Common Sense in State Road Funding

June 27, 2016

Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB)  has voted to fully fund the first wave of infrastructure projects that were scored and selected based on an objective, data-driven process.

Aubrey Layne writes in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the Virginia CTB took a look at what proposed transportation construction projects would generate the most benefit to Virginia citizens for the money.

The outcome was CTB approved $1.7 billion to build 163 projects that will benefit every region of the state. Projects were scored based on their merits and value.

All 163 projects are fully funded thought all phases of development and construction.

The scoring system is called SMART SCALE and is the only outcome-based scoring system of its kind in the country.  SMART SCALE stands for System for the Management and Allocation of Resources for Transportation, and the key factors used in scoring a project’s merits: improvements to safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, economic development, and the environment.

The game-changing process works like this:

- Projects are screened and scored, and recommendations for funding are based on top-scoring projects.

- The top-scoring projects are reviewed, revised, and presented to localities, legislators, and the public for their input.

- CTB members have the final say and vote on the projects, and are held accountable for the choices they make. The project scoring information and results are online.

Virginia's SMART SCALE is legislated into law, meaning future administrations can't 'reexamine' projects or add projects at will. This includes the General Assembly, governor, and secretary of transportation.  Any new project must be scored and vetted by the data-driven process.

Local budgets benefit because once a project is scored and selected by the CTB for funding, local municipalities can count of the work getting done.

Layne says about half the money will go to new construction under SMART SCALE and the other half funds will go to deteriorated bridges and pavements, called State of Good Repair. This program is subject to an asset management process so the most critical needs are addressed to ensure safety and to protect the massive public investment in Virginia’s extensive highway infrastructure.

It's an interesting formula and worth watching.