LEARN HOW IT WORKS

HOW IT WORKS

All projects requesting SMART SCALE funding go through the same quantifiable and transparent prioritization process.

What is SMART SCALE?

Virginia’s SMART SCALE (§33.2-214.1) is about picking the right transportation projects for funding and ensuring the best use of limited tax dollars. It is the method of scoring planned projects and funding projects that meet one or more transportation needs identified in Virginia’s Transportation Plan, VTrans. These needs are referred to as VTrans Mid-term Needs. Transportation projects are scored based on an objective, outcome-based process that is transparent to the public and allows decision-makers to be held accountable to taxpayers. Once projects are scored and prioritized, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has the best information possible to select the right projects for funding.

SMART SCALE Process

Virginia’s SMART SCALE process includes five overarching steps, as identified below. The preliminary step requires project sponsors to determine their eligibility prior to beginning the SMART SCALE applications process. The final step in the prioritization process includes programming of selected projects. The responsible agency for each process step is identified in italics below.

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The SMART SCALE Team

The SMART SCALE team is led by the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment. It is composed of representatives of Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. The team encourages strong key public engagement in developing and implementing the SMART SCALE prioritization process. Public engagement is an integral part of ensuring transparency and accountability.

The team works closely during an active round to screen and score incoming applications. All project applications are screened to determine if they meet an identified need in VTrans, the Commonwealth’s long-range transportation plan, and to determine if they meet eligibility requirements.

The team further evaluates projects through a prioritization process that evaluates each project’s merits using key factors, including improvements to safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, economic development, and the environment. The evaluation focuses on how a project addresses a problem or need relative to the requested funding for the project. Once projects are evaluated, the information is presented to Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). The CTB has the best information possible to select the right projects for funding.

Between rounds, the team seeks feedback from various stakeholders to understand what went wrong and what went right from the previous rounds. Lessons learned are utilized to recommend adjustments to the CTB, and public comment is accepted. Lastly, the team prepares tools and updates policies and guidance for the next round.

Program Funding

Funding for project prioritization comes from two main pathways —the construction District Grants Program (DGP) and the High-Priority Projects Program (HPPP) – both established in 2015 under the Code of Virginia §33.2-358.

The DGP is open only to localities.

Projects applying for DGP funds compete with other projects from the same construction district.

Projects applying for HPPP funds compete with projects from across the commonwealth.

A project sponsor may request funding under both programs.

 

High Priority Projects Program

Construction District Grant Program*

Improvement addresses need on Corridors of Statewide Significance

Yes

Yes

Capacity need on regional networks

Yes

Yes

Improvement to support Urban Development Areas

No

Yes

Improvement addresses VTrans specified safety need

No

Yes

*Only projects submitted by localities are eligible.

Certain fund types are not distributed through the project prioritization process, but may be used as a matching fund to the project, reducing the amount of SMART SCALE funds needed.

These include, but are not limited to: Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Funding (CMAQ), Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG), Revenue Sharing, Transportation Alternatives (TA) set-aside funds, Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and other safety program funds, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regional funding, Tele-fees and unpaved road-related funds, dedicated bridge program funds (through Fiscal Year 2020), and State of Good Repair.

SMART SCALE ensures that all potential Virginia-funded transportation projects are evaluated and scored based on an objective, outcome-based process that is transparent to the public and holds decision-makers accountable to taxpayers. This process includes four steps identified below: 

Project and Applicant Eligibility

SMART SCALE projects may be submitted by regional entities including Metropolitan Planning Commissions (MPO), Planning District Commissions (PDC) and public transit agencies, and by counties, cities and towns that maintain their own infrastructure and qualify to receive maintenance payments, pursuant to §33.2-319.

Applications must be related to projects located within boundaries of the qualifying entity. However, localities and regional planning bodies may submit applications for projects that cross boundaries with a resolution of support from the affected neighboring locality(ies), or a town that is not eligible to submit may request the county to submit a project. By majority vote, the CTB may also choose to submit up to two projects for evaluation each application cycle.

Though all of these entities may submit projects, there are limitations on the grant program for which these entities can apply, the types of projects they can submit, and the number of projects they can apply for, detailed in the tables below.

 

Who can Apply?
Project Type
Regional Entity (MPOs, PDCs)
Corridor of Statewide Significance
Yes
Regional Network
Yes
Urban Development Area
No
Safety
No
Locality (Counties, Cities, and Towns)
Public Transit Agencies
Yes, with a resolution of support from relevant regional entity
Yes, with a resolution of support from relevant regional entity
Yes, with a resolution of support from the relevant MPO*
Yes, with a resolution of support from relevant regional entity
Yes, with a resolution of support from the relevant MPO*
No
Yes, with a resolution of support from the relevant MPO*
No

* Projects within established MPO study areas that are identified in or consistent with the regionally adopted Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP) do not require a resolution of support from the respective MPO Policy Board. For projects outside MPO areas a resolution of support is required only from the submitting locality.

Project Types Included within SMART SCALE (Capacity and operational improvements only):

  • Highway Improvements (Widening, operational improvements, access management, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Technology operational improvements)
  • Transit- and rail-capacity expansion
  • Bicycle and pedestrian improvements
  • Transportation Demand Management (Park and Ride facilities)

Project Types Excluded from SMART SCALE

  • Stand-alone studies
  • Asset management (Bridge repair / replacement, pavement repair / replacement,guardrail replacement)*
  • Systemwide improvements
  • Transit maintenance facilities without capacityexpansion

*Asset management projects excluded from SMART SCALE may be eligible for funding under the State of Good Repair program as required by the Code of Virginia §33.2-369.

