What entities are eligible to submit applications for SMART SCALE projects?
Projects may be submitted by regional entities like Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Planning District Commissions (PDCs), counties and cities, towns that maintain their own infrastructure and qualify to receive payments pursuant to §33.2-319, and transit agencies that receive state operating assistance from the Mass Transit Trust Fund as established in § 58.1-638(A)(4)(b)(2) of the Code of Virginia
Counties are responsible for transportation in towns that do not receive maintenance payments, and are encouraged to coordinate with towns and prioritize candidate projects for submission, similar to the Secondary Six-Year Plan process.
Is there a limit on the number of applications that can be submitted?
Yes. Localities with populations of less than 200,000 residents, and MPOs/PDCs/Transit Agencies that serve fewer than 500,000 constituents, may submit a maximum of four applications (and five pre-applications).
Localities with populations of 200,000 or more residents, and MPOs/PDCs/Transit Agencies that serve 500,000 or more constituents, may submit up to ten applications (and twelve pre-applications).
* Download the listing of eligible entities, population data and maximum number of applications per tier here.
The source of population data for localities, MPOs and PDCs is the most recent United States Census (2020). For transit agencies, the source is the 2020 National Transit Database (NTD) – or the Census if data was not available in the NTD.
Can PDCs count MPO populations within their boundaries when determining their maximum number of applications?
No. The MPO population (within the approved MPO study area boundary) is subtracted from the PDC population to avoid double counting.
Do transit agency SMART SCALE applications count against local application maximums?
No. Public transit agencies are considered separate entities and do not count toward local maximums.
Does an application submitted by a county located within an MPO area count against the application limits for that MPO?
No. Caps apply individually to each entity eligible to submit a SMART SCALE application. There are limitations on who can submit, based on VTrans Needs categories and eligibility to the High Priority and District Grant Programs.
If the county and MPO run out of applications, can an ineligible town in an MPO area make a submission under the PDC?
Yes, but PDCs and MPOs are only eligible to submit projects on the Corridors of Statewide Significance or Regional Networks and are only eligible for funding through the High Priority Program.
Alternatively, per CTB policy, a Board member may allow one additional application from one county within their district if (i) the project is located within a town that is ineligible to submit projects and (ii) the county in which the town is located submitted the maximum number of applications allowed. Only one such additional application is allowed per district.
What if VDOT maintains some roads in a town, but the town maintains the others?
Counties, cities, and towns that maintain their own infrastructure are eligible to submit applications regardless of the roadway system. Maintenance of the specific roadway system is not a requirement of eligibility.
What if a project crosses locality or regional boundaries?
An eligible entity can submit an application as long as a portion of the project is located within the boundary of their jurisdictional authority. If a locality submits a project that crosses into another jurisdiction, a resolution of support from the affected jurisdiction(s) must be included in supporting documentation. If an MPO/PDC-submitted project crosses into another region, a resolution of support from the affected regional organization(s) must be included in supporting documentation.
Will out-of-cycle application submissions be considered for scoring or funding?
No. All applications for projects to be considered for funding through the SMART SCALE process must be submitted during the application period – pre-applications must be submitted between March 1 and April 1 of each even-numbered year, with final applications due no later than August 1.
Can a jurisdiction submit a project in an area that is not yet designated as an Urban Development Area (UDA)?
Yes. The VTrans Needs Assessment includes locally designated growth areas with comprehensive plans and proper code references as qualified for SMART SCALE screening, even if they are not named as UDAs.
The SMART SCALE application allows applicants to reference UDAs that are under development and anticipated to be adopted by the submission deadline.
Can projects that only have a conceptual definition be submitted?
Projects submitted for SMART SCALE funding will be held to a basic standard of development to assure they can be evaluated reliably. Some factors to consider:
Find more detailed project readiness requirements in Section 2.2 of the Technical Guide. For help understanding expectations and ensuring that candidate projects are adequately developed, we encourage you to coordinate with VDOT and DRPT staff prior to and during the application period.
