Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

About VTrans

Why do we have a Statewide Transportation Plan?

Virginia's transportation system is a complex network of highways, streets, sidewalks, trails, rail corridors, transit systems, information systems, airports and runways, shipping ports and docks, intermodal connectors, and even a space port. This variety is the essence of a "multimodal" transportation system. The multimodal transportation system serves residents, businesses, tourists and other visitors, all of whom have different needs and desires. Virginia's transportation providers are facing ever-increasing challenges to address growing demands for facilities and services with limited public funds. The Statewide Transportation Plan identifies the most critical needs and cost-effective means to operate, maintain and improve the Commonwealth's transportation systems and serves to guide public investment in the transportation network.

What is the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment?

The Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment (OIPI) is located within the Office of the Secretary of Transportation and was created in 2002 to encourage the coordination of multimodal and intermodal planning across the various transportation modes within the Commonwealth. Since then, the office has produced multiple statewide planning efforts, performance reports and collaborated with multiple entities to promote a safe, strategic and seamless transportation system.

What modes of transportation are included in the VTrans update?

VTrans is multimodal and includes the following modes of transportation: roads and bridges, public transportation, bicycle, pedestrian, freight transportation, passenger rail, ports and aviation activities. Federal regulations emphasize safety and security; the VTrans update will look carefully at the safety and security of different transportation modes.

How are the VTrans update and the Six-Year Improvement Programs related?

VTrans is a long-range planning document looking 20 years or more into the future. VTrans is not required to include specific projects but will provide a plan to improve and maintain the State's current assets. As required by law, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) allocates public funds to transportation projects over six fiscal years, comprising the Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP). Projects include improvements to the interstate, primary, secondary and urban highway systems, public transit, ports and airports and other programs. The CTB updates the SYIP each fiscal year. As revenue estimates are updated, new priorities are identified and existing projects advanced.

How can I participate in the VTrans update?

During the development of VTrans, there are ample opportunities for citizens to participate through public meetings, an opinion survey, reviewing materials on the web, and providing comments. You can send in comments via mail, e-mail, or in person at meetings. You can stay involved through materials posted to the web, by attending public meetings, and by communicating with the study team.

How do I find more information or submit comments?

Mid-Term Needs

What is the status of the Mid-term Needs identified in VTrans2040 and will they be used in this Needs identification process?

The Mid-term Needs identified in VTrans2040 (as part of the VMTP process) will be considered in the VTrans Needs identification process. However, as part of the VTrans Update, there will be an outreach process to all regions in the state, as well as new metrics and performance measures applied. The results of this outreach process and new performance metrics will modify the prior VTrans2040 Needs into a new set of Mid-term Needs that are based on this new input and information. The VTrans Needs framework will assess the State’s transportation Needs at three scales, listed below, and will include a statewide assessment of Safety Needs:

  • Corridor of Statewide Significance (CoSS) – Interregional travel market
  • Regional Networks – Intraregional travel market
  • Urban Development Areas (UDA) – Local activity center market

What is the planning horizon for the Needs?

The planning horizon for the Mid-term Needs is roughly 7-10 years. This time frame is helpful when considering potential solutions that can be implemented in the near term — such as infrastructure projects in SMART SCALE. Long-term Needs will have a planning horizon of ten-plus years. These types of Needs will be more general and used to help inform policy and programming decisions.

What are Corridors of Statewide Significance?

There are twelve designated Corridors of Statewide Significance (CoSS) in the State. CoSS are those facilities and services which comprise the multimodal network connecting major centers of activity (RNs and UDAs) and accommodate inter-city travel between these centers as well as interstate traffic. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) is responsible for the designation and study of these multimodal corridors per the code of Virginia section § 33.2-353. The official definition of a CoSS is: “An integrated, multimodal network of transportation facilities that connect major centers of activity within and through the Commonwealth and promote the movement of people and goods essential to the economic prosperity of the state.”

To be considered a CoSS, a corridor must meet all four criteria pertaining to:

  1. Multimodal - must involve multiple modes of travel or must be an extended freight corridor.
  2. Connectivity - must connect regions, states, and/or major activity centers.
  3. High Volume - must involve a high volume of travel.
  4. Function - must provide a unique statewide function and/or address statewide goals.

What are Regional Networks?

