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FAQs

Regional Context

Q: What are NVTA’s primary responsibilities?

A: Created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2002, NVTA is a regional governmental body with two primary responsibilities – to develop and maintain the long-range transportation plan for Northern Virginia, and to prioritize/program its regional revenues for multimodal transportation projects in Northern Virginia.  The General Assembly established NVTA’s revenue stream in 2013 through Virginia House Bill 2313. (See below for more details on NVTA’s revenues.)

Q: What is TransAction, and why is it important?

A: TransAction is the name of NVTA’s long-range transportation plan for Northern Virginia. The Plan focuses on eleven major travel corridors in Northern Virginia, and identifies more than 350 candidate regional projects for future transportation investments to improve travel throughout the region. NVTA updates TransAction every five years.  NVTA can only use its regional revenues for projects (or subsets/combinations thereof) included in the project list associated with the current version of TransAction. Please visit the TransAction website for more details.

Q: What is NVTA’s Six Year Program, and how does it relate to TransAction?

A: NVTA’s Six Year Program includes selected TransAction projects, funded with NVTA’s regional revenues.  NVTA adopted its inaugural Six Year Program in June 2018, using NVTA’s regional revenues for FY2018 through FY2023.  NVTA updates the Six Year Program every two years, primarily adding regional revenues for the fifth and sixth years. Prior to the first Six Year Program and others adopted in subsequent years, NVTA adopted three funding programs for its FY2014 revenues, FY2015-2016 revenues, and FY2017 revenues. For a full listing of NVTA-funded projects, please visit this webpage.

Eligibility

Q: Who is eligible to apply for NVTA regional revenues?

A: NVTA’s member jurisdictions, comprising the four counties and five cities in Northern Virginia, are eligible to apply. These include the Counties of Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington and Prince William, and the Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park. In addition, the five largest towns in Northern Virginia (Towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, Purcellville and Vienna), transit agencies, and selected Commonwealth/regional agencies may apply. Smaller towns may apply, but only through their respective county, not directly to NVTA. Private corporations, associations, and individual citizens are not eligible to apply. Eligible jurisdictions and agencies decide which project applications to submit to NVTA, in response to NVTA’s Call for Regional Transportation Projects. Applicants have their own local processes for deciding which projects to submit to NVTA, but each must provide a formal resolution from its Governing Body for each project application.

Q: Which projects are eligible for NVTA regional revenues?

A: Projects (or subsets/combinations thereof) included in the project list associated with the current version of TransAction, the long-range transportation plan for Northern Virginia.

Q: Can NVTA fund projects outside Northern Virginia?

A: Generally, no, even though such projects are included in TransAction. There are a couple of exceptions. First, NVTA can fund projects that extend beyond Northern Virginia in order to be functionally complete, provided this is not substantive. For example, NVTA has funded purchase of a bus that provides expanded transit service from Northern Virginia to Washington D.C. Second, NVTA can fund projects that extend more substantively beyond Northern Virginia, providing there is a proportionate cost-sharing arrangement with neighboring jurisdictions.

For example, NVTA has funded power traction projects for Metrorail lines, for which Maryland and Washington D.C. contributed their share. It is important to note that revenues generated in Northern Virginia that fund NVTA projects must provide congestion relief for Northern Virginians.

Q: Can NVTA use regional revenues to maintain infrastructure or subsidize transit services?

A: No.  NVTA can generally only fund new and expanded infrastructure projects.  NVTA can fund rolling stock to expand bus and rail service, but cannot fund replacement of rolling stock. NVTA can fund storage/maintenance facilities associated with expansion of transit services. Each applicant must certify that, if a funding application is successful, it will meet the cost of operations and maintenance for the useful economic life of the project.

Q: Is there any limit to the number of applications that a jurisdiction or agency can submit?

A: No. NVTA does not currently set limits on the number of applications, nor the associated funding requests. NVTA encourages potential applicants to be realistic and strategic when deciding what to submit, with a focus on the factors that make a strong project application. NVTA provides an early ballpark estimate of the available funding.

Q: Which modes does NVTA fund?

A: NVTA is truly multimodal in the projects it funds. Some examples include highways, bus, bus rapid transit, rail, parking, bicycle, pedestrian and transportation technology. In addition, NVTA could potentially fund eligible air and waterborne infrastructure projects, together with a range of emerging modes.

