Moving Virginia forward by funding the right projects

Published 9:50 am Friday, November 7, 2014

The undisputed truth is there will never be enough money to meet all of Virginia’s transportation needs, even with the passage of historic funding legislation in 2013. The economic downturn has reduced transportation funding by $1 billion. Combined with the uncertainty of what the federal government will do to fund transportation infrastructure, Virginia has to be extremely prudent in the way it selects projects.

My charge as Virginia’s transportation secretary is to make the best use of public dollars by delivering the right transportation projects. Gov. Terry McAuliffe did not give me a list of specific projects to build during his term. Instead, he directed me to implement House Bill 2, legislation passed by the General Assembly this year that establishes a comprehensive scoring process driven by statewide transportation needs rather than political whims or executive direction.

House Bill 2 is a significant development in transportation because — for the first time — the law requires a consistent and objective analysis to score projects according to critical transportation needs. This process will serve as a valuable tool for the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to select projects and be held accountable for its decisions. Project selection will be more transparent because the process will be open to the public. You will know how projects are scored and the reasoning behind the CTB’s project selections. There is no pre-judging of projects. Simply put, House Bill 2 is about funding the right projects that generate the greatest benefits to the economy and ultimately our quality of life.

Candidate projects for scoring include key multimodal travel corridors, regional networks, urban roads, transit, rail and ridesharing. Critical factors behind project scorings are congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety and environmental quality. The CTB will work with localities to set weights behind the factors. Projects that reduce congestion will score higher in traffic-clogged regions in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. For rural and other regions, scoring may be based on stimulating economic growth and improving safety.

The CTB is starting now to identify projects for scoring and place funding aside so that the board will be ready to officially implement the process come July 1, 2016. About $416 million in future funding has been de-allocated from more than 60 projects in the existing Six-Year Improvement Program. These are not project cuts or delays. These projects have not started construction, and funding was not allocated until the latter years of the six-year program. House Bill 2 directed the CTB to score these projects. Either environmental studies were not completed or the projects were not fully funded. Enough funding will remain on these projects to bring them to a logical stopping point. Once these projects are scored, it is possible the CTB could select them for funding. The projects are posted on the CTB website,, for the public to discern why these projects are subject to House Bill 2.

Projects that are exempt from the scoring process include pavement and bridge rehabilitation projects, revenue sharing projects, projects funded through the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regional revenues and certain federal funding categories.

The CTB has started to engage with communities across Virginia to make people aware of House Bill 2 and to gather input into the development of the process. I have held nine public hearings across the state, and Deputy Secretary Nick Donohue has spoken to metropolitan planning organizations and other groups.

This outreach is just the beginning of a much more aggressive effort to inform the public and get citizens’ input on the measures behind the scoring process and suggested candidate projects that should be scored. A House Bill 2 website will be set up this winter to share information and public input. Regional workshops on draft recommendations will be held in the winter/spring of 2014-2015.

Other key milestones coming up:

  • Draft measures for scoring will be presented to the CTB by the end of this year.
  • Localities and the public will provide input on measures from January to May of next year.
  • The CTB is scheduled to approve the final scoring process next June.
  • Candidate projects will be selected for scoring next summer and go through the scoring process.

Once the projects are scored, the CTB will select projects to be funded in the six-year program that incorporates public engagement.

The process will be fully implemented by July 2016.

House Bill 2 will help to determine the most critical of transportation needs through a consistent and clear-cut process. Once this process is up and running, citizens will have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the benefits they will receive for their transportation dollars. Over time, the new project scoring process will result in better transportation funding decisions, which will ultimately protect the most precious of resources — our time and Virginia’s ability to keep the economy moving.

AUBREY LAYNE is transportation secretary for the state of Virginia. Contact him at