WTS Central Virginia 2021 Spring Newsletter

Message from the President

Muriel Rodriguez, WTS Central Virginia 2021 President

March 2021 marks one year since COVID-19 brought us many unexpected challenges and forced us to adapt to a new way of doing business.  Thankfully, the WTS Central Virginia Chapter was able to transition to an all-virtual format and continue to bring you great programming and opportunities to network from afar.  Things are looking hopeful for a possible return to in-person networking with limitations by mid-year, which I am personally looking forward to! 

March is also Women’s History Month and today (March 8) is International Women’s Day honoring women’s contributions to American history and a global celebration of women’s achievements.  The Central Virginia Chapter celebrates the achievements of our members, leaders, and industry allies that have made an impact on the transportation industry and directly contribute toward the advancement of women and minorities in transportation fields. We are honored to recognize the recipients of our WTS Central Virginia 2021 Recognition Awards.  This outstanding group of individuals and organizations represent the best of the best in the transportation industry, reflecting commitment, diversity and ingenuity from every nominee.  Congratulations to the WTS Central Virginia Chapter 2021 Recognition Award Winners: 

  • Shannon Valentine, Secretary of Transportation, Virginia – Woman of the Year 
  • Telework!VA Program, DRPT – Innovative Transportation Solution 
  • Taylor Venter, Kimley-Horn and Associates – Member of the Year 
  • Sandra Norman, VDOT – Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership 
  • GRTC Transit System – Employer of the Year 
  • Kimley-Horn and Associates – Sponsor of the Year 

We look forward to celebrating with our award winners at our fall annual reception which we are currently evaluating options for the reception this year.

May 10, 2021 – May 14, 2021, the WTS Central Virginia Chapter looks forward to hosting the 2021 WTS Annual Conference: Our Future in Transportation in Richmond, Virginia.  The conference will take place virtually and bring together transportation professionals from across North America.  Registration is now open, and we encourage you to register early to receive the early bird rate and your complimentary WTS Conference kit.  For more information on the conference, registration, speakers, and tours visit: www.wtsinternational.org/events/2021-wts-virtual-annual-conference

Finally, I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to our Corporate Sponsors that continue to support our Chapter. It is through their support that we are able to develop exciting and industry relevant programs and we Thank You!

Stay safe and healthy!

Muriel RodriguezWTS Central Virginia Chapter President

2021 Recognition Award Winners  

We are excited to announce the 2021 WTS Central Virginia award winners. These individuals and organizations have demonstrated dedication to supporting projects and programs that advance the role of women, equal opportunity and equal representation in transportation in Central Virginia.

Woman of the Year 

Shannon Valentine, Secretary of Transportation, Virginia
Virginia Secretary of Transportation, Shannon Valentine

Secretary Valentine is an outstanding public servant who has achieved remarkable advances for Virginia while serving as Secretary of Transportation since 2018. As Secretary, she worked with the Governor, General Assembly, and transportation industry partners to achieve several noteworthy advances. Specifically:

In 2018, her team sought legislation to create new funding sources for critical highway improvements along I-81 and other key interstate corridors. When the legislation initially did not pass, the Secretariat remained determined, working with the Governor and General Assembly to pass the legislation in the spring session.

Also in 2018, the Secretary worked with the Governor and General Assembly to pass a transit funding package that included stabilizing funds for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, setting an example for Maryland and Washington, DC, who later followed suit.

In 2019, the Secretary advanced a landmark rail agreement allowing Virginia to acquire CSX property and invest in infrastructure to improve passenger rail service between Richmond and Washington, DC. The $3.7 billion investment will transform passenger rail in Virginia and create an opportunity for separation of passenger and freight operations.

In 2019, the Secretary led a study of transportation funding sustainability that identified significant shortcomings in future transportation revenues. This led to the Transportation Omnibus package (HB1414 & SB 890) passed by the General Assembly in 2020. However, when the bill reached the Governor’s desk, the pandemic was creating financial uncertainty, but the Secretary’s case was compelling, and the bill was signed, with only some adjustments to the implementation timeline.

