Tri-Cities transportation projects shut out of funding opportunity

By Zach Armstrong

PETERSBURG, Va -- The Commonwealth Transportation Board ranked the latest round of transportation Smart Scale Projects they are willing to fund with no project submitted by the Tri-Cities Area Metropolitan Planning Organization making the cut. The MPO submitted 13 total projects to the board.

The decision by the CTB has not been finalized and it will make an official final decision on funding in June. The next round of applications for Smart Scale Projects to the board will be in August of 2022.

The MPO represents Petersburg, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Surry, Sussex, Emporia and Greensville. Hopewell submitted four projects, Colonial Heights submitted two, Prince George submitted three, Petersburg submitted one, South Colonial Heights submitted one, the MPO submitted two of their own and Dinwiddie had no submitted applications.

The CTB determines which projects to fund for Smart Scale based on a set of criteria and standards submitted applications have to meet including safety, congestion, access, economic development and environmental quality.

An additional factor of “land use” applies to certain areas and often gives metro-cities such as Northern Virginia, Richmond and Charlottesville an advantage in receiving funding for transportation projects. This factor is based on a project’s proximity to things like shopping centers, restaurants, schools and government centers.

According to Ron Svejkovsky, director of the Tri-Cities Area MPO, the MPO may look into applying for the additional land use factor which would possibly help the area apply for funding in the future.

“We don’t meet some of the criteria that they measure when they approve these kinds of projects, but there are other areas we can improve on our applications,” said Prince George County Administrator Percy Ashcraft. “The way that the criteria is laid out in these grants, rural areas and smaller areas are always going to be left out compared to other parts of the state,”

 Two projects that scored highly that had just missed funding opportunities were the Matoaca Road & Woodpecker Road roundabout project in Chesterfield County and a roundabout project at Middle Road & Prince George Drive in Prince George County.

Out of the 13 applications submitted by the MPO, eight received a score of zero. Many of the projects that received a score of zero did so due to receiving a negative score for their environmental quality which, when factored in with the other criteria, reduced their points.

Residents of Prince George County have complained over a traffic signal at both ends of Middle Road and a new elementary school proposed to open in 2022 may lead to some traffic challenges ahead.

Prince George had three submitted projects that were rejected for smartscale funding: a roundabout at Middle Road & Prince George Drive near the Food Lion, a Route 460/Hines Road realignment and a roundabout at Middle Road and Jefferson Park Road.

SMART SCALE was created by Governor Terry McAuliffe with bipartisan support of the General Assembly to help localities develop an outcome-based scoring system of transportation projects.