CTB approves data-driven transportation process

road work transportationThe Commonwealth Transportation Board 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 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.


Comments from state leaders

House Speaker William J. Howell:
“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a series of major, bipartisan steps to invest in and improve transportation in Virginia. From the legislation introduced in the House of Delegates two years ago to the efforts of Secretary Layne and the Governor’s administration, we have worked in a bipartisan fashion to develop this innovative process that I know will be a model for the nation. With SMART SCALE, we are promoting greater accountability, safeguarding against waste and ending the politicization that has been rampant in our transportation process for so long.”

Delegate Chris Jones:
“Over the last three years, we have made major improvements to how Virginia funds and selects its transportation projects. We made a major investment in transportation, fundamentally reformed our funding streams, and adopted an innovative and forward-thinking prioritization process that ensures the most important projects move forward first. These are major steps that will allow us to build the 21st century transportation system Virginians need and deserve. I am proud to say we are putting good governance and taxpayers ahead of partisanship and politics.”

Delegate Chris Stolle:
“I am pleased to see the results of our bipartisan efforts on transportation reform. These funded projects have been evaluated based on a series of objective and metric-based standards so we get the most value out of precious and limited resources.”

Delegate Vivian Watts:
“When the General Assembly passed historic transportation legislation in 2013, it became critical to make certain the monies are put to the right projects.  Project prioritization is a game-changing breakthrough in scoring and funding the right transportation projects, making localities really think through and analyze their most critical needs based on factors such as congestion reduction and better accessibility.  The result is better transportation for all of us.”  

Senator Steve Newman:
“Virginia now has a project prioritization process that will improve transportation infrastructure by creating an objective method of distributing funds to all parts of the state to meet their needs. These changes have already helped the Lynchburg region, along with the rest of the Commonwealth, to improve our transportation system and grow our economy.”  

Senator David Marsden:
“The funding announced today, coupled with the historic bipartisan agreement reached during session to unlock I-66, represent game-changing progress on transportation solutions for Northern Virginia and the Commonwealth as a whole.”     

Ab Boxley, Chairman, Blue Ridge Economic Coalition:
“For the first time, Virginia has set a consistent standard and process that brings local interests together to figure out the best transportation projects based on the most pressing needs in our areas.”

Jim Corcoran, President & CEO, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce:
“I applaud the McAuliffe administration, Speaker Howell and transportation leaders in the General Assembly for their work on transportation reform.  Project prioritization is good for business and jobs because the right projects are getting funded, which will reduce congestion and generate more opportunities for commerce.”

Bryan Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce:
“The funding announced today and the prioritization process used to pick projects makes good business sense and will lead to reduced congestion in urban areas like Hampton Roads and better access to jobs in the more rural areas of the state.”

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