How it Works

All projects requesting SMART SCALE funding go through the same quantifiable and transparent prioritization process.



Virginia's SMART SCALE (§33.2-214.1) is about picking the right transportation projects for funding and ensuring the best use of limited tax dollars. It is the method of scoring planned projects and funding projects that meet one or more transportation needs identified in Virginia’s Transportation Plan, VTrans. These needs are referred to as VTrans Mid-term Needs.

Transportation projects are scored based on an objective, outcome-based process that is transparent to the public and allows decision-makers to be held accountable to taxpayers. Once projects are scored and prioritized, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has the best information possible to select the right projects for funding.


Virginia’s SMART SCALE process includes five overarching steps, as identified below. The preliminary step requires project sponsors to determine their eligibility prior to beginning the SMART SCALE applications process. The final step in the prioritization process includes programming of selected projects. The responsible agency for each process step is identified in italics below.


How it Works Arrow Graphic


The SMART SCALE team is led by the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment. It is composed of representatives of Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. The team encourages strong key public engagement in developing and implementing the SMART SCALE prioritization process. Public engagement is an integral part of ensuring transparency and accountability.

The team works closely during an active round to screen and score incoming applications. All project applications are screened to determine if they meet an identified need in VTrans, the Commonwealth’s long-range transportation plan, and to determine if they meet eligibility requirements.

The team further evaluates projects through a prioritization process that evaluates each project’s merits using key factors, including improvements to safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, economic development, and the environment. The evaluation focuses on how a project addresses a problem or need relative to the requested funding for the project. Once projects are evaluated, the information is presented to Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). The CTB has the best information possible to select the right projects for funding.

Between rounds, the team seeks feedback from various stakeholders to understand what went wrong and what went right from the previous rounds. Lessons learned are utilized to recommend adjustments to the CTB, and public comment is accepted. Lastly, the team prepares tools and updates policies and guidance for the next round.

Program Funding

Funding for project prioritization comes from two main pathways —the construction District Grants Program (DGP) and the High-Priority Projects Program (HPPP) – both established in 2015 under the Code of Virginia §33.2-358.

  • The DGP is open only to localities.
  • Projects applying for DGP funds compete with other projects from the same construction district.
  • Projects applying for HPPP funds compete with projects from across the commonwealth.
  • A project sponsor may request funding under both programs.

High Priority

District Grant

Improvement addresses need on Corridors of Statewide Significance



Capacity need on regional networks



Improvement to support Urban Development Areas



Improvement addresses VTrans specified safety need



*Only projects submitted by localities are eligible.

Certain fund types are not distributed through the project prioritization process, but may be used as a leveraged fund to the project, reducing the amount of SMART SCALE funds needed.

SMART SCALE ensures that projects are evaluated and scored based on an objective, outcome-based process that is transparent to the public and holds decision-makers accountable to taxpayers. This process includes four steps identified below: 

Project and Applicant Eligibility

SMART SCALE projects may be submitted by regional entities including Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO), Planning District Commissions (PDC) and public transit agencies, and by counties, cities and towns that maintain their own infrastructure and qualify to receive maintenance payments, pursuant to §33.2-319.

Applications must be related to projects located within boundaries of the qualifying entity. However, localities and regional planning bodies may submit applications for projects that cross boundaries with a resolution of support from the affected neighboring locality(ies), or a town that is not eligible to submit may request the county to submit a project. By majority vote, the CTB may also choose to submit up to two projects for evaluation each application cycle.

Though all of these entities may submit projects, there are limitations on the grant program for which these entities can apply, the types of projects they can submit, and the number of projects they can apply for, detailed in the tables below.

Who Can Apply?

Project Type Regional Entity (MPOs, PDCs) Locality (Counties, Cities, and Towns) Public Transit Agencies
Corridor of Statewide Significance Yes Yes, with a resolution of support from relevant regional entity Yes, with a resolution of support from relevant regional entity
Regional Network Yes Yes, with a resolution of support from the relevant MPO* Yes, with a resolution of support from relevant regional entity
Urban Development Area No Yes, with a resolution of support from the relevant MPO* No
Safety No Yes, with a resolution of support from the relevant MPO* No

* Projects within established MPO study areas that are identified in or consistent with the regionally adopted Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP) do not require a resolution of support from the respective MPO Policy Board. For projects outside MPO areas a resolution of support is required only from the submitting locality.

Project Types Included within SMART SCALE (Capacity and operational improvements only)

  • Highway Improvements (Widening, operational improvements, access management, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Technology operational improvements)
  • Transit- and rail-capacity expansion
  • Bicycle and pedestrian improvements
  • Transportation Demand Management (Park and Ride facilities)

Project Types Excluded from SMART SCALE

  • Stand-alone studies
  • Asset management (Bridge repair / replacement, pavement repair / replacement, guardrail replacement)*
  • Systemwide improvements
  • Transit maintenance facilities without capacity expansion

*Asset management projects excluded from SMART SCALE may be eligible for funding under the State of Good Repair program as required by the Code of Virginia §33.2-369.

Applicants are limited in the number of pre-applications and applications they may submit for evaluation and scoring, based on population thresholds as defined below.

Counties are responsible for transportation in towns that do not receive maintenance payments, and are encouraged to coordinate with towns and prioritize candidate projects for submission, similar to the Secondary Six-Year Plan process.

Application Limits*

Tier Localities Population Threshold MPOs / PDCs / Transit Agencies Population Threshold Maximum Number of Pre-Applications Maximum Number of Applications
1 Less than 200,000 Less than 500,000 5 4
2 Greater than 200,000 Greater than 500,000 12 10

*Click here to download the listing of eligible entities, population data and maximum number of applications per tier.