Applicants are limited in the number of pre-applications and applications they may submit for evaluation and scoring, based on population thresholds as defined below.

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.

Application Limits*
Tier
Localities Population Threshold
MPOs / PDCs / Transit Agencies Population Threshold
1
Less than 200,000
Less than 500,000
2
Greater than 200,000
Greater than 500,000
Maximum Number of
Pre-Applications
Maximum Number of Applications
5
4
12
10

* Download the listing of eligible entities, population data and maximum number of applications per tier.

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.

Eligible applicants are invited to submit project applications according to the SMART SCALE Biennial Schedule.

For each SMART SCALE cycle, basic project information (pre-application) must be submitted by April 1 of the calendar year, and final applications must be submitted by August 1.

Once created, applicants can edit the application up to the deadline.

anticipated hb2 yearly cycle 2022

Once it has been determined that a project meets an identified need, is eligible, and is ready, the project is evaluated and scored.

Here is the process:

Screened SMART SCALE
Application
Calculation of SMART SCALE Measures
Internal and External QA/QC Review
Measure Values
and Weighing
Factor
Weighing
Project
Cost
Project Scoring
Scored projects to Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) for Prioritization

SMART SCALE utilizes evaluation measures that quantify the benefits of each project for six factor areas, detailed below.


Factor areas

Measure ID

Measure name

Measure weight

Safety

S.1

Equivalent property damage only (EPDO) of Fatal and Injury Crashes*

70 percent

S.2

EPDO Rate of Fatal and Injury Crashes

30 percent

Congestion mitigation

C.1

Person Throughput

50 percent

C.2

Person Hours of Delay

50 percent

Accessibility

A.1

Access to jobs

60 percent

A.2

Access to jobs for disadvantaged persons

20 percent

A.3

Access to multimodal choices

20 percent

Environmental quality

E.1

Air quality and environmental effect

100 percent

E.2

Impact to natural and cultural resources

0 percent - Subtract
up to 5 points

Economic development

ED.1

Project support for economic development

60 percent

ED.2

Intermodal access and efficiency

20 percent

ED.3

Travel time reliability

20 percent

Land use

L.1

Transportation-efficient land use

50 percent

L.2

Increase in transportation-efficient land use

50 percent

*100 Percent for transit and Transportation Demand Management projects

Four area weighting typologies were established based on an analysis of transportation, land use, demographic indicators, and public input to facilitate evaluation of each project’s benefit on a scale relative to the needs of that region as compared across the commonwealth. The weighting typologies are below.

A scoring evaluation team begins collecting additional data required for evaluating each of the six factor areas used for project evaluation: 1) Safety, 2) Congestion, 3) Accessibility, 4) Land-Use, 5) Economic Development and 6) Environment.

After data has been collected to evaluate each factor, values are calculated and weighted according to the area type where the project is located.  

Factor totals are then weighted and summed, and the final score is determined by dividing the benefit score by the SMART SCALE cost. 

Projects are then ranked and provided to the CTB for funding consideration.

To learn more about the VTrans needs in your area, click here.

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Factor

Congestion Mitigation

Economic Development

Accessibility

Safety

Environmental Quality

Land Use

Category A

45 percent

5 percent

15 percent

5 percent

10 percent

20 percent

Category B

15 percent

20 percent

20 perent

20 percent

10 percent

15 percent

Category C

15 percent

25 percent

15 percent

25 percent

10 percent

10 percent

Category D

10 percent

30 percent

10 percent

30 percent

10 percent

10 percent

For each SMART SCALE cycle, the screening and scoring results are presented to the CTB and the public.

The CTB then provides guidance on program development and the staff develops a draft Six-Year Improvement Plan (SYIP), based on CTB direction and SMART SCALE scoring results.

Next, the public has the opportunity to comment on the draft SYIP, including the scoring results for individual projects.

Finally, the CTB takes public comments into account regarding the draft SYIP, and approves the final SYIP for implementation in June.

SMART SCALE
Scoring Results
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chart
chart
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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. In addition, only the CTB can cancel a selected project.

Re-evaluation of a project score and funding decision may be needed if:

  • There are significant changes in the scope or cost that alter the original intent / benefit of the scored projects and the CTB’s allocation decision – if the project scope is increased, the applicant is responsible for the additional cost attributable to the increase in scope, regardless of budget impact
  • There is a significant reduction in the locally / regionally leveraged funds available for the project – in cases where a selected project identified other sources of funding that do not materialize, the qualifying entity is committed to pay the difference

Once a project is selected for funding, it cannot be resubmitted to address cost increases or loss of other sources of funding. If revenue reductions decrease the amount of actual funding available for a particular SMART SCALE cohort, projects may be delayed and / or revenues from future rounds of SMART SCALE may be used.

If a submitted project is not selected for funding during a cycle, the CTB will allow eligible entities to re-submit the project the next cycle.

 


Total cost estimate

Threshold

Less than $5 million

Up to a 20 percent increase in total allocations

$5 million to $10 million

Up to a $1 million increase in total allocations

More than $10 million

Up to a 10 percent increase in total allocations up to a maximum of $5 million increase in total allocations