Virginia wins award for its ‘Smart Scale’ transportation prioritization process

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Virginia’s data-driven prioritization process to fund the right transportation projects that generate the greatest benefit for taxpayers, has received the State Transformation in Action Recognition (STAR) award from the Southern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments.

The Southern Legislative Conference represents the interests of 15 states and aims to encourage intergovernmental cooperation on policy issues among its members. The Conference gave the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Smart Scale system top scores based on its creative approach to solving problems and issues, its far-reaching benefits and solutions, its ability to transfer best practices to other states, and its overall success in operating effectively and efficiently.

Smart Scale stands for System for the Management and Allocation of Resources for Transportation, and is a prioritization process that evaluates each transportation project’s merits using key factors, including: improvements to safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, economic development and the environment.

The data-driven process originally became law as House Bill 2 (HB2) in 2014 and was re-badged as Smart Scale earlier this year. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment worked collaboratively with VDOT, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), and local and regional governments to develop the points-based scoring system that has been used to measure the merits of projects. Prior to Smart Scale, projects were often partially funded by the state, dragging out the construction timeframe, and increasing costs.

Under the 2015 Governor’s Omnibus Transportation bill, once appointed, CTB members no longer serve at the direction of the Governor and can only be removed for cause. Members will be able to vote for the projects they believe are best for the Commonwealth without undue political pressure. Last month, the CTB approved US$1.7bn in funding to build 163 projects that were selected through the Smart Scale process. The projects, now included in the state’s Six-Year Improvement Program, and are fully funded through all phases of project development and construction.

“This STAR award reflects how Smart Scale is transforming the way Virginia selects, funds, and builds transportation projects,” said Virginia’s Governor, Terry McAuliffe. “In Virginia, we are no longer allowing politics and subjective wish lists to drive decision making; we are using data to prioritize and build the right projects to promote economic growth and a higher quality of life. I am proud that the Southern Legislative Conference has recognized Smart Scale as an innovation in government that will make every transportation dollar work better for Virginia taxpayers.”

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne commented, “The STAR award is the result of an intensive collaborative effort, made possible by Governor McAuliffe and bipartisan support of the General Assembly, to bring localities and regional bodies across the state together to develop an outcome-based scoring system of transportation projects, the only one of its kind in the country. It took an intensive staff effort led by Deputy Secretary of Transportation Nick Donohue to create and implement the process.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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