Does a SMART SCALE project need to be in an MPO or PDC regional plan?
Projects are not required to be in long-range plans prior to application submission. However, federally eligible projects must meet the relevant federal requirements for inclusion in the Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP) in order to make use of SMART SCALE funding. MPOs need to understand potential impacts to long-range plans before projects are selected for funding.
Localities and MPOs are encouraged to follow the planning and prioritization processes currently in use by the MPO. A project submitted by a locality within an MPO boundary must provide a resolution of support from the governing MPO Policy Board if the project is not consistent with or referenced in the adopted MPO CLRP.
Can a project apply for both SMART SCALE and another VDOT or DRPT funding program?
An applicant may only identify State of Good Repair, Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside, Highway Safety Improvement Program and Revenue Sharing funds as committed funds if the funding has already been approved by the Board. Applicants must have an approved or pending application for other sources of committed funds, such as local/regional or other federal funds, at the time of the SMART SCALE application.
Applicants are encouraged to identify other sources of funding (local, regional, proffers, other state/federal funds) to reduce the amount of SMART SCALE funding requested. However, since committed funds are used to leverage and reduce the SMART SCALE requested amount that is used in the calculating the SMART SCALE score, applicants must submit a letter of commitment that they are responsible for such committed funds even if the original source of the funds is no longer available.
Additionally, if projects are fully funded in a capital improvement program, an MPO’s transportation improvement program or committed by a developer through a local zoning approval process, they will be excluded from consideration in evaluating and rating for SMART SCALE. However, the Board recognizes that there are unique circumstances for large projects that require flexibility.
Accordingly, a fully funded project may be considered under SMART SCALE if the total project cost is reasonably expected to exceed $1 billion and will start procurement prior to the award of the next round of SMART SCALE, but was ineligible for the most recent previous round of SMART SCALE funding due to project readiness.
What does “committed” funding mean?
Committed funds are funds designated to cover the difference in total project cost and SMART SCALE request so the project is fully funded through construction.
Can an applicant leverage the same local funds for multiple projects?
Yes. However, if an applicant leverages the same local funding on multiple applications (SMART SCALE, Revenue Sharing, TAP, etc.) and more than one project is selected for funding, the applicant is responsible for covering the difference.
As an example, if a jurisdiction were to leverage $1 million each on two separate SMART SCALE applications and both were selected, the applicant would be responsible for providing $2 million in local funds. A letter of commitment to fund the leveraged amount is required for each project.
Are proffered projects eligible for SMART SCALE funding?
A project that is fully committed by a proffer is not eligible. For example, if a developer is committed to constructing a rail station or a roadway, those improvements are not eligible for SMART SCALE. However, if the proffer were only for a component or phase of a larger project such as donating right-of-way, the proffer could be included in the application as other committed funding.
If the applicant wants to submit a project with proffered conditions and seeks to obtain SMART SCALE funding for, or in lieu of the proffer, the proffer must have been legally rescinded or terminated before submitting an application.
Are transit funds subject to SMART SCALE?
Paragraph B of HB2 requires “a statewide prioritization process for the use of funds allocated pursuant to §33.2-214.1 or apportioned pursuant to 23 USC 104.” FTA funds apportioned to DRPT for transit are generally applied to operation and maintenance of transit services and facilities and are not referenced in this portion of the code.
Where can I get the application?
SMART SCALE uses a SMART Portal online application tool, which you can find by clicking “Sign In” in the main menu, or “Apply Now” on the Apply page of the SMART SCALE website.
Complete all the steps in the application wizard to submit your application for consideration, transferring text and data from the completed application worksheet document as needed.
What is a pre-application?
Pre-applications have been incorporated into Smart Portal since Round 3, allowing applicants to fill out basic information about their projects and request pre-screening, before the final application is due.
Pre-screening provides early feedback on three critical screening items:
What will I need to prepare before submitting an application?
