Rusty Lee and Matt Carter just returned from the annual National Local Technical Assistance Program Association (NLTAPA) conference in Columbus, Ohio. This is the largest gathering of center personnel from the 51 LTAP Centers and the seven newly re-formed Tribal Technical Assistance Programs (TTAP), along with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and partner organizations like APWA, AASHTO, NACE, and NTTD.
Four days of technical sessions, brainstorming, and exchanging of ideas, techniques, and resources is exhausting and rejuvenating at the same time. Matt calls it the LTAP New Year, because we return each year with a bounty of new initiatives and information and we spend the next several months looking at ways to implement many of them for Delaware local agencies.
As for most of us, relationships with our colleagues and partners is essential to ensure that we can serve our local agencies as new challenges arise. Our colleagues in many of the LTAP and TTAP Centers are some of the most generous folks you could hope to know and our mult-faceted relationship with FHWA offices is as well-aligned towards common goals as most of us can remember. The creativeness of our colleagues throughout the network and the willingness to share information, techniques, and training materials is inspiring. We couldn’t provide the support to Delaware local agencies as well without the benefit of these great friends.
Rusty and Matt spent hours re-connecting with long-standing friends and finally had a chance to meet newer faces within the Centers and across FHWA. We work hard to share our own resources with this nationwide family, but we certainly receive much more in return and we are grateful for all the creative new approaches.
Jeff Zaharewicz, our program’s former liaison with FHWA and strong supporter of all things LTAP has moved on to larger assignments within FHWA, but he was still able to join us at the conference. Rusty and Matt spent time time with Jeff (affectionately nicknamed “JZ” within the LTAP community), mostly to selfishly pick his brain and gain some updated mentoring. Jeff is a great friend, a true professional, and most importantly, he puts up with Rusty and Matt’s nonsense.
We were able to finally meet the new Director for the National Highway Institute (NHI), Stacey Caston. While we miss Tom Harman, the former Director, Stacey is a highly energetic and experienced trainer that we see as an equally great partner for ensuring that the powerhouse of NHI trainings can be deployed in Delaware in new and creative ways. She’s smart, she’s fun, and she understands LTAP’s special connection with local road agencies.
The conference wasn’t just long hours of indoor talks. Unfortunately, despite being a biking enthusiast (wink, wink), Matt wasn’t able to join the bike ride (designed to highlight the challenges of riding bicycles in the urban environment), but those that did reported back that it grounded them in many ways that bike facilities can be improved as we continue along the Complete Streets approach to road design. These types of hands-on experiences can be real eye-openers for LTAP personnel and we take these techniques back to help our local agencies see planning and designing from a different perspective.
But Matt was able to join Ron Eck (from the West Virginia LTAP) as he led a tour of conferencees along a several block pedestrian route, which participants navigated in a wheel chair, using white canes and blindfolds, and wearing goggles that simulate low vision and other chronic eye diseases. This exercise, which we use when teaching the Americans with Disabilities Act, is an “aha moment” for most participants and this time was no exception; it was discussed repeatedly over the next few days of the conference. To wit, is your local agency up to date with its ADA self-evaluation and is your Transition Plan current? We have to continue progress to ensure our public rights-of-way are accessible for all pedestrians and if you need some technical assistance, contact Matt at email@example.com and he’ll be happy to help.
The abstract photo of the ADA walk was taken by Ben Colucci, who is retiring as Director of the Puerto Rico LTAP after some 38 years. Another great friend, Ben has been a fixture in LTAP and his eccentric personality will be missed.
The NLTAPA conference is an intense four days that reaps benefits for us in our goal to serve Delaware local agencies with transportation challenges. We’ll be working to put those ideas in place over the next few months, but don’t wait for us if you have challenges that we can assist with. Contact us at your convenience and we will work hard to connect you with the resources you need.