WINCHESTER — The Frederick County Transportation Committee wants the Commonwealth Transportation Board to review Smart Scale — Virginia’s data-driven prioritization method to fund road projects — and possibly make revisions to the process to ensure fairness.
Smart Scale, which started in 2015 following legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2014, scores transportation projects proposed by localities and regional planning bodies across Virginia. It evaluates each project’s merits, including safety, reduction of traffic congestion, environmental impact and cost. Projects approved for funding are included in the Commonwealth Transportation Board's six-year improvement program — a document that outlines planned spending for transportation projects.
This year the Frederick County government submitted applications for two projects — $6.9 million to realign the northbound ramp at I-81 Exit 317 to Redbud Road and $4.5 million to make improvements to U.S. 11. In addition, the Winchester-Frederick County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) applied for $6.3 million for a U.S. 11/Old Charles Town Road Round about and $40.3 million to improve the Exit 317 interchange.
None of these projects — all of which are considered major priorities by the county — were recommended for funding by the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment. The Commonwealth Transportation Board will make a final decision on which projects receive funding this summer.
Frederick County Assistant Planning Director John Bishop said on Monday that the scoring system puts Frederick County at a disadvantage. This is not the first time Smart Scale has been criticized by the county’s Transportation Committee. Previously, members have expressed concern that the scoring method heavily favors funding major transit projects in the Northern Virginia area.
The committee on Monday unanimously recommended the Board of Supervisors pass a resolution requesting the Commonwealth Transportation Board and the state legislature review SmartScale and its implementation in order to address equity issues related to the distribution of transportation funding in Virginia.
Board of Supervisors Chairman and committee member Charles DeHaven Jr. also urged Bishop to work with VDOT staff about trying to find “big picture” solutions to the problem.
“I feel it's important for us to speak up when we feel there are inequities and also try to better understand how that can happen,” DeHaven said.