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)
One of the items on the agenda for the January 11, 2023 meeting of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors is a quarterly update on transportation projects. This will be from the the county’s transportation planner, Jessica Hersh-Ballering. The major piece of information coming up later this month will be the scoring of Smart Scale submissions. As a reminder, here’s what Albemarle submitted:
A new traffic pattern will begin tomorrow at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 151 in Nelson County. The Virginia Department of Transportation expects that vehicles will be routed through a new roundabout beginning at 9 a.m.
“Flaggers will control traffic through the intersection while the traffic signals at the intersection are removed and pavement striping is completed,” reads a VDOT press release. “Drivers should anticipate brief delays during traffic stoppages and congestion in the vicinity of the project. The traffic switch will be complete, and the flagging operation removed by 3 p.m., at which time traffic will use the roundabout for all movements through the intersection.”
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.”
Charlottesville Community Engagement is a newsletter and podcast that tries to keep up with how much it costs to build things, a major factor in the provision of infrastructure. The Virginia Department of Transportation also keeps an eye on changing trends as part of an effort to deliver services more efficiently. This comes out of a 2020 study by the firm of Ernst and Young who took a lot at the methodology VDOT uses to estimate the cost of projects and the way it bids them.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board got a briefing at their meeting on Tuesday, October 25.
“Ernst and Young made several recommendations to the Department and one of those recommendations was to constantly keep up with the economic items including inflation and commodities in our bidding process throughout the year, which is historically something VDOT has not done,” said Bart Thrasher, VDOT’s chief engineer.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has followed through on a plan to help the city of Charlottesville get better about actually building projects for which it has been funded. On Tuesday, officials briefed the Commonwealth Transportation Board on the cancellation of three projects for which the city received funding from the Smart Scale process in the past few years.
“I’m presenting to you a proposal to cancel three Smart Scale projects,” said Kim Pryor, VDOT’s Director of Infrastructure Investment. “Preston Avenue and Grady Avenue, West Main Street Phase 2 and West Main Street Phase 3.”
Efforts are underway to secure funding to transform the character of Fifth Street and Fifth Street Extended between Ridge Street and Ambrose Commons. There are at least three projects being considered for the next round of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process.
“Smart Scale is the process that the state uses to prioritize and fund transportation projects,” said Sandy Shackelford, the director of planning and transportation for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
Work continues to prepare the next round of applications for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale funding process. Chuck Proctor is a planner with VDOT’s Culpeper District and he’s assisting Albemarle and the MPO come up with potential submissions.
“Most of them are bike-ped related, a lot of them are multimodal projects like Avon Street, 5th Street, the 29-250 bypass,” Proctor said, speaking at a technical committee of the Metropolitan Planning Organization on Tuesday.
Other projects that could be submitted include the intersection of Old Trail and Crozet Avenue, a recommendation from the ongoing North 29 corridor study, projects on Pantops, as well as various intersections of U.S. 250 east of Pantops.
One of several major transportation projects intended to make Charlottesville an easier place to bike or walk passed a milestone last week. In 2017, the city was awarded $8.6 million in Virginia Department of Transportation Smart Scale funds for a project at the intersection of Barracks Road and Emmet Street. The design public hearing was held on July 7, 2021.
“The purpose of the project is to improve the operational performance of the Barracks Road and Emmet Street intersection while also enhancing bicycle, pedestrian and transit facilities serving the adjacent neighborhoods,” said the narrator of a presentation shown at the virtual meeting. (watch the full presentation)
The Smart Scale funding process has recommended nine out of ten transportation projects in Albemarle County submitted in the latest round. The Commonwealth Transportation Board will consider the projects this spring and will take a final vote in June.
“The total amount of Smart Scale funds that would come to Albemarle from these projects is just over $60 million,” said Albemarle transportation planner Kevin McDermott sent in an email to the Board of Supervisors.