Three Albemarle projects move forward in Smart Scale process; One from Nelson advances

Planners across the Commonwealth got new information Tuesday on what projects are likely to receive funding through the process the Virginia Department of Transportation uses and which ones will need to wait another two years. 

The fifth Smart Scale round is the largest one since the program began in 2016 with $1.53 billion in projects recommended for funding. 

“We had 413 applications this round and we screened and validated and had 394 eligible applications to be scored this round,” said Brooke Jackson, VDOT’s program manager for Smart Scale. “We are recommending in the staff recommending scenario that 152 applications get funded.” (view the presentation)

A broad overview of the five rounds of Smart Scale to date (Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation) 

Smart Scale was mandated by legislation in 2014 that required new transportation projects to be scored and ranked according to how it fits various needs including relieving congestion, addressing safety concerns, and boosting economic development. 

“Smart Scale focuses on the change that an improvement brings, not just what it’s doing, but whether or not it actually makes a difference in safety, congestion,  accessibility, etcetera,” Jackson said. 

Those scores are then compared to the overall cost of the project to consider the benefits relative to the final price tag. Localities and other entities are encouraged to make local matches, which can increase a project’s overall ranking. (view all of the scorecards)

The formula changes depending on what part of Virginia the project would be located. For instance, congestion benefits play a much larger factor in Type A communities such as Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. In rural areas, economic development and safety is taken into consideration. 

A map depicting the different calculations in different parts of Virginia 

Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller was on the Commonwealth Transportation Board when the Smart Scale process began. He said the system it replaced did not deliver for the Commonwealth. 

“It’s radically different from us in the old days trading back and forth as to what was going to happen in Virginia in terms of getting roads built and maintained, which was not a good system,” Miller said. 

The total amount requested was $8.3 billion in projects. The total to be allocated will be $1.5 billion. 

That’s more money than had been anticipated a couple of months ago. Before the Smart Scale discussion, the CTB got an update on potential revenue for the next six years from Jennifer Farmer, chief financial officer for the Virginia Department of Transportation.  (view the presentation)

“The Department of Taxation provided a revenue estimate update to us for consideration and it included significant growth across three major sources that fund transportation.” Farmer said. “Over the period through 2029, retail sales and use are up over $600 million. The expectations on motor vehicle sales is $473 million over previous estimates. And the motor fuels tax over the course of the period is up just over a billion dollars.” 

Additional revenue is expected from the federal government, as well. All told, there’s $1.9 billion in unanticipated revenue. However, there are also additional costs to consider as VDOT looks at the overall picture for the next six years such as the effects of inflation. 

VDOT is divided into several geographical districts. Here’s how projects across the Fifth District fared: 

Culpeper District 

The Culpeper District is set to receive $152,168,951 and there were 38 applications. Staff is recommending 13 proceed to funding. 

“Culpeper’s improvements were characterized by a number of spot and intersection improvements targeting safety as well and there were a few well-round projects in there,” Jackson said. 

Much of the northern portion of the Culpeper District is outside the Fifth District but includes Albemarle, Charlottesville, Fluvanna, and Louisa Counties. 

Projects recommended for funding are:

Several projects were not recommended for funding including improvements on Fifth Street Extendeda roundabout at District Avenue and Hydraulic Roadand a bike and pedestrian bridge across the Rivanna River.  A project to improve pedestrian safety on U.S. 250 at Rolkin Road scored 15th in the District, just below the cut-off. 

No projects are recommended for funding in either Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa counties. The City of Charlottesville did not submit any applications in this round. 

Lynchburg District

The Lynchburg District has a total of $124.8 million in 12 projects recommended for funding. 

“Primarily safety focused projects, especially around U.S. 29,” Jackson said. “A highlight: Piney Forest Road improvements was the number 2 safety improvement in the state. It’s a one-mile corridor improvement on U.S. 29 with a new median turn-lane and a traffic signal.” 

The full list:  

  • Pittsylvania County is recommended for $1.01 million for U.S. Route 58 at Route 622. This was the highest scoring project in the District. 
  • Halifax County was second with $2.486 million for pedestrian improvements in the Town of Halifax
  • The Danville MPO is recommended for $6,674,853 for a project called Piedmont Drive Pedestrian Accommodations. 
  • The City of Lynchburg qualified fourth with a $9.834 million project for improvements on U.S. Business 501 at Langhorne and Vassar. 
  • The City of Danville is recommended for $22.1 million in funding for improvements on Piney Forest Road.
  • Amherst County is sixth with $2,468 million for a right hand turn lane at Seminole Drive.
  • The seventh top project goes to Pittsylvania County with $3.92 million for improvements to the turn lane from U.S. 29 at Spring Garden Lane. 
  • The second-largest award is $22,239,385 to Danville City for Riverside Drive from Audubon Drive to Arnett Boulevard. 
  • Nelson County placed ninth with a $15.7 million project to alter the intersection of Route 6 and Route 151. 
  • Amherst County will receive $2.96 million for changes to the intersection of the Lynchburg Expressway and South Amherst Highway. 
  • Danville has the 11th ranked project with $28,672,706 for improvements on Riverside Drive from Arnett Boulevard to Main Street.
  • The final project recommended for funding is to Amherst County for improvements to U.S. Route 29 business at Amherst Highway from Dillard Road and Lakeview Road. 

Campbell County had requested four projects and none were recommended for funding. Prince Edward County submitted two but also fell short in the rankings. 

The top half of the scorecard for the Piney Forest project in Danville (Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation) 

Richmond District

There’s a longer list of projects in the Richmond District, which has localities outside of the Fifth District. But here’s what localities covered in this newsletter are recommended to receive: 

  • Goochland County is recommended for $1.041 million for a realignment of Hockett Road

Actually, that appears to be it. I thought there would be at least one more bullet point. There were 20 projects funded. 

The Town of Ashland in Hanover County submitted three projects that were unsuccessful as did Hanover County itself. 

Among projects that didn’t make it, Mecklenburg County recommended a directional median at U.S. 58 at Cherry Hill Church Road. Powhatan County submitted an R-CUT at U.S. 60 and U.S. 13 as well as one at U.S. 60 and New Dorset Road. 

Goochland also suggested a project at Interstate 64 and Ashland Road which was not recommended for funding. 

The scorecard for the Hockett Road realignment (Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation)

Next steps

The CTB will vote on the Smart Scale funding in June. Between now and then, some projects may be altered or withdrawn. Jackson said the announcement of scores is not the end of the process.

“Smart Scale is a decision support tool,” Jackson said. “I really want to hit that home.”

CTB members will work with localities and VDOT officials to make adjustments and Jackson will return to the Board in May with the “consensus scenario.”

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