The SMART SCALE Technical Guide lists resources and project information you should prepare ahead of time (Section 2.4), as well as a significant amount of data and information needed to calculate benefits that will be provided by DRPT and VDOT (Table 2.3).
While preparing data and other information prior to completing the online application, applicants are strongly encouraged to download the application worksheet, and to coordinate with VDOT and DRPT staff regularly. VDOT has established local points of contact to coordinate with applicants throughout the process up until the application deadline.
Who should complete or contribute information to the application?
Ultimately, the project applicant is required to submit the final application prior to the August 1 deadline. Others in the applicant’s organization may be designated as editors in the online application portal to aid in completing the application.
Application development should not require significant time and resources, or require help from consultants to develop an eligible application.
VDOT and DRPT staff are available to provide support and tools for applicants in compiling data and information.
How do I determine my project cost estimate?
Accurate cost estimates are critical because cost impacts the project score and cost-estimate increases could force the project to be rescored in subsequent SMART SCALE cycles. Applicants should work in conjunction with VDOT and DRPT staff to develop reliable cost estimates as part of the application process.
If the applicant requests that VDOT administer the project, VDOT will be responsible for providing a cost estimate for each project application. If the applicant has provided an estimate, VDOT will be required to validate the estimate for use on each project application.
For projects in which the applicant requests to locally administer the project (and for all DRPT oversight projects), the applicant may provide a cost estimate for each project application, however VDOT and/or DRPT staff must validate the estimate for use on each project application.
If there is disagreement concerning the estimate that cannot be resolved between the applicant and the VDOT/DRPT local contact, the applicant may request resolution from the VDOT district engineer/administrator or the DRPT director.
For more information on project cost estimating, see Section 4.4 of the SMART SCALE Technical Guide.
Do I need to submit resolutions of support?
To demonstrate that a project has the support of key stakeholders and that the public has been afforded the opportunity to provide comments and input, all applications must include a resolution of support from the submitting entity’s governing body:
All resolutions of support should be uploaded as supporting documents to the SMART Portal system before the August 1 application deadline.
Resolutions of support from MPOs or PDCs for applications submitted by a locality (city, county, town) or public transit agency may be either uploaded by the application deadline, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 1.
When is the application due?
All projects must be submitted by 5 p.m. on August 1. Applicants are encouraged to submit as soon as possible and are discouraged from waiting until the final day, however, as they may encounter issues that need to be addressed before the final application can be submitted. These are not always apparent until you click the “Review Submission Readiness” button.
What does project “readiness” mean?
Project readiness requirements are designed to encourage projects to undergo a thorough planning and alternatives review process before submission. This helps reduce the risk of projects being selected for funding, only to later require major changes related to scope, budget, NEPA approval, etc. In such cases, funding allocated to the project could have been utilized on another project in the same cohort.
VDOT and DRPT staff are available to assist applicants in the evaluation of their project readiness throughout the application process.
Who should I contact for assistance in completing the application?
For highway, transit and rail projects, localities should work with the VDOT resident administrator/resident engineer, and regional entities (MPOs/PDCs) should work with the planning and investment manager/district planning manager.
Depending on the project, district resources will be available to assist with refining project scopes, schedules and estimates. These resources may include:
View this list of VDOT and DRPT contacts to find out who represents your district or region.
What if information about a project changes after it’s been submitted?
Once a pre-application is submitted, it cannot be resubmitted to make edits, so any needed revisions should be made to the full application. Full applications that have been submitted can be edited up to the application submission deadline. No changes to submitted applications can be made after the deadline passes.
What happens after I submit my application?
Following the close of the application period, OIPI, VDOT and DRPT staff will conduct an application validation review and begin screening and scoring candidate projects. In January, a list of all submitted projects and their scores will be submitted to the CTB and posted online. The CTB will use this information to inform their funding decisions to support development of the draft SYIP in April.
How often does project scoring occur?
Project scoring and selection under SMART SCALE takes place as part of the SYIP development process in even-numbered fiscal years. Applicants will have the opportunity to resubmit projects not selected for funding for future consideration.
