The Commonwealth Transportation Board will meet in Culpeper on Monday to get feedback on potential changes to the way projects are funded in Virginia.
The event is part of a statewide set of meetings on changes to the Smart Scale funding process.
“I think, overall, Smart Scale is a success and does a good job making the funding system a little more predictable and less political and is selecting good and needed projects,” said Kevin McDermott, Albemarle County’s transportation planner.
In 2014, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring the Virginia Department of Transportation to create a system where submissions from cities and counties would be ranked on a series of criteria. The legislation mandated that projects be scored on how they decreased congestion, improved economic development and increased safety.
So far, the state has gone through two Smart Scale rounds, and the next deadline is in August 2018.
In 2015, Charlottesville received nearly $30 million for three streetscapes across the city, whereas Albemarle was not successful with their submissions that year. The city is currently in the preliminary stages of implementing the projects on East High Street, Emmet Street and Fontaine Avenue.
“We are gearing up for our first project, [and] Smart Scale enabled the city to meet its goal of improving our infrastructure to support development and quality of life,” said Alexander Ikefuna, the city’s director of neighborhood development services.
In 2016, Albemarle was more successful and secured funding for projects, including an $18.4 million “diverging diamond” at the Interstate 64 exit 124 at U.S. 250. Other projects included a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 151 in Crozet and turn lanes at the intersection of Proffit Road and Route 20.
“The county did well under the program last year, and we have been able to get many of our highest transportation priorities funded through the program,” said McDermott.
In 2016, the city was unsuccessful in securing $18.6 million in funding to pay for upgrades to the West Main Street project but did receive $8.6 million for intersection improvements at Barracks Road and Emmet Street.
Overall in 2016, the CTB approved 147 Smart Scale projects with a total cost estimate of $1.02 billion. There were close to $9 billion in requests from across the state.
Before the 2018 process begins, the CTB is considering changes. Smaller localities will only be able to submit four proposals and larger localities will be capped at eight.
McDermott said if Albemarle is limited to four projects it will result in a “more deliberate” selection process.
Projects that are simply repairs or replacements would not be eligible for Smart Scale funding. Cities and counties also will need to demonstrate public support for their submissions.
Changes also are being made to the various formulas that govern the final scores.
“With these updates, the CTB hopes to garner a high-quality set of candidate projects that require less time to screen for eligibility and are substantive enough to score and compete well,” said Stacy Londrey, spokeswoman for VDOT’s Culpeper District.
The CTB will vote on the proposed changes at their meeting in Richmond on Oct. 24.
The public input meeting Monday will be held at VDOT’s Culpeper District Office at 1601 Orange Road beginning at 4 p.m.
Chip Boyles is executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
“We see the Smart Scale process evolving into an equitable distribution of available funding across the commonwealth,” said Boyles. He does not think the changes will harm the area’s changes of having projects funded.
“Our region has been quite successful with [House Bill 2 scoring process] and Smart Scale funding, and we don’t see where that will change in the coming years,” Boyles said. “We have learned to focus on smaller improvements that have a higher likelihood of receiving funding.”
Boyles said the Smart Scale process also will shape projects that are included in the Metropolitan Plan-ning Organization’s long-range transportation plan for 2045. They are more likely to be smaller projects than those submitted in the past.
The TJPDC will hold an open house for the on the long-range planning process at the Water Street Center beginning at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 14.