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Virginia

Number of Planning District Commissions serving rural areas: 20 Total annual funding: $72,500 (80% federal funds, 20% local match) Date established rural transportation planning program: 1993Virginia has implemented a Rural Transportation Planning Program (RTPP) to address the needs of nonmetropolitan areas of the state. The program is implemented in partnership with the state’s 20 regional development organizations (known locally as planning district commissions, PDCs, or regional commissions) that serve rural portions of the state, including some regions that serve urbanized areas or staff MPOs as well as serving rural counties.[1]

The PDCs serve as liaisons with local governments, assist with the development of the statewide multi-model plan and the state highway plan.  The PDCs develop a public involvement plan and a rural regional long-range plan, as well as working with local governments to identify projects to submit to VDOT for consideration in the six-year improvement program and the statewide multimodal plan update.[2]

In 2014, a new law known in the state as HB2 directed the Commonwealth Transportation Board to develop a scoring process to use for project selection for two funding programs, the Construction District Grant Program (which distributes funds by formula to the VDOT Districts) and the High-Priority Projects Program (a statewide competitive program).  The PDCs are able to submit project applications through the process, called Smart Scale, along with MPOs, transit agencies, and localities that maintain their own infrastructure—most road miles in Virginia are maintained by the state.[3]  This new grant application process is part of a statewide move to find increasing ways to improve transparency and communication about decisionmaking and to advance a culture of performance management.  The culture of performance is also reflected in the state’s first rural long-range plans completed in 2011, which identify particular deficiencies and opportunities for improvement based on standard criteria, and in the long-range plan updates that PDCs are beginning.[4]

Map of Virginia's Planning District Commission boundaries

Click to enlarge (Courtesy Virginia Association of PDCs)

Through their rural transportation work program, the regional agencies also complete a variety of tasks to meet local transportation needs, mobility concerns, and planning priorities.  Depending on the regional context and needs, the PDCs may conduct special studies, prepare transportation alternatives and other grant applications, provide GIS services and products, develop rural transit plans and staff rural transit committees, prepare the transportation elements of local or regional comprehensive plans, conduct bicycle and pedestrian planning and trail counting, or complete other tasks that support transportation planning.[5]

For more information, visit the Virginia Association of Planning Development Commissions website at www.vapdc.org.

[1] Darrel Johnson (2013). VDOT: Developing Long-Range Transportation Plans

[2] New River Valley RC (2016). FY17 Transportation Planning Work Program. Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (2015). FY 2016 Rural Transportation Planning Work Program. Thomas Jefferson PDC (2016). FY 2017 Rural Transportation Planning Work Program

[3] VDOT (nd). Smart Scale: Funding the Right Transportation Projects in Virginia, http://vasmartscale.org

[4] Personal communication with Elijah Sharp, June 2016

[5] New River Valley RC, Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, Thomas Jefferson PDC