Fifteen Regional Networks were defined during the VTrans2040 VMTP 2025 Needs Assessment. Regional Networks refer to the major economic regions of the Commonwealth and are based on the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) areas in Virginia. MPOs are regions greater than 50,000 in urban area population and are considered the primary centers of Virginia’s regional economies. The Regional Networks encompass the MPO boundary and any county that is included as part of the MPO boundary. The Regional Network includes all transportation infrastructure and facilities inside the regional jurisdiction boundaries. Outside those boundaries, those facilities associated with a Regional Network Need that extends beyond the regional analysis area are considered part of the Regional Network. Regional networks serve commuters, intra-regional, and local travel.

What are Urban Development Areas?

In 2007, the General Assembly in § 15.2-2223.1 established Urban Development Areas (UDAs) as a mechanism to assist with the coordination of transportation and land use planning, to encourage infill development, and to help reduce public costs related to the provision of services by focusing development in areas with existing infrastructure. In 2010, the legislation was amended to establish density and design criteria for UDAs and to improve the coordination between transportation and land use. In 2012, it was amended again to make the designation of UDAs voluntary across all localities and to include a more flexible definition. A UDA is defined as:

  1. Areas designated by a locality that may be sufficient to meet projected residential and commercial growth in the locality for an ensuing period of at least 10 but not more than 20 years;
  2. Where an urban development area in a county includes planned or existing rail transit, the planning horizon may be for an ensuing period of at least 10 but not more than 40 years;
  3. Areas that may be appropriate for development at a density on the developable acreage of at least four single-family residences, six townhouses, or 12 apartments, condominium units or cooperative units per acres and an authorized floor area ratio of at least 0.4 per acre for commercial development, or any proportional combination thereof, or any other combination or arrangement that is adopted by a locality in meeting the intent of the UDA code section; and,
  4. Areas that incorporate principles of traditional neighborhood design (TND).

Designated UDAs should also have boundaries which are identified in the locality’s comprehensive plan and are shown on future land use maps contained in such plans. The code also states that any incentives, financial or other, for development of these UDAs should be described in such plans as well.

How can I designate an Urban Development Area for inclusion in VTrans?

Urban Development Areas (UDAs) are designated by Virginia localities (Counties, Cities, and Towns that have their own zoning authority) through an amendment to their Comprehensive Plan. Mid-term Needs for UDAs are selected by the localities through an online survey. As long as the UDA Needs are provided to OIPI before the Mid-term Needs are finalized and the UDA is officially designated prior to April 1, 2020, then the UDA Needs will be eligible for inclusion in SMART SCALE Round 4.

Are there Mid-term Needs measures associated with each of the Goals?

The VTrans Needs identification process relies on a combination of stakeholder input and Needs measures. Mid-term Needs measures are being developed for the Economic Competitiveness and Prosperity (Goal A), Accessible and Connected Places (Goal B), and Safety for all Users (Goal C). Measures developed for Proactive System Management (Goal D) and Healthy Communities and Sustainable Transportation Communities (Goal E) will be used for identifying trends and making policy decisions.

What is the definition of Activity Centers?

Activity Centers are defined as “areas of regional importance that have a high density of economic and social activity.” Additional Activity Centers can be identified in the Needs identification process.

What is the time frame for the adoption of the Mid-term Needs?

The VTrans Team will update the VTrans Mid-term Needs this summer, re-engage regions and present findings during fall, 2019. The draft list of Mid-term Needs require approval of the CTB. The final approved list of Mid-term Needs will be published by the end of 2019.

Will rural areas’ and slow growth areas’ Mid-term Needs be captured?

As in VTrans2040, rural areas that are outside of Regional Networks (RN) will have Needs identified through the Corridors of Statewide Significance (CoSS) and Urban Development Areas (UDA) geographies. In addition, Safety Needs are statewide and not limited to any particular geography.

How will STARS and Arterial Preservation Studies be utilized for Mid-term Needs identification?

The VTrans Needs identification process will include a scan of relevant plans at the regional level, which will include studies such as those conducted under STARS and the Arterial Preservation Program. However, not every need identified within a prior planning process can automatically be included in the statewide Needs process but will be reviewed in the context of the overall Mid- term Needs identification methodology.

How do Mid-term Needs relate to project scoping and development?

