Later this month, the Commonwealth Transportation Board is set to vote its final approval of the next Six-Year Improvement Program.
The CTB uses a program called Smart Scale to score proposals based on each project’s perceived benefit relative to its cost. The fourth round of Smart Scale is perhaps most notable for what it doesn’t include: $5 billion in unfunded transportation needs statewide, despite recent gas tax increases and more likely to come.
The CTB staff had to divvy up $1.3 billion in available Smart Scale funding out of $6.3 billion in funding requests for about 400 projects statewide. A total of $883.7 million is available under the District Grant Program, and just $490.7 million is awaiting disbursement in the statewide High Priority Projects Program, even though state coffers are currently flush with cash, largely due to an influx of federal COVID-19 relief dollars.
That missing $5 billion means that already identified bottlenecks, congestion zones, crumbling bridges and other much-needed transportation improvement projects won’t get done before 2027. Once again, the General Assembly has failed to make mobility in Virginia the high priority it should be.
Virginia is anticipating a half-billion-dollar budget surplus by the end of this month. A surplus happens when all the items in the state budget have been funded and there’s still money left over. There’s no reason why that extra half-billion dollar budget surplus should be spent on anything other than transportation.