to establish two new public bus routes from South Boston to Danville and from Danville to Gretna. A feasibility study conducted by transportation consultants at the KFH Group found the greatest demand for the identified routes.

Dr. Betty H. Adams, SVHEC Executive Director, has been spearheading the Southern Virginia Regional Transportation Project for three years. Adams has been assisted by a highly engaged Transportation Stakeholder Team with members from chambers, workforce boards, economic development agencies, local government, and transportation professionals across the region. For her and the Team, lack of reliable transportation is the single greatest barrier to Southern Virginia’s educational and economic advancement.

“There are talented, hard-working people who want to get training for a new career or who want to be gainfully employed but they simply lack reliable transportation to achieve those goals,” Adams said. “The Southern Virginia Regional Transportation Project will begin to change that by providing affordable access to education, jobs, healthcare, shopping, entertainment, and more,” she continued.

Adams expressed her gratitude to the TRRC for investing in the transportation project, and said she understands there are some who question the long-term sustainability of a regional bus system. “The first question people ask is ‘How are you going to pay for this?’ It’s the first question we asked ourselves before starting down this path. The good news is that federal and state grants have funded and continue to fund almost 80% of the costs of public transportation in this country since the 1960s and we don’t foresee that changing any time soon,” she said.

The remaining 20% of the transportation costs will be shared by the localities who benefit from bus service. Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties will use the TRRC grant funds to cover their share of the costs during the initial project period. This will give the counties an opportunity to see the benefits of the bus routes, and allow time for them to build the expense into their annual budgets.

The Southern Virginia Regional Transportation Project has partnered with Danville Transit to provide service to Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties. With a 40-year history of mass transit operations and established transit infrastructure, Danville Transit is an optimal provider. On December 20, 2017, Danville City Council authorized an application to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation for grant funding to expand bus service to South Boston and Gretna. Additional state and federal grants have also been identified, clearing the way for bus service to begin spring 2019 if all required funding is secured. Danville Transit will make application for these funds in February.

Dr. Adams noted, “It has been so gratifying and exciting to witness the regional collaboration that is making this project possible. I am so very grateful to the City of Danville, Danville Transit, Pittsylvania County and Halifax County for embracing this initiative.” Adams offered specific kudos to the Danville Transportation Advisory Board and Danville Transit. “Without the support of the Transportation Advisory Board and the leadership of Danville Transit’s Mark Adelman, this effort quite simply would not be possible.”

Adams is optimistic that state and federal funding will be received, and that one day soon education and employment will only be a short bus ride away.

For more information on the Southern Virginia Transportation Project visit http://www.svhec.org/sovacme/transportation.