News Briefs

Helping The Chesapeake Bay

Saplings being plantedMay 3, 2019: Reforestation efforts in five locations in the Virginia Department of Transportation's Richmond District will improve the environment by reducing the number of pollutants that end up in surface waters, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay, through runoff.

Recently, VDOT planted trees in five areas of state-owned right of way adjacent to entry and exit ramps on Interstate 295.

“Tree canopies intercept rainfall, which means it can more easily evaporate or be absorbed by the tree roots, reducing the amount of stormwater runoff,” said VDOT Project Manager Joe Parfitt.

VDOT is working to identify other areas within the Chesapeake Bay watershed that can be returned to forests or unmanaged meadows.

Once this work is done, maintenance crews will stop mowing. This is both good for the environment and reduces maintenance.

Parfitt noted any selected sites will be thoroughly reviewed for safety and visibility and motorists’ lines of sight will not be affected.

The selected areas along I-295, from Brook Road to Mechanicsville Turnpike, were tilled and then each location was planted with native tree species, such as tulip poplar, willow oak, chestnut oak, black locust, black cherry, flowering dogwood, persimmon and smooth sumac.

A Gift Of Life

Hamilton and RiddleApril 29, 2019: Don Riddle, superintendent at the Burnt Chimney Area Headquarters in the Virginia Department of Transportation's Salem District, and Christy Hamilton grew up in the same town of Rocky Mount, Virginia, but because of their age difference, they had not crossed paths until very recently.

A mutual friend invited Riddle to Hamilton's 40th birthday party. Since then, the two have kept in contact.

When she was 4, Hamilton was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes a person’s cells to produce mucus that blocks passageways.

Since the disease affects the lungs the most, Hamilton needed a double lung transplant at 31.

Her mother and uncle donated their lower lung lobes, which saved Hamilton's life but left her dependent on anti-rejection medications.

These drugs eventually caused her kidneys to fail.

When Hamilton posted that she needed a kidney, Riddle decided to get himself tested. He was a match.

Following intense physical and mental tests with doctors and social workers, Riddle was cleared to donate his kidney to Hamilton this past October.

“Christy likes to say I am her hero, but she’s mine," he said. "She is incredible to have gone through all she’s been through and still have a smile on her face.” Don was able to use the commonwealth’s medical donation leave, which can be used the day of surgery and during recovery.

This leave can be used by any non-probationary classified employee who presents medical certification supporting intent to donate bone marrow or an organ.

The employee can take up to 30 work days of paid leave in any calendar year.

It is not considered a part of family and medical leave.

“It was great to not have to use vacation to give this kidney for someone who really needed it. It made the decision to donate that much easier,” Riddle said.

The average wait time for a kidney is five years. Riddle's living donation shortened that by half.

There are about 113,000 people waiting for organs in the United States. About 20 die each day.

Safety Program Manager Honored

David Rush (left) gets awardApril 25, 2019: During the kickoff for 2019 National Work Zone Awareness Week in Washington, D.C., Virginia Department of Transportation Work Zone Safety Program Manager David Rush was recognized for his role in making the annual observance a national event.

He was presented with an award from the Work Zone Safety National Committee.

David is passionate about National Work Zone Awareness Week, which started in Virginia more than 20 years ago.

Through his efforts in sharing VDOT's campaign with many national organizations, the safety awareness campaign has since expanded to every state.

It is held at the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway work zones and brings attention to motorist and worker safety and mobility issues.

Rush, who has worked at VDOT for more than 40 years, also leads the annual Central Office Work Zone Safety Day event. This year's event had nearly 300 participants.

Page last modified: May 3, 2019