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$230M heading to Central Virginia transit projects

East Main Street
Shaban Athuman
VPM News File
Construction crews work on installing a speed table on Thursday, May 11, 2023 at VCU Monroe Campus in Richmond, Virginia.

Twenty-two projects are receiving support from The Central Virginia Transportation Authority.

The Central Virginia Transportation Authority recently awarded funding to about two dozen regional infrastructure projects. The money will go toward major and minor road improvements, such as installing sidewalks or building better access to highways.

Some initiatives are large in scope, like adding extra lanes to a portion of Hull Street near Chippenham Parkway. While others are smaller, like creating a shared-use path in the Village of Midlothian or installing a roundabout in Goochland County.

“We started this process with applications in September of '23,” said Chet Parsons, executive director of CVTA, which was created by the General Assembly in 2020. “Last Friday, the board awarded our third round of regional funding in the amount of, I believe, about $232 million.”

The money for all these projects comes from collecting various regional gas, sales and use taxes. Parsons said CVTA — which comprises county supervisors, city planners and mayors — works to distribute funds equitably every two years.

“They have kind of gone out of their way to act regionally and be collaborative, and make sure that everybody — from the urban jurisdictions all the way up to the rural ones — get some kind of benefit from being part of this group,” said Parsons.

PlanRVA has posted details of all 22 projects, along with how much each is expected to cost.

How it works

Each jurisdiction in the region (Richmond and Ashland, and Henrico, Chesterfield, New Kent, Goochland, Hanover, Powhatan and Charles City counties) are at some stage of infrastructure development and all need money to fund the projects.

“Part of what we do at the CVTA is, we want to get projects shovel ready,” Parsons said. “Everybody's going to be at different stages in that process. Some jurisdictions may need a study to be done. Other jurisdictions are ready to go, and they're ready for acquiring right away, or actually beginning the construction.”

Each jurisdiction, said Parsons, applies for funding — but not only from the CVTA. Federal or state sources, as well as the localities’ own budgets can contribute money toward a project.

The CVTA then ranks each project on their benefits to the area and for cost. Its decisions are also based on estimated cost, how much the jurisdiction is asking for and how much money the jurisdiction is expected to get.

“In our application process, we asked for all kinds of different information about the projects from the jurisdictions,” Parsons said. “They give us lots of data and then we are able to take that and kind of set up an evaluation system based on a couple of different criteria: mobility, economic development, safety, environmental impacts. And then using that information, come up with a benefit score.”

Projects are also broken down into categories, such as bike and pedestrian; highway (which also covers roads and streets); transit; and preliminary engineering — for when a project is in the early planning stages.

Parsons said CTVA staff already knows a fair amount about the projects being submitted.

“It's not just a total shot in the dark, in terms of the projects [that] are going to perform well — they're going to have a lot of impact on their communities,” he said. “We know that going in. And then, that makes the hard work of the decision-makers a little bit easier.”

Project highlights

One project that Parsons is excited about are improvements on a portion of Richmond's Commerce Road — which is planned to be part of the Fall Line Trail.

“The city is continuing to try and piece together all the funding to make those improvements. So, we were able to chip in another $7 million for that. It's like a $58-million project. You've been on Commerce Road, there’s a lot of improvements needed,” said Parsons.

He’s also looking toward two next-generation transit projects intended to extend the bus rapid transit line — known as the Pulse.

“Eight-million dollars were awarded for the north-south BRT study. That study is underway right now,” he said.

Parsons said another extension of the Pulse is a western one, along Broad Street.

“So, past Willow Lawn out to Parham. There’s a study that’s looking to take it out to Short Pump,” he said. “Extending the Pulse west is another huge effort that got funding this round.”

So, what happens now, after funding levels for the projects has been decided?

“The next steps are to do all the boring stuff behind the scenes,” said Parsons. “We develop legal agreements, so that when they start the project, they can submit reimbursements, and CVTA pays out, according to the amounts that were awarded.”

Corrected: February 29, 2024 at 6:04 PM EST
A previous version of this story misstated the number of projects The Central Virginia Transportation Authority is funding throughout the region. The CVTA is funding 22 projects.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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