Are projects selected for funding ever rescored?
If a project selected for funding has a significant change in scope or cost, it may need to be rescored and funds may be reprogrammed. See the SMART SCALE Project Change Guide for more.
When can jurisdictions review the scoring results?
Once the application deadline has passed, quality assurance and quality control reviews begin. First, a technical evaluation team finalizes the measures scoring all submitted projects. Next, the results are reviewed by a policy review group consisting of stakeholder representatives such as VACO, VTA and VML staff. Final scores are then presented to the CTB in January and made public at the same time.
Do an applicant’s project priorities affect scoring?
If an applicant submits more than one project for consideration, the applicant will be asked to rank their submitted projects in order of priority. VDOT and DRPT will consider order of priority in the evaluation of projects, but once a project is scored, project ranking will be based on scores, not jurisdictional priorities. So it is possible, for example, that one jurisdiction’s lower priority project may ultimately rate higher than another jurisdiction’s top priority project.
Do outside funding sources or already-completed project work affect scoring?
The scores used to rank projects are based on the benefit gained relative to the SMART SCALE cost. So projects that leverage non-SMART SCALE resources to lower their funding request will likely result in higher scores.
Project scores, as well as additional related information – like the amount of committed exempt funding, previous project expenditures, risk of federal payback, previous NEPA work, etc. – will be presented to the CTB to aid in funding decisions.
What is the purpose of prioritization?
The SMART SCALE prioritization process scores transportation projects seeking funding based on an objective and fair analysis applied statewide, which improves transparency and accountability, provides improved stability in the Six-Year Improvement Program, and helps the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) select projects that provide maximum benefits for tax dollars.
The process has been in effect since 2014, when former Governor Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 2 into law.
How does prioritization scoring process affect the decisions of the CTB?
Prioritization requires the Commonwealth Transportation Board to develop and implement a prioritization process for projects funded in the Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP) that is objective and quantifiable. While the Code of Virginia does not require the CTB to allocate funds to the highest-scoring project(s), this process will increase transparency and accountability in the selection of projects for funding in the SYIP.
In other words, the CTB may choose to fund projects that do not align with SMART SCALE priorities. But they must justify their decision to do so.
How are projects that cross county lines or jurisdictional boundaries prioritized?
Each county must set priorities within its boundaries. Local governments may then submit a joint application for projects that cross the boundary of a local government.
Each jurisdiction must set priorities within its boundaries. Local governments may submit applications for projects that cross into another jurisdictions’ boundary. However, the submitting jurisdiction must get a resolution of support for each affected jurisdiction.
How will SMART SCALE project funds be programmed?
Funds will be programmed to projects based on their phase estimates and schedules, as well as the availability of program funds in each fiscal year. In general:
It is important to note that due to project costs, schedules and the availability of eligible fund types, lower scoring projects may receive full funding prior to higher scoring projects. Funds are programmed based on when projects need the funds to support anticipated cash flow needs for project development. VDOT optimizes when and how funds are programmed to maximize the number of projects that can be funded concurrently.
Surplus funds will be reprogrammed to address needs on underway SMART SCALE projects, re-allocated as part of the next SMART SCALE cycle or used to address revenue reductions. Fund transfers required to facilitate project development on ongoing projects are provided to the CTB for approval as necessary.
Reductions in funding available through SMART SCALE due to reduced revenue estimates will be addressed as part of the annual SYIP update. Every effort will be made to stretch funding on selected projects to keep projects on schedule.
Can development of a SMART SCALE-funded project scheduled for the future be accelerated?
Yes. If a project is identified to receive non-exempt funding through the SMART SCALE scoring process, but is not scheduled to start until future years, a locality or Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) may choose to accelerate project development by allocating other funding sources (e.g. local or regional funds) to the project. These other committed funds must be identified in the application.
Could a project’s funding status ever change?