The source of population data for cities, counties, and PDCs is the latest University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center, Demographics Research Group estimates. The data for MPOs and towns is not available from the Weldon Cooper Center and is from the latest decennial United States Census. Application limits for transit agencies is determined based on the latest service area population in the National Transit Database (NTD) Transit Agency Profiles. If service area population is not available in NTD, the latest Census data was used to determine population in jurisdictions served by the transit agency.

Eligible applicants are invited to submit project applications according to the SMART SCALE Biennial Schedule.

For each SMART SCALE cycle, basic project information (pre-application) must be submitted by April 1 of the calendar year, and final applications must be submitted by August 1.

Once created, applicants can edit the application up to the deadline.

Anticipated HB2 Yearly Cycle_2024-2025


Once it has been determined that a project meets an identified need, is eligible, and is ready, the project is evaluated and scored.

Here is the process:

Screened SMART SCALE Application flowchart graphic

SMART SCALE utilizes evaluation measures that quantify the benefits of each project for six factor areas, detailed below.




Equivalent property damage only (EPDO) of Fatal and Injury Crashes*

70 percent


EPDO Rate of Fatal and Injury Crashes

30 percent

Congestion mitigation


Person Throughput

50 percent


Person Hours of Delay

50 percent



Access to jobs

60 percent


Access to jobs for disadvantaged persons

20 percent


Access to multimodal choices

20 percent

Environmental quality


Air quality and environmental effect

100 percent


Impact to natural and cultural resources

0 percent - Subtract
up to 5 points

Economic development


Project support for economic development

60 percent


Intermodal access and efficiency

20 percent


Travel time reliability

20 percent

Land use


Transportation-efficient land use

50 percent


Increase in transportation-efficient land use

50 percent

*100 Percent for transit and Transportation Demand Management projects

Four area weighting typologies were established based on an analysis of transportation, land use, demographic indicators, and public input to facilitate evaluation of each project’s benefit on a scale relative to the needs of that region as compared across the commonwealth. The weighting typologies are below.

A scoring evaluation team begins collecting additional data required for evaluating each of the six factor areas used for project evaluation:

  1. Safety
  2. Congestion
  3. Accessibility
  4. Land-Use
  5. Economic Development
  6. Environment

After data has been collected to evaluate each factor, values are calculated and weighted according to the area type where the project is located.  

Typology Map 2022

Factor totals are then weighted and summed, and the final score is determined by dividing the benefit score by the SMART SCALE cost. 

Projects are then ranked and provided to the CTB for funding consideration.

To learn more about the VTrans needs in your area, click here.


Category A

15 percent

45 percent

25 percent


5 percent

10 percent

Category B

20 percent

25 percent

25 percent


20 percent

10 percent

Category C

30 percent

20 percent

15 percent


25 percent

10 percent

Category D

40 percent

10 percent

10 percent


30 percent

10 percent

*Up to 100% added to the benefit score based on normalized measure performance


Once the scoring is complete, OIPI develops a staff-recommended funding scenario determined as follows:

Step 1: Fund top scoring projects within each district based on SMART SCALE Score eligible for Highway Construction District Grant Program funds using Highway Construction District Grant Program funds until the remaining funds are insufficient to fund the next highest scoring project.

Step 2: Fund remaining top scoring projects statewide based on SMART SCALE Score for High Priority Projects Program funds using High Priority Projects Program funds until the remaining funds are insufficient to fund the next highest scoring project.

Remaining balances will be reserved to address budget adjustments on selected projects according to the thresholds established in the SMART SCALE Prioritization Process or reserved for allocation in a subsequent round.

The CTB may modify the staff-recommended funding scenario. Additional considerations that may be used by the CTB include:

  • Public feedback from Fall Transportation Meetings and Spring public meetings;
  • SMART SCALE scores;
  • Project segmentation – starting the next phase of a multi-segment roadway improvement, e.g., to complete a major multi-segment project; and
  • Applicant delivery performance as reported by Local Assistance Division.

The prioritization process does not require that the CTB fund projects in order of their scores. Further, the CTB is not required to select the highest scoring project. The process is a means to assist the CTB in evaluating and comparing proposed improvements. The CTB continues to retain final decision-making authority on improvements to be included in the SYIP.

Next, the public has the opportunity to comment on the draft SYIP, including the scoring results for individual projects.

Finally, the CTB takes public comments into account regarding the draft SYIP, and approves the final SYIP for implementation in June.

SMART SCALE Scoring Results graphic

In general, once a project has been screened, scored, and selected for funding by the CTB, it will remain in the SYIP as a funding priority. In addition, only the CTB can cancel a selected project.

Re-evaluation of a project score and funding decision may be needed if:

  • There are significant changes in the scope or cost that alter the original intent / benefit of the scored projects and the CTB’s allocation decision – if the project scope is increased, the applicant is responsible for the additional cost attributable to the increase in scope, regardless of budget impact
  • There is a significant reduction in the locally / regionally leveraged funds available for the project – in cases where a selected project identified other sources of funding that do not materialize, the qualifying entity is committed to pay the difference

Once a project is selected for funding, it cannot be resubmitted to address cost increases or loss of other sources of funding. If revenue reductions decrease the amount of actual funding available for a particular SMART SCALE cohort, projects may be delayed and / or revenues from future rounds of SMART SCALE may be used.

If a submitted project is not selected for funding during a cycle, the CTB will allow eligible entities to re-submit the project the next cycle.


Less than $5 million

Up to a 20 percent increase in requested/approved SMART SCALE funding.

$5 million to $10 million

Up to a $1 million increase in requested/approved SMART SCALE funding.

More than $10 million

Up to a 10 percent increase in total allocations up to a maximum of $5 million increase in requested/approved SMART SCALE funding.


Last updated: April 30, 2024

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