CTB briefed on Smart Scale funding as Round 5 approaches

In three months, the Virginia Department of Transportation will release the results from the fifth round of Smart Scale, the major avenue through which projects related to roads and sidewalks are funded. 

“We are in Smart Scale season,” said John Lawson, Virginia’s deputy transportation secretary. “Everybody will be wondering how much money will be available for this round and for many reasons it is to be determined.” 

Lawson said there won’t be an estimate of revenues until Governor Glenn Youngkin releases his budget in December. He also said VDOT needs to know how much it needs to spend to cover the cost of inflation of existing projects. 

But what is Smart Scale? Brooke Jackson of VDOT’s Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment said its the result of a 2014 law requiring the agency to rank projects on a series of metrics and make funding choices accordingly. 

“In Smart Scale, we look at benefits relating to safety, congestion, accessibility, land use, environment, and economic development,” Jackson said. 

There are 411 applications in the current cycle requesting $7.67 billion in funds with $18.6 million as the average request. There are several submissions from this area.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Shep Miller noted that 25 percent of the applications are to improve bike and pedestrian mobility. He said he wanted more scrutiny on those projects. 

“If a bike-ped project brings congestion relief in transportation, then I think it sort of fits at the higher levels we’re trying to accomplish.” Miller said. “If it more about, particularly in the bike arena, if it’s more about sort of quality of life and the amount of people it serves is relatively small, I think we need to be thoughtful about how we spend our money.” 

Miller said he wanted metrics on how much bike and pedestrian projects are actually used. As Secretary, he does not get a vote on the Commonwealth Transportation Board unless there is a tie. 

“I’m a believe in bike/ped,” Miller said. “I’m just a believe in bike-ped when it’s utilized.” 

CTB Member Mary Hynes said bike and pedestrian projects are often about safety. 

“These are the vulnerable users that we’ve been talking about where we did need to focus and sometimes they are the folks with the least resources who are riding bikes and walking because they have no other choice,” Hynes said. 

Three more months until Smart Scale Scores Day!

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the October 28, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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