Richmond, Va. — The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) voted on the first wave of transportation projects scored by Virginia’s new data-driven prioritization process. The process (formerly called House Bill 2 or HB2) has a new name, “SMART SCALE, Funding the Right Transportation Projects in Virginia.” SMART SCALE stands for System for the Management and Allocation of Resources for Transportation. It is a prioritization process that evaluates each project’s merits using key factors, including: improvements to safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, economic development and the environment.
The CTB approved $1.7 billion in funding to build 163 projects that were selected through the SMART SCALE process, which became law under HB2, carried by Delegate Chris Stolle in 2014. The projects, now included in the Six-Year Improvement Program, are fully funded through all phases of project development and construction.
“Virginia is the first state in the country to use an outcome-based prioritization process to select transportation projects,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “My team and I were proud to work with a bipartisan coalition from the General Assembly and localities and regional bodies across the state to develop reforms that make the absolute best use of taxpayer dollars by investing in the right transportation projects. No longer are we allowing politics and wish lists determine what gets built. This process is critical to moving people, jobs, and commerce, all of which is essential to building the new Virginia economy.”
Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne added, “In the past, Virginia had a politically driven and opaque transportation funding process that was filled with uncertainty for local communities and businesses. The SMART SCALE process makes the best use of renewed state funding approved in 2013 and the recently approved federal transportation bill. Each project was scored based on its merits and value. The projects are in the six-year program, and they will get built.”
Last fall, more than 130 localities, metropolitan planning organizations and transit agencies submitted 321 proposed projects, totaling nearly $7 billion in funding, to be scored, with $1.7 billion in available funds. The SMART SCALE process identified projects that provided the greatest return on investment, and the results were used by the CTB to select projects for funding.
Funds were made available to communities under two new programs created by the 2015 Governor’s Omnibus Transportation bill that refocused the program on core needs and eliminated a complex and opaque set of funding programs. State and federal construction funds are distributed to three programs – 27.5% for High Priority Projects, a program for key statewide and regional projects; 27.5% for the Construction District Grants program, in which funds are distributed to each district for competition among localities; and 45% provided to the State of Good Repair program for capital reconstruction of deteriorated bridges and pavements, which is subject to a separate asset management process.
The law requires projects to be scored based on how they ease congestion, improve economic development, provide accessibility to jobs, improve safety and environmental quality, and support transportation-efficient land use. The CTB and the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment worked collaboratively with the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and local and regional governments to develop the scoring system that has been used to measure the merits of projects.
Under the reformed process, project sponsors and the business community can have certainty that a project included in the six-year program will be built. Each of the 163 projects in the program is fully funded, including details for design, right-of-way and construction.
Prior to SMART SCALE, projects were often partially funded by the state, dragging out the construction timeframe and increasing costs. Under the 2015 Governor’s Omnibus Transportation bill, once appointed, CTB members no longer serve at the direction of the Governor and can only be removed for cause. Members will be able to vote for the projects they believe are best for the Commonwealth without undue political pressure.