Transportation safety engineer’s role is critical to serving localities

The Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Virginia, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Transportation Research Council, has announced the appointment of a full-time Safety Circuit Rider engineer, an important component of the Virginia Local Technical Assistance Program. The Center, which administers Virginia’s LTAP, has hired Rebecca Golden as its first Safety Circuit Rider.

The appointment is the final piece to fully deploying the Safety Circuit Rider program, which serves a critical function by helping local governments and agencies improve the safety of their road systems. The Safety Circuit Rider program was created to primarily serve small Virginia cities, towns and localities that maintain a total of about 11,000 miles of streets and roadways. The program provides four key services: in-classroom transportation safety training; one-on-one technical assistance and site visits, including grant and proposal development support for state and federal aid; and an annual low-cost safety initiative.

Beth O'Donnell headshot

"Becky understands the needs of Virginia localities at a boots-on-the-ground level. She will quickly develop meaningful relationships by being both accessible and relatable to the Virginia Local Technical Assistance Program audience."

Beth O'Donnell, director of the Virginia Local Techical Assistance Program

Golden comes to the position having spent more than 30 years as a project and design engineer in local government in eastern and central Virginia. After beginning her career at Newport News Shipbuilding, she worked for the city of Virginia Beach for four years. Starting in 1988, she held several positions of increasing responsibility at Hanover County Public Works, including director of public works and county engineer from 1994 to 2006.

From 2006 until 2014, Golden was the director of capital projects in Spotsylvania County, where she oversaw several intersection projects and the widening of State Route 3. After retiring from Spotsylvania County, she worked as a senior civil/transportation evaluator of the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies and senior technical advisor for the American Traffic Safety Services Association.

Her most recent position at the ATSSA directly served association members who are department of transportation traffic engineers and pavement-marking staff, pavement marking and signage manufacturers and installers, and traffic control contractors.

“The role of the VA LTAP Safety Circuit Rider engineer requires a unique blend of technical expertise, teaching experience and demonstrated people and communication skills,” said Beth O’Donnell, director of the Virginia Local Technical Assistance Program.

“Becky understands the needs of Virginia localities at a boots-on-the-ground level and will quickly develop meaningful relationships by being both accessible and relatable to the Virginia LTAP audience. Above all, it was important to select a candidate who was mission-oriented and would complement the existing VA LTAP team.”

As the Federal Highway Administration-designated Local Technical Assistance Program administrator for the state, UVA’s Center for Transportation Studies acts as part of VDOT’s training and professional development arm. Annually, the center serves more than 2,000 transportation professionals in Virginia, offering employee training for every phase of road and highway building, maintenance and administration.

Becky Golden headshot

"The Safety Circuit Rider Program allows us to offer traffic, pedestrian and transit solutions to our cities and towns in addition to unraveling the maze of funding opportunities for implementation."

Becky Golden, Safety Circuit Rider engineer

VA LTAP’s Safety Circuit Rider component is modeled after pilot programs launched more than a decade ago in a handful of states with funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The success of those early pilots has led to the establishment of similar programs across the country supported by various funding sources. Today, more than 15 states have instituted Safety Circuit Rider programs tailored to their needs.

In Virginia, the Department of Transportation provides myriad resources to identify and mitigate roadway safety issues. VDOT has embraced the Safety Circuit Rider because it extends the agency’s reach and expands the capacity of localities to address these issues ― often through low-cost improvements.

“We’re excited to have Becky on board as the Safety Circuit Rider,” said VDOT’s Mark Cole, assistant division administrator in the Traffic Engineering Division. “This program will be another good resource for localities as we help them tackle traffic safety issues on local roads.”

Golden has the advantage of literally having worn the boots of those she will be assisting in this role. Early in her career, she managed road projects for the city of Virginia Beach and Henrico County, which own their secondary roads. She initiated Hanover County’s local administration of VDOT-owned road improvement projects. She also helped push legislative changes that allow all counties to manage road projects through a local project administration agreement. Prior to this change to the Code of Virginia, only four localities had this authority.

Golden will be integral to implementing each of the four Safety Circuit Rider program areas, including developing in-classroom transportation safety training for localities and conducting regular road safety assessments ― and she can’t wait to get started.

The Safety Circuit Rider role is her “dream job,” she said, because she can be a bridge between what localities need and the resources VDOT and other agencies provide ― if you know how to access them.

The program “allows us to offer traffic, pedestrian and transit solutions to our cities and towns in addition to unraveling the maze of funding opportunities for implementation,” Golden said.