The Fredericksburg area has garnered more than $286 million for road and other transportation projects in the state’s three-year-old Smart Scale program.
Local officials think the region can do better.
The Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee took a step last week aimed at getting more funding for transportation projects through Smart Scale. The program scores projects to determine which get funding.
The committee voted to move the region into a different category, which puts the area in another group of localities and eliminates an aspect of Smart Scale some local officials consider unfair.
“What’s killing us is ... we don’t have the leveraged funding,” Policy Committee Chairman and Fredericksburg City Councilman Matt Kelly said.
The key benefit of the move is that Fredericksburg will no longer be in the same group as Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Those regions have tax districts that allow them to use that funding source as leverage for projects. The additional money gives those regions an edge in Smart Scale scoring, something local officials have been frustrated about since the region isn’t allowed to have such a tax.
FAMPO Administrator Paul Agnello said in an interview that the Fredericksburg region has another disadvantage compared to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, because those regions have very high congestion scores. The new category, which includes Richmond, Roanoke and Charlottesville, weighs the scores differently, with congestion counting less.
“Competing against them is a lot better than competing with Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads,” Agnello said.
According to a FAMPO report, if the Fredericksburg area had been in the new category for round three of Smart Scale, five local projects that did not qualify for funding would have scored higher.
Agnello said of the five projects, which totaled more than $64 million in requested funding, one of them likely would have scored high enough for funding.
That one project is among the region’s top proposals: $21 million for a new commuter lot and improvements along U.S. 17 in Stafford County.
Agnello told the committee that 13 local projects would have scored better under the new category in round three.
He added that a University of Mary Washington report found regional projects also would have scored better in the first two rounds of Smart Scale had the Fredericksburg area been in the new category.
Researchers with UMW, working for the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance and the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, evaluated both categories and found this area would be more competitive in the new category.
The next round of Smart Scale will be held next year.