In general, once a project has been screened, scored, and selected for funding by the CTB, it will remain in the SYIP as a funding priority. However, if there are significant changes to either the scope or cost of a selected project, such that the anticipated benefits relative to funding requested have substantially changed, then the project must be rescored and the funding decision reevaluated.
CTB action may be required to confirm the board’s commitment to funding the project based on any score and/or scope change. Please refer to the SMART SCALE Project Change Guide for detailed information.
How are estimate increases on selected projects funded?
In general, if a budget increase is identified during project development, project managers must review the project scope to identify opportunities to remain within the original budget while substantially maintaining the same project benefits. If the project scope cannot be modified and maintain the same benefits, the project contingency budget will be used to address any budget shortfall at award prior to seeking additional SMART SCALE funding. Cost increases due to additional scope are the responsibility of the applicant.
SMART SCALE budget increases will be addressed at project award after reducing project contingencies. Budget increases below the thresholds identified in the SMART SCALE Policy will be addressed according to regular business rules in accordance with the CTB policy for fund transfers. For SMART SCALE budget increases above the allowable thresholds, CTB action is required as stated in the SMART SCALE Project Change Guide.
Addressing cost increases with District Grant Program (DGP) funds or High Priority Project (HPP) funds is based on funding availability. SMART SCALE budget increases on DGP projects will be funded with DGP funds. SMART SCALE budget increases on HPP projects will be funded with HPP funds.
What happens if a selected project has surplus funds?
Surplus funds made available through the Construction District Grant Program and High Priority Projects Program will remain within these respective programs. Surplus funds will be reprogrammed to address needs on underway SMART SCALE projects, reallocated as part of the next SMART SCALE cycle, or used to address revenue reductions. Allocation adjustments will be made at project award, as necessary, and as part of the annual SYIP update.
Where can I find more information on projects selected for SMART SCALE funding?
Projects selected for funding are included in the Six-Year Improvement Program, which is adopted by the CTB annually in June. The SYIP includes information on project descriptions, funding, schedules, and budgets. Up-to-date status information can also be viewed on VDOT’s Dashboard.
Do projects involving new signals or interchanges require extra documentation?
Yes. Since SMART SCALE Round 2, projects involving a new signal must include a signal warrant analysis, and projects involving a new interchange must include an Interchange Justification Report (IJR) with a preferred alternative.
Proposed new traffic signals must meet VDOT spacing standards and include an approved traffic signal justification report to justify their use as the appropriate traffic control method at the proposed location. Also, the applicant must provide evidence that innovative intersection improvements were considered and evaluated.
An IJR is only required for new access points on limited access facilities – not for modifications to existing access points (for which a planning or traffic and safety study is sufficient). The IJR must identify a preferred alternative that is supported by VDOT’s Location and Design Division and, for interstate facilities, the responsible FHWA area engineer. For all interchange projects, new or modifications to existing, VDOT needs to understand the specific interchange configuration or modifications proposed for funding in order to calculate the benefits.
Applicants concerned about resources needed to conduct a signal warrant analysis or IJR should contact the VDOT District Planner to coordinate technical assistance.
Do new roadways or roadway widening projects require an alternatives evaluation?
Yes. Since SMART SCALE Round 3, an applicant that proposes a major widening (two or more through lanes) of an existing roadway must demonstrate that alternatives to optimize the existing capacity were evaluated, and that the alternatives analysis results were used in the decision on the preferred alternative.
For example, if a two-lane roadway experiencing moderate traffic growth has forecasted traffic levels that are still within the capacity of a two-lane facility, but through vehicles are being blocked by turning vehicles and there are no existing turn lanes, VDOT would want to know that adding turn lanes was evaluated, and deemed inadequate, before considering construction of an additional through lane in each direction.
Can an applicant list alternatives that are anticipated to be evaluated?
No, VDOT and DRPT cannot evaluate multiple alternatives to determine project benefits. The preferred alternative must be identified in the application. If more than one alternative is listed, then the State will request modification of the application to identify the preferred alternative. If the applicant is unable to identify a preferred alternative, the State will deem the project not ready for consideration.
