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The ABCs of Hampton Roads Transportation: An Alphabet Soup

The ABCs of Hampton Roads Transportation: An Alphabet Soup
CTB: Commonwealth Transportation Board

Image of a graphic Bowl of Soup and Spoon. Spoon has the letter "CTB" in it.Trying to decipher the transportation planning process in Hampton Roads can be a lot like looking at a bowl of alphabet soup. Acronyms that represent the organizations, policy makers and programs that are involved in the process of bringing on a new transportation project or updating and/or expanding an existing facility can be confusing. Knowing who or what these acronyms represent is the starting point. Understanding their roles and purposes provide a clearer picture as to how a project moves from an idea to a planned project, and from a plan to a funded and constructed transportation asset.

From time to time, we like to examine the organizations and programs behind those acronyms. This article will look at the role and history of the CTB, also known as the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The CTB, in a nutshell, determines priorities and funding for transportation-related enhancements and improvements in the state of Virginia. Specifically, the CTB is responsible for locating routes, letting construction contracts, creating traffic regulations, naming highways, gathering and tabulating information and statistics, entering into contracts with other states, administering and allocating the Transportation Trust Fund, coordinating the planning for the financing of transportation needs (including the needs for highways, railways, seaports, airports, and public transportation). 

It oversees the Commonwealth Transportation Fund which is comprised of funding received from the federal government for state transportation initiatives as well as those funds earmarked for transportation as part of state tax collections. Estimated revenue for the fund provides for allocations in the Six-Year Financial Plan adopted by the CTB.

The CTB does not, however, oversee the monies raised and held in special transportation funds, such as the Hampton Roads Transportation Fund (HRTF). Expenditures from such funds are usually governed by a regional authority or commission. The HRTF is managed by the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC), which has a voting membership comprised of one elected official from each of 14 localities in Hampton Roads, plus two state senators and three state delegates.  The HRTAC determines how approximately $200 million per year in regional transportation funding will be invested in transportation projects. Currently, the HRTAC is funding over $5 Billion of interstate road, bridge and tunnel improvements in Hampton Roads using regional gas and sales and use taxes.

One way the CTB maximizes transportation dollars is by using a data driven, outcome-focused project prioritization process known as SMART SCALE. The purpose of SMART SCALE is to assist the CTB in ensuring that scarce transportation funding is allocated to projects that generate the most benefit per tax dollar. Localities, public transit operators, and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) like the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) submit projects to be scored through the SMART SCALE process. The HRTPO identifies and prioritizes needed transportation projects in the Hampton Roads region.

After projects are scored, the CTB selects projects to be included in the state’s Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP). In accordance with the legislation that created the SMART SCALE program, only projects that will be funded through construction may be included in the SYIP.

The CTB consists of seventeen members appointed by the Governor (subject to confirmation by the General Assembly), including:

  • Secretary of Transportation (Serves a chair of CTB)
  • Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)
  • Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)
  • Nine citizen members (one representing each of the 9 construction districts)
  • Five at-large citizen members

All CTB members are sworn in by the Secretary of the Commonwealth and limited by State law to two successive four-year terms, although a member may be appointed to complete an unexpired term and still be eligible to serve two full terms. All members are to represent the state as a whole, not solely the districts from which they are appointed. As CTB Chair, the Secretary of Transportation only has voting privileges in the event of a tie.

The CTB traces its history back to 1906 when the General Assembly created the State Highway Commission and the office of the state highway commissioner to regulate road construction. That first State Highway Commission was comprised of four members – the commissioner and civil engineering professors from the University of Virginia (UVA), Virginia Military Institute (VMI), and what is now Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). The attached table provides a more complete history of the CTB in Virginia.

Historical Information Regarding the Commonwealth Transportation Board

1904

General Assembly (GA) passed act providing regulations for the establishment, construction and improvement of public roads, bridges, wharves, and landings.  (Previously, county and city governments had enjoyed relative freedom in such matters.)

1906

GA passed act establishing the State Highway Commission and the office of the state highway commissioner to regulate road construction.  The four members included a commissioner and civil engineering professors from UVA, VMI, and what is now VA Tech.

1918

GA passed act creating the State Highway System, totaling slightly more than 4,000 miles and linking principal population centers.

1919

Commission expanded from four to five members, each being a private citizen chosen to represent major regions of the Commonwealth.

1922

GA passed act placing the State Highway System under the authority of the commission, which was headed by a chair appointed by the state highway commissioner.  GA designated eight construction districts to facilitate the allocation of highway funds.

1924

GA passed act transferring duties of commissioner to chair of State Highway Commission and abolishing the office of commissioner.

1927

GA passed reorganization act designating the chair of the State Highway Commission as state highway commissioner and establishing the Department of Highways as a state agency.

1942

GA changed format of the commission, expanding it from five to nine members.  Commissioner served as chair, with others representing each of the eight construction districts.

1972

GA passed act placing the Department of Highways and the State Highway Commission under the secretary of transportation.

1974

GA passed act changing the commission’s name to the State Highway and Transportation Commission and the department to the Department of Highways and Transportation (adding rail and public transportation to its jurisdiction).  Two members were added to the commission, increasing the membership from nine to eleven.

1984

GA created ninth construction district.

1985

The commission became the Virginia Highway and Transportation Board.

1986

GA increased size of board to fifteen members with the addition of three at-large members.

1987

The board’s name was changed to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB).  The board is responsible for locating routes, letting construction contracts, creating traffic regulations, naming highways, gathering and tabulating information and statistics, entering into contracts with other states, administering and allocating the Transportation Trust Fund, coordinating the planning for the financing of transportation needs (including the needs for highways, railways, seaports, airports, and public transportation).

1990

GA act designated the Secretary of Transportation as chair of the CTB.  The Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner (now known as the Commissioner of Highways) was designated vice-chair.  CTB membership increased to sixteen members.

1992

GA elevated the Division of Rail and Public Transportation to a separate Department.

1999

GA increased CTB to seventeen members by adding Director of DRPT as a non-voting member.

2013

GA increased CTB to eighteen members by adding the Executive Director of the Virginia Port Authority as a non-voting member.

2015

GA act removed Executive Director of the Virginia Port Authority from CTB membership and replaced the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner as vice-chair with the senior non-legislative citizen member.

Sources: State Highway Commission Records of the Virginia Department of Transportation, 1895-1923, Library of Virginia and CTB Policy Index, VDOT Governance and Legislative Affairs Division, December 2016

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