The Mid-term Needs framework is used to screen projects for SMART SCALE eligibility. Mid-term Needs guide the development tiered recommendations. Tier-1 Recommendations, per the CTB Policy (www.ctb.virginia.gov/resources/2018/jan/reso/resolution_14_vtrans.pdf), will become eligible for state funding for advance activities.

What does each performance measure tell us?

As part of the VTrans Update, several performance measures were developed to quantify congestion, reliability, accessibility, safety, capacity preservation and transportation demand management needs:

  • Congestion: Identifies locations where speed and travel time are significantly slower than the posted speed limit or normal traffic conditions, respectively.
  • Reliability: Pinpoints locations with high variability in travel time, locations that require extra travel time built in to ensure on-time arrival, and average on-time station arrival of Amtrak and Virginia Rail Expressway passenger trains.
  • Accessibility: Identifies areas where improved modal accessibility is needed, including regional Activity Centers where transit access is not competitive to highway travel and Equity Emphasis Areas where transit access is needed, as well as areas where bicycle and pedestrian access is needed.
  • Safety: Identifies roadway segments and intersections with higher-than-normal crash instances and fatalities and injuries, as well as corridors with pedestrian safety needs.
  • Urban Development Areas: Various locally-identified needs for improving circulation within designated areas to help support traditional neighborhood design characteristics.
  • Capacity Preservation: Identifies roadways where low-cost investments now can minimize need for costly improvements later.
  • Transportation Demand Management (TDM): Identifies need for TDM based on roadway and area type for proactive management of demand for travel.

How were performance measures used to identify transportation Needs?

For each performance measure, thresholds have been established for filtering the universe of potential congestion, reliability, accessibility, and safety data to locations with comparatively greater needs. This was done to ensure that transportation investments can be directed to the most pressing transportation challenges.

How are highway access Needs to Activity Centers being measured?

Highway access to Activity Centers Needs were identified using congestion and reliability measures.

Regional Activity Centers are categorized as freight-dependent, local-serving, and knowledge-based – how is this determined?

For the purposes of VTrans, Activity Centers are defined as areas of regional importance that have a high density of economic and social activity. The number and type of jobs within the Activity Centers was analyzed, and jobs were divided into three industry clusters:

  • Freight-Dependent: An area where the majority of activity output is dependent on freight transportation;
  • Local-Serving: An Activity Center that serves the local population; and
  • Knowledge-Based: An Activity Center that relies on skilled labor and serves a broader market than Virginia.
  • The three industry clusters were determined by industry employment classifications as shown in the table:

    Industry NameCluster
    MiningFreight Dependent
    UtilitiesFreight Dependent
    Forestry, Fishing, Related Activities & OtherFreight Dependent
    FarmFreight Dependent
    Educational ServicesLocal Serving
    Management of Companies and EnterprisesKnowledge
    Arts, Entertainment, and RecreationLocal Serving
    Wholesale TradeFreight Dependent
    InformationKnowledge
    Transportation and WarehousingFreight Dependent
    Real Estate and Rental and LeaseLocal Serving
    Finance and InsuranceLocal Serving
    Federal Civilian GovernmentLocal Serving
    Federal MilitaryLocal Serving
    Other Services, Except Public AdministrationLocal Serving
    Administrative and Waste ServicesKnowledge
    Accommodation and Food ServicesLocal Serving
    ConstructionFreight Dependent
    Health Care and Social AssistanceLocal Serving
    ManufacturingFreight Dependent
    Professional and Technical ServicesKnowledge
    State and Local GovernmentLocal Serving
    Retail Trade 1Local Serving

    Activity Centers were then assigned to the cluster that matched the plurality of jobs in that Center. For example, an Activity Center with 20% freight-dependent, 60% local-serving, and 20% knowledge-based jobs would be assigned as a local-serving Activity Center.

What is the intent behind developing Needs for Industrial and Economic Development Areas (IEDAs)?

The intent behind developing Needs for IEDAs is to improve the linkage between economic development and transportation investment, thereby enhancing the Commonwealth’s infrastructure and promoting the Commonwealth’s competitive business environment.

How are the Needs for Industrial and Economic Development Areas (IEDAs) being developed?

Needs for IEDAs are based on Code of Virginia § 2.2- 2238 C. which is the foundation for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP’s) Virginia Business Ready Site Program (VBRSP). VBRSP is a discretionary program to promote development and characterization of developable sites to enhance the Commonwealth’s infrastructure and promote the Commonwealth’s competitive business environment.

