Suffolk-to-Windsor bus route tops list for state funding

Published 12:40 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A proposed bus route from Suffolk to Windsor is the top project slated to receive state money.

Virginia Department of Transportation staff listed the Windsor bus route in first place out of 394 applications statewide for the fifth round of Smart Scale funding.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board, a 17-member panel appointed by the governor, began using VDOT’s Smart Scale formula in 2016 for evaluating the cost versus benefit of transportation projects. Projects chosen via Smart Scale receive 100% state funding and are added to the CTB’s six-year improvement program.

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According to Jamie Oliver, who heads Isle of Wight County’s transportation division, the Smart Scale formula looks at a variety of factors, including a project’s ability to mitigate congestion, enhance safety, provide access to employment opportunities and the population density of the submitting locality, as well as the overall cost. From this, VDOT assigns each project a Smart Scale score. The higher the score, the more likely the project will receive state funding.

In addition to being the top project statewide, the bus route was also ranked as the top districtwide project across Hampton Roads, scoring a 155.7 Smart Scale rating. VDOT has recommended against funding projects that scored lower than 3.09.

Last summer, Suffolk Transit submitted an application in collaboration with Isle of Wight County for $408,116 to establish a bus route with stops in Windsor and the county’s Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park. The park is home to distribution centers for Keurig Dr. Pepper, Safco Products Co. and Cost Plus World Market, which collectively employ over 800 people.

The funding would pay for two new buses, bus shelters, and the transformation of a Windsor parking lot into a park-and-ride with added spaces.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will vote on its final choices in June. Those selected will receive their state funding between the latter half of 2023 and 2029.

Isle of Wight County submitted four additional projects last summer that scored lower than the cutoff for Smart Scale funding.

The first, estimated at $13.8 million, would have begun construction of a third southbound travel lane on Carrollton Boulevard from 1,000 feet north of its intersection with Eagle Harbor Parkway to its intersection with Smiths Neck Road. The work would have served as the first phase of a $20.2 million project recommended in a February 2022 VDOT study as a means of reducing travel times.

The second, estimated at $3.7 million, would have converted the intersection of Carrollton Boulevard and Sugar Hill Road to a “Continuous Green-T.” The term, according to VDOT, refers to a design that allows one direction of highway traffic to pass through the intersection without stopping. Traffic traveling in the opposite direction is typically controlled by a traffic signal, though the Sugar Hill Road intersection proposal called for an unsignalized intersection.

The third and fourth, which collectively total roughly $22.5 million, would each have added roughly a mile and a half of 4-foot-wide shoulders and rumble strips to the outermost eastbound and westbound lanes of Route 460 between the highway’s Cut Thru Road and Stave Mill Road intersections west of the town of Windsor, and between Ennis Mill Road and Lovers Lane east of Windsor.

Multimillion-dollar projects in localities that don’t offer to defray the cost with local tax dollars tend to score “less competitive,” Oliver told Isle of Wight supervisors on Feb. 2.

Supervisor Joel Acree, however, contends the county already contributes local tax dollars via the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission, or HRTAC, to allocate the resulting revenues. HRTAC is composed of locally elected officials from each of the 14 localities.