In March 2020, as the pandemic impacted public transportation ridership and revenue, the Secretary and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation successfully presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board an $11 million funding proposal to support transit agencies with stop-gap funding to mitigate the impact of reduced fare box revenue.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are the lens through which Secretary Valentine makes all transportation decisions. With a focus on ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table, she recognizes that diversity in backgrounds, experiences, and opinions leads to inclusive, smart solutions. Secretary Valentine empowers the transportation workforce to address challenges with innovation and collaboration and approaches every interaction with the knowledge that finding common ground and getting to “yes” are possible. From the Director of Transportation Research and Innovation – who is ensuring the Commonwealth is prepared to embrace new technology and novel approaches to getting people and goods where they need to be – to the Deputy Director of the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment – who puts accessibility and accountability at the core of the transportation planning process – Secretary Valentine has surrounded herself with bright, motivated women who will not only get the job done but also open doors for other women in the industry.

Secretary Valentine is a shining example of leadership in transportation for the good of all, and a role model for women in public service, from her work as a legislator to advance passenger rail to her highly impactful role as Secretary of Transportation. Her ability to reach unprecedented agreements on the rail and statewide/regional funding fronts demonstrates that a woman in leadership can achieve unexpected and seemingly unattainable levels of consensus on the most challenging transportation issues of our day.

Innovative Transportation Solution 

Telework!VA Program, DRPT
Telework VA DRPT

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) has successfully administered its Telework!VA program in the Northern Virginia region for nearly two decades. In the past year due to COVID 19, DRPT has expanded the technical support the program offers throughout Virginia, and especially in the central and southwestern regions of the state, to help the implementation of teleworking as a commuting option to reduce traffic congestion, commuter delay and during the past year, support private and quasi governmental organizations so that employers throughout the Commonwealth can continue work during the global pandemic, COVID 19.

The Telework!VA program aids employers throughout Virginia. DRPT’s vision for the program is to provide resources for businesses, agencies, and employees that support effective and innovative public transportation customer assistance. Through integrated commuter assistance programs, Telework!VA enhances economic growth and competitiveness, while expanding the quality of life for residents in Virginia.

DRPT has operated the Telework!VA program with in-house staff and the assistance of a consultant team led by Dr. Unwanna Dabney (AECOM), who is a former WTS Central Virginia President.

Member of the Year 

Taylor Venter, Kimley-Horn 
Taylor Venter, WTS Central VA

Taylor Venter’s leadership of the Central Virginia Chapter’s Programs Committee was a significant factor in the overall success of the Central Virginia Chapter in the unprecedented year of 2020. After developing a programs schedule for 2020 in late January for an entirely in-person slate of events, Taylor had to pivot in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on in-person activities. Taylor didn’t miss a beat, finding new and creative ways to engage with Central Virginia members and supporters. This included virtual happy hours, lunch-and-learn webinars, and an annual reception. The variety of topics and types of virtual events planned by Taylor in 2020 appealed to a wide audience, which was evident by the record-breaking attendance at the Chapter’s 2020 events. 

Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership 

Sandra Norman, VDOT
Sandra Norman, VDOT

From her work on the Virginia Human Rights Council to her leadership since 2014 as Administrator for VDOT’s Civil Rights Division, Sandra exemplifies VDOT’s – and the Commonwealth’s – commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She believes that advancing diversity is not only the right thing to do, but good for business and good for society.

She has demonstrated a commitment to working with small and minority businesses to help them access opportunity through the infrastructure investments that are an essential source of revenue for many local construction and engineering firms. VDOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program helps these entrepreneurs learn valuable business and financial strategies and creates opportunities for them to promote their services one-on-one with prime contractors, consultants, and localities. Virginia currently boasts more than 2,000 certified DBEs and, in FY20, VDOT surpassed its goal, awarding $30,851,227 of transportation work to DBE businesses.

Also part of the Division, the Business Opportunity and Workforce Development (BOWD) Center serves as a one-stop venue where businesses can receive technical and business-related support, as well as training to enhance skills and increase opportunities within the transportation sector.

The Division provides oversight and engages construction project design-builders throughout all phases of a project to support outreach, training, and networking. The team also facilitates a Civil Rights Compliance Workgroup for the designated project to support greater collaboration and early detection of compliance issues.

In her leadership role with the Division, Sandra has continued to innovate with initiatives to engage the public, such as developing Title VI program guidelines for local public agencies and publishing a quarterly Title VI program newsletter.

