Richmond County has reemerged in the running for SMART SCALE funding for its proposed safety enhancement project that involves building  turn lanes at the intersection of Route 360 and Newland Road.

The county is pursuing the project to provide turn space and hopefully reduce the risk of rear-end crashes.

But in February, VDOT Resident Engineer David Beale informed the Board of Supervisors that the project didn’t score well and wasn’t recommended for funding.

“I’m continuing to look at the application and trying to determine what we can do to make it score better in the future so we can get some improvements at that intersection,” he added.

This month, he revealed Richmond County had a new, improved score and hope of getting its project funded.

What changed?

SMART SCALE applications are awarded points on a number of factors to help prioritize which should be funded.

Beale and others across Virginia raised concern about how Richmond County was scored for environmental quality (E.2), and a quality control process revealed that there was a statewide scoring category in that category. “Applications had been scored using an outdated method, not the new method approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in 2019,” explained Kelly Hannon, Communications Manager for VDOT’s Fredericksburg district.

After that discovery, all applications affected by the E.2 category were rescored by The Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment. 

Richmond County’s score of 0 went to 3.05 of five possible points, and its rank among all of the Fredericksburg district application rose from 32nd to 16th.

Each district’s funding numbers were also recalculated after the error was discovered. Based on the outcome, Fredericksburg appears to have enough money for the top 13 projects. 

The projects that ranked 14th and 15th  are expected to be too expensive to fully pay for after the others. Since SMART SCALE projects cannot be partially funded, that likely knocks those two applications out of the box. But with there still expected to be some funds remaining in the budget, Richmond County’s $3.1 million project may have a chance.

Although Richmond County’s outlook quickly reversed course, VDOT doesn’t advocate for one SMART SCALE project over another and does not participate in scoring. “The scoring process is accomplished independently,” said Hannon.

“What this experience demonstrates is that the quality control process is working, and that errors are acknowledged and corrected,” she added.