Just one Charlottesville road project has been recommended for funding through the state’s Smart Scale process, while no projects in Albemarle County were recommended.
On Tuesday, the scores from the third round of the funding prioritization process and the staff-recommended funding scenario were presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board at its meeting.
“You all will over the coming months have the opportunity, if you wish to, to consider changes in this form,” Nick Donohue, Virginia’s assistant secretary of transportation, said to the board.
About $2 million for a phase of Charlottesville’s West Main Streetscape project was one of four projects in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District to receive an initial funding recommendation from staff from the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, VDOT and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation.
Smart Scale is the current primary method for funding large-scale transportation projects in Virginia and provides state and federal funds for the design/engineering, right-of-way and construction of transportation projects.
In the first round of Smart Scale in 2016, approximately $1.4 billion in funding was available, and in the second round in 2017, approximately $1 billion in funding was available.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a continued decline in the amount of available resources, and we have $779 million available for award in this round of Smart Scale,” Donohue said.
This round, 433 projects were scored and $7.4 billion in funding was requested.
Smaller localities, including Albemarle and Charlottesville, were limited to four applications this current round.
About half of the total allocations are dedicated to “high-priority” projects, while the other half goes toward the district grant program, and those funds are distributed based on a formula in the state code.
The Culpeper District, which includes Charlottesville and Albemarle, received $21.7 million in district grant program funding, and no projects were funded with the additional high-priority program funding.
Kevin McDermott, the county’s transportation planner, said Albemarle was disappointed in this year’s results.
“We will be re-evaluating all the projects we submitted to see if there are ways we can improve them to make them better projects with higher chances of funding in future rounds of Smart Scale, and [we] will also be looking for other funding options for the highest-priority projects in the county,” he said.
Albemarle had submitted projects for an extension of Berkmar Drive to Airport Road, improvements to the U.S. 250/Route 20 intersection, Route 20/Route 53 intersection improvements and a roundabout at Rio Road East and Pen Park Road.
In addition to the West Main Streetscape project, Charlottesville had submitted improvements at the intersections of Preston and Grady avenues and U.S. 250 and Hydraulic Road, and along the Fifth Street Southwest corridor.
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission had submitted county projects for a shared-use path on U.S. 29 from Carrsbrook Drive to Riverside Center, a U.S. 250/29 Bypass ramp right-turn lane at eastbound Barracks Road, a park-and-ride lot at Exit 107 off Interstate 64 and intersection improvements at Frays Mill Road and U.S. 29.
The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning District Commission had submitted three U.S. 29-Hydraulic Road intersection improvement packages and interchange improvements at Fontaine Avenue and the U.S. 29 Bypass.
McDermott said he thinks the real issue is that there is simply not enough funding to address the state’s or the district’s transportation needs.
“The nine counties and city of Charlottesville that make up the Culpeper District had $20 million available to fund two years of transportation projects,” he said.
“I understand that there are big projects that have statewide significance, but when a single project in Hampton Roads can get $200 million in funding,” he said, referring to a plan to widen the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, “I think that we need to re-evaluate the funding program if we are going to have any hope of addressing all of the state’s needs.”
At the CTB meeting, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said she knew some people might be disappointed at the number of projects or certain projects that were recommended for funding.
“This is just the beginning; we expect there will be changes, and we want to work with you to finalize the list,” she said.
The board will ultimately decide on a final project list by June.