Virginia keeps score to fund ‘right’ projects

Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board has adopted a scoring process as a means to prioritise transportation projects based on need rather than ‘political whims’.

Adopting a scoring system for transportation projects is the latest step Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has taken since assuming office in January 2014, in an effort to reform the way transportation projects are selected, whether traditional funding or a public-private partnership (PPP; P3) model is used for their delivery.

According to a statement issued by McAuliffe’s office on Wednesday, since the beginning of the year, the state has held numerous meetings with local and regional government representatives, integrating their input into the scoring process.

Projects will be scored based on the following criteria: safety, congestion, accessibility, economic development, environmental quality and land use.

The criteria will weigh differently depending on the needs of a specific region within the state. For example, reducing congestion will take precedence for projects in urban areas, whereas economic development will be more of a priority in rural areas.

“The scoring process is about investing tax dollars in the projects that will generate the greatest return on investment for Virginians in terms of easing congestion and stimulating economic growth,” McAuliffe said.

“I was proud to work with Speaker Howell and the General Assembly to pass the legislation that established this scoring process so that we can make transportation planning decisions based on sound data, not on the political whims that have defined our process for too long,” McAuliffe added, referring to House Bill 2, which the state legislature passed in April 2014.

“House Bill 2 will improve transparency and accountability because the public will know how projects scored and the decisions behind the CTB’s [Commonwealth Transportation Board’s] project selection,” Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said.

Projects will be evaluated and scored through early 2016. Once they are scored and public input received, the CTB will select projects for funding to be included in the updated version of the Six-Year Improvement Programme, which will be adopted in June 2016, the Governor’s office said.

Projects funded with federal safety dollars and projects that rehabilitate aging pavements and bridges are exempted from scoring.

Photo courtesy of VDOT.