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VDOT moves several regional Smart Scale proposals forward

Railroad tracks run through the forest
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
Railroad tracks run nearby the planned James River Branch Trail. The Commonwealth Transportation Board will soon decide if the trail receives state grant funding.

Funding is awarded biannually by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s program.

In 2021, dozens of Virginia localities began applying for state grants to fund major and minor road upgrades. Soon, a state board will decide which projects get the green light.

Proposals, which undergo a daunting application process, are scored by the Virginia Department of Transportation using data to determine the benefits of the overall proposed upgrade, such as its ability to reduce traffic fatalities and possible environmental impacts.

Now, 20 of those projects could receive about $237 million dollars in funding for the Richmond region. Those include proposals to upgrade Hull Street's sidewalks near the Mayo Bridge in downtown Richmond and create a two-mile path connecting Southside neighborhoods near George Wythe High School.

Funding for these proposals is awarded on a biannual basis via the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program. After two years of planning and review, VDOT sent its final recommendations to the Commonwealth Transportation Board last week.

Brooke Jackson, Smart Scale program manager, says it takes time to compile applications and figure out the state's needs, “and figure out what the transportation priorities are to actually get them prioritized.”

These proposed projects would join a wide range of previously funded, existing traffic calming plans, road and sidewalk improvements already underway in and around the city.

There’s one more step in the process before work on these proposals can begin, though: The Commonwealth Transportation Board will select which of these proposals move ahead across the next six fiscal years at its June 21 meeting. Approved projects will break ground sometime between 2024 and 2029.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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