Although VDOT and DRPT understand there may be some risk in requiring information like this in advance, it is preferred to selecting a project for funding, then finding out that for some reason it cannot advance.
What does “contiguous” mean?
For the purposes of SMART SCALE policy, contiguous means adjacent or together in a sequence. Transit stops or stations along a transit route or intersections or spot improvements along a corridor meet the definition of contiguous for the purposes of the project eligibility policy.
Are traffic volumes analyzed for existing or future conditions?
Since SMART SCALE Round 3, traffic volumes for projects involving congestion mitigation are analyzed for existing conditions.
How will the person throughput measure be used for transit and TDM projects?
To find the change in corridor total (multimodal) person throughput attributed to the project, SMART SCALE will look at the following data sources:
For transit, TDM, bicycle and pedestrian projects, SMART SCALE will estimate total person throughput for new users in the peak period. The person throughput reduction for new users is associated with any throughput savings associated with a shift from auto to another mode.
Why do you use person throughput miles instead of person miles traveled?
Person throughput miles is similar to person miles traveled, except that the throughput measure calculates the person throughput above and beyond the facilities’ capacity that the proposed improvement will facilitate. So if a corridor is below capacity, it will not show an increase in throughput by adding capacity.
How is “primary access to a site” defined?
To qualify as primary access to a site, the proposed site or parcel needs to have direct access to the proposed transportation improvement or be directly adjacent to the proposed transportation improvement. The proposed site is not required to have a planned entrance to the proposed transportation improvement.
Is there a limit to how much of a development can be applied to measure ED.1?
Yes, the total building square footage (all sites) that can be considered for the purpose of scaling the ED.1 measure is capped at 10 million square feet. An applicant may submit additional sites (building square footage) above this cap, however, additional documentation will be required.
What is the difference between a “detailed site plan” and a “conceptual site plan”?
A detailed site plan has construction documents, engineering/architectural drawings and specifications that include construction requirements for a project. These plans are detailed enough for construction and include details regarding building pad locations, grading, drainage, utilities, parking and entrances.
A conceptual site plan is a conceptual sketch within a rezoning application that must include the following detail:
Why are zip codes used as the geography for economically distressed areas?
VDOT/DRPT researched multiple sources of information to determine the appropriate data set for economic indicators. Because jurisdiction-level stress indicators can mask economically distressed areas within a particular jurisdiction, the data set at the Economic Innovation Group Distressed Communities Index provides a more reliable evaluation of economic distress at the zip code level vs. jurisdictional level.
How is the buffer distance determined?
The buffer distance, which is measured by travel distance on the transportation network, varies according to project type:
The Smart Portal’s routing tool helps calculate the travel distance from the site to the transportation improvement, or applicants can input a “User Entered Distance.” This is helpful for projects on a new location that may shorten the distance from the project to the development site.
What is the definition of “mixed use”?
To qualify as mixed use, a site or parcel must be designated in the locality’s current or future zoning map as mixed-use zoning or be located within a designated mixed-use zoning district, which allows for a range of land uses (residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, and/or industrial) in a single development project.
Why was the land use measure changed?
As part of its research into development of the Accessibility score, the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment consultant team found that scores reflecting access to non-work destinations, such as stores, schools and parks, are quite meaningful – higher scores, for example, indicated higher quality of life, lower motor vehicle demand and greater non-auto travel.
These scores, based on empirical land use and transportation network data, can be readily calculated with the tool developed for measuring accessibility to jobs, which has proven more useful than the more qualitative and speculative data produced by the original measure.
Why is there a cap on non-work destination occurrences?
The non-work accessibility methodology was developed by analyzing existing levels of accessibility throughout the Commonwealth. The destination "caps" are based on the largest number observed anywhere in Virginia (the 99th percentile).
In other words, nowhere in Virginia scores all 100 points. Points are awarded equally to each destination class (education, grocery, etc.) and divided among the total number of destinations (the "cap" or "target") in that class.