Local officials question whether Smart Scale process can fix I-95 congestion | Transportation

The state’s Smart Scale transportation program is seen by some as a better way to plan and approve road projects. But some say there’s a glitch in the program.

The program, according to Fredericksburg Councilman Matt Kelly, helps get smaller, less-expensive projects in the pipeline, but isn’t doing much to help fix bigger transportation problems.

The big problem is Interstate 95, Kelly said, and he doesn’t think Smart Scale is set up to fix that congestion mess, which he adds is an issue beyond the region’s borders.

In the first round of Smart Scale, the region did well, getting more than $200 million for 19 projects out of 22 that were submitted, including the massive southbound Rappahannock River crossing project.

But the second round proved less successful, including the failure of the northbound side of the Rappahannock River crossing to score high enough for funding.

The project didn’t score well in either round of Smart Scale.

Kelly is frustrated that big projects such as the northbound crossing don’t score well primarily because of cost. He also is upset that the Virginia Department of Transportation has declined to make adjustments to how projects are scored for Smart Scale.

The second-round results sent local transportation officials scrambling to see if there are other options to get what are considered necessary projects done in the Fredericksburg region. With only marginal changes planned for the Smart Scale program, Kelly thinks the northbound crossing project will continue to languish, while congestion worsens.

A key reason Smart Scale isn’t working is what Kelly and others see as an unbalanced playing field.

That field is tilted, they say, by money only two regions in the state are allowed to raise, via regional transportation tax districts. They say other districts should have the option of…

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