Sandra also serves on the advisory board for the VDOT of Tomorrow organizational transformation initiative as an executive champion of the agency’s focus on building an inclusive and engaged workforce prepared to meet 21st-century challenges.

Employer of the Year 

GRTC Transit System

Women are increasingly in the driver’s seat, literally and figuratively, at GRTC Transit System. The company’s first female Chief Operating Officer (now Chief of Staff after being promoted again) and first female Chief Executive Officer were hired within the past two years, leadership roles endorsed by GRTC’s all-male Board of Directors. This tone of diversifying a historically male-dominated industry has clearly been set from the top down, expanding women’s presence in director-level positions, too. GRTC’s first female Director of Planning was promoted last year, the first woman to lead this department in company history and building on the long-time female-led Scheduling Team. Notably, there are also women leading departments in Human Resources, Procurement, and Communications (Marketing/Customer Service). Today, nearly half of GRTC’s bus operators are women, and in recent years there have been women among the Maintenance ranks. Women also serve as GRTC Transportation Supervisors, Customer Service Representatives, Planning and Scheduling specialists, Administrative Assistants, and Finance staff (including the Grants Manager). For years, RideFinders, a non-profit division of GRTC, has been led by a woman with a majority female team.

With GRTC’s recent elevation of women into higher leadership roles, efforts have also been made to both fairly compensate and reasonably accommodate the realities of professional women at all levels. Salary assessments regularly ensure women in leadership roles are equitably paid for the value of their contributions. To support new mothers and working parents, telework and flexible work hours are offered in addition to a liberal leave policy. When GRTC’s new CEO hosted Town Halls to introduce herself to staff and hear employee concerns and ideas, she asked if there were a need for childcare support while staff worked. Have women in leadership roles provides a more wholistic perspective of how to support an employee’s professional and personal well-being?

Sponsor of the Year 

Kimley-Horn logo

As a planning and design consulting firm, Kimley-Horn’s core purpose is to provide an environment for our people to flourish. Kimley-Horn’s engineers, planners, and environmental scientists offer creative, real-world solutions to private and public-sector clients in a wide range of service areas. Kimley-Horn prides itself on commitment to continuous quality improvement, always looking for ways to improve and innovate. Kimley-Horn’s excellence is evident through the numerous awards the company has received, including being ranked thirteen times on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America." In 2020, Kimley-Horn was also recognized as one of Fortune’s Best Workplaces for Women; Best Workplaces for Millennials; and Best Workplaces in Consulting & Professional Services.

Kimley-Horn has always strived to create a gender diverse workforce, and its Lift initiative—Lasting Impact for Tomorrow—is another way Kimley-Horn provides the tools women need to succeed in a male-dominated industry. The specific intent of the Lift initiative is to enhance Kimley-Horn's performance by reducing the retention gap of women in practice, assisting women to achieve more of their potential, and recruiting talented women—thereby strengthening the quality of service. This effort not only helps Kimley-Horn grow more soundly, serve better, and stay stronger but it does the same for the transportation industry.

Kimley-Horn has been a strong supporter of the Central Virginia Chapter of WTS for numerous years, including serving as a Platinum level sponsor of the Central Virginia Chapter in 2020. Kimley-Horn’s commitment of the Central Virginia Chapter goes beyond just the monetary contribution of the sponsorship. Kimley-Horn’s support and participation in Central Virginia Chapter events and initiatives is unmatched by other local firms. Four Kimley-Horn employees serve in board member and committee chair positions for the Central Virginia Chapter and numerous others Kimley-Horn employees attend and participate in events. The firm also supports the chapter by hosting meetings and providing technology for virtual events.

Program Recap

Chat with GRTC!

On Wednesday, February 17, we hosted a virtual event to hear from the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC). Julie Timm, CEO, and Adrienne Torres, Director of Scheduling and Planning, presented on upcoming projects and an overview of the GRTC Systemwide Zero Fare and Social Equity Business Strategy.

Upcoming Events

Routes to Transportation, Presented by WTS at Virginia Tech

Thursday, March 18, 2021   5:30-7:30 PM

Learn More

Women's History Month Virtual Book Club

Wednesday, March 31, 2021    9-10 AM

Learn More

Thank You Sponsors

WTS Central VA Sponsors