The Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce represents the fastest-growing region in the Commonwealth. Our population of more than 360,000 is expected to nearly double by 2045. With that growth has come enormous traffic.
The chamber has a long history of advocating for transportation solutions in our region. We played a role in several major projects: the I-95 northbound Rappahannock River crossing; the Express Lanes Fredericksburg extension; the I-95 southbound Rappahannock River crossing.
We closely monitor all activities that relate to transportation and infrastructure improvements. To that end, the Commonwealth Transportation Board met on Jan. 15 to hear the results of the third round of Smart Scale, which is the commonwealth’s program to prioritize transportation funding for new construction projects.
The Secretary of Transportation’s office presented the results as well as an update on the Smart Scale program. After the CTB receives the results, they have until June to determine whether or not to include the evaluated projects in the six-year improvement plan, practically guaranteeing funding.
Since its inception in 2015, Smart Scale has had a nearly 45% reduction in funding. Originally, Smart Scale had roughly $1.4 billion available, but this year, it only had about $740 million.
Our region—home to the worst congestion hotspot in the entire United States (I-95 at Exit 133 in Stafford)—has more than $4 billion in outstanding infrastructure needs. Statewide available funds are scarce and we are not competitive with Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, which each have a Regional Transportation Authority. Of the $740 million of available funding in this round, our region is slated to receive $32 million. None of our I-95 or other large regional projects were selected.
Yes, we will see some improvements: a new commuter lot for State Route 3 in Stafford ($7.5 million); Route 3 improvements from I-95 to Dixon Street in the city ($7.4 million); and improvements to the U.S. 1 and Fall Hill Avenue intersection in the city ($7.2 million). But I must repeat: we have more than $4 billion in transportation needs in our region.
Smart Scale is a good concept, but our region clearly needs more funding than it will ever be able to provide. There is simply not enough money for us to be competitive with those who made the tough decisions to invest in their area’s infrastructure while or before it was growing. In 2019, the Chamber will continue to advocate for significant improvements—no matter what it takes. These decisions are not easy and will not come without hard work, compromise, and leadership.