Needs have been identified for sites that VEDP has determined to be Tier-3 or higher, that is, “zoned industrial/commercial, due diligence complete”, “infrastructure ready”, or “shovel ready.” Readiness indicates that these sites are likely to benefit from the related transportation improvements.

The readiness status or some other information for an Industrial and Economic Development Area (IEDA) site in my locality is outdated. How can I update it?

Readiness status is determined and updated by Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) as they receive new information. If you would like to update the Readiness status or some other information for an IEDA, please reach out to VEDP.

How was the feedback provided during the thirteen Regional Workshops with transportation planning stakeholders held in July and August used to inform the Mid-term Needs?

Feedback provided during the Regional Workshops were utilized in refining the Needs Assessment methodology and developing the Draft Needs. Comments associated with performance measure maps were synthesized and uploaded onto the online InteractVTrans map. A table can be found here that summarizes how measures were changed due to comments received during the Regional Workshops.

How were public and transportation agencies involved in VTrans Mid-term Needs Identification process?

As of August 2019, there have been three presentations to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, nine meetings of the VTrans Steering Committee (internal state agency committee), 38 meetings and webinars with MPO’s, PDC’s, and localities, thirteen Regional Workshops attended by 83 Cities and Counties, 30 Towns, fifteen MPO’s, sixteen PDC’s, sixteen transit agencies, four TDM agencies, four airports, and three universities. There were nine public open houses. Additionally, there are over 1500 subscribers to the VTrans newsletter, and there have been over 9,600 visitors to the VTrans website. Altogether, there over 1,000 comments collected so far.

Where can I find a complete list of the draft and final Mid-term Needs for my jurisdiction?

The Draft Mid-Term Needs are available through the online mapping application called InteractVTrans beginning around October 15th, 2019, and in documentation provided via the website. A final list of Mid-term Needs will be available following Commonwealth Transportation Board approval on InteractVTrans as well. An e-blast email notification will announce the availability of the final list of Mid-term Needs. VTrans Mid-term Needs can be provided in alternative formats upon request.

Is it too late to designate an Urban Development Area (UDA)?

UDAs that meet Virginia Code §15.2-2223.1 can be designated at any time. However, planned UDAs that anticipate having Needs included in VTrans and eligibility for the next round (Round 4) of SMART SCALE must be designated by April 1, 2020.

Will the VTrans Mid-term Needs be utilized for SMART SCALE?

Yes, the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment intends on utilizing Commonwealth Transportation Board adopted VTrans Mid-term Needs for screening applications during the next round (Round 4) of SMART SCALE.

How does VTrans take into account changes in technology and other external factors?

In addition to Mid-term Needs with a 7- to 10-year time horizon, VTrans will also identify Long-term Needs with a 10-year or more time horizon. Development of the Long-term Needs will rely on the assessment of trends and their impact on the Commonwealth’s transportation network including advancement in technology, vulnerability of multimodal infrastructure, anticipated population growth and land use patterns, and anticipated economic conditions. These Long-term Needs will be used to inform policy, planning and project recommendations to prepare for this long-term horizon. Long-term Needs development will initiate in 2020.

Is there a deadline for providing input on measures or Needs?

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will be requested to take action on the draft VTrans Mid-term Needs in December 2019. Comments and feedback on the draft Mid-term Needs will be accepted until the Board takes action to adopt the draft Needs. However, we request comment and feedback as early as possible to ensure that we are able to provide due consideration to all requests and suggestions.

How can I provide my comments on the Draft Needs?

Please utilize one or more of the following opportunities to provide comments on the draft VTrans Mid-term Needs:

  • Attend a Commonwealth Transportation Board’s Fall Transportation Meeting in your area where the VTrans Team will be present;
  • Visit the Online Meetings page at VTrans.org where a printable version of the Needs are available, and provide comments via email to Comment@vtrans.org;
  • Visit InteractVTrans, an online tool that allows for search and download of your jurisdiction-specific VTrans Mid-term Needs and provide location-specific comments;
  • Attend an upcoming webinar presentation on the Draft Needs, scheduled for Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019, from 10 am - 12:00 pm. Check out the VTrans.org Online Meetings page for more information.