Overview of NVTA’s Project Selection Process

Q: How does the Six Year Program relate to TransAction, NVTA’s long-range transportation plan?

A: NVTA’s two primary responsibilities are development of, and updates to, (a) TransAction and (b) NVTA’s Six Year Program. Projects funded in the Six Year Program (using NVTA’s regional revenues) must be included in the analysis and project list for the current version of TransAction. However, inclusion of a project in TransAction does not guarantee NVTA will use its regional revenues to fund the project.

Q: How often does NVTA update the Six Year Program?

A: Every two years. Initially, NVTA adopted a series of one or two-year funding programs prior to the adoption of its inaugural Six Year Program for FY2018-2023.

Q: What does NVTA consider in its project selection process?

A: Broadly, there are four (unweighted) components in NVTA’s holistic approach to project evaluation and selection: eligibility, quantitative factors, qualitative factors and public comment. Preceding FAQs describe eligibility requirements.

Q: Where does public comment fit in NVTA’s process?

A: Public comment is an important component in the development of both TransAction and NVTA’s Six Year Program. NVTA staff will not develop project recommendations until after the conclusion of the public comment period.

Evaluation Factors

Q: What quantitative factors does NVTA use in its evaluation?

A: NVTA uses model simulations to estimate three quantitative factors: congestion reduction relative to cost (CRRC) ratios, TransAction project ratings, and Long-Term Benefit.  NVTA uses an independent consultant to undertake model simulations using a computer model, based on the Transportation Planning Board’s regional travel demand model, calibrated to the current traffic patterns and intensity in the region.

Q: What qualitative factors does NVTA use in its evaluation?

A: NVTA considers a range of qualitative factors for each project evaluation, including whether NVTA has previously allocated funding to the project, funding gaps, non-NVTA funding, past performance with NVTA-funded projects, support by neighboring jurisdictions, and other factors that may be project-specific.  NVTA also gathers information regarding local priority and project readiness, although these factors have a relatively minor role in project evaluation.  Finally, NVTA considers modal and geographic balance.

Q: How does NVTA take account of local prioritization of projects?

A: NVTA requests applicants prioritize their project applications. As noted above, this factor has a relatively minor role in project evaluation, because NVTA’s primary focus is on regional, not local, factors.

Q: How does NVTA take into account external funding?

A: Projects that can demonstrate a high level of committed funds from other sources receive a higher grade than those that do not. The grade reflects either the absolute amount of committed funds or the proportion of total project cost covered by committed funds, whichever is the higher. Eligible external funds include non-NVTA funding sources of any kind, as well as NVTA local (30 percent) revenues.  Previous NVTA regional funds are not included in the evaluation of other committed funds.  NVTA staff only include committed funds in this evaluation, and disregard pending (or future) funding requests to NVTA or other funding entities.

Q: How does NVTA take into account past performance?

A: NVTA looks at past performance at the applicant level (across all previously funded projects) and, in the case of continuation projects, at the individual project level. It is important to understand that NVTA regional revenue allocations are not grants. Instead, NVTA reimburses project expenses based on accurate and complete reimbursement requests. NVTA refers to the cumulative amount of paid reimbursement requests as ‘drawdown.’  NVTA considers three past performance factors (at the applicant and project levels) – percent of drawdown compared to expected drawdown, percent of drawdown compared to total allocated regional revenues, and the rate of drawdown activity relative to the number of active Standard Project Agreements (SPAs).  Projects that can demonstrate a high level of activity for each factor receive higher grades than those that do not.

Q: What does NVTA mean by geographic and modal balance?

A: NVTA staff will consider the entire package of recommended projects as a group, and adjust for modal and geographic balance, to ensure a reasonable distribution of the recommended projects across the region and by transportation mode.

Funding

Q: What are the sources of NVTA’s revenue?

A: The General Assembly enacts legislation that stipulates the annual revenue sources for NVTA.  Effective July 1, 2020, the revenue streams authorized by the General Assembly, are:

Sales Tax
Grantors Tax
State Recordation Tax Transfer
Heavy Truck Diesel and Registration

Pursuant to Virginia General Assembly House Bill 1414 (HB1414)/Senate Bill 890 (SB890) effective on July 1, 2020, the General Assembly amended numerous laws related to transportation funds, revenue sources, construction, and safety programs. The bill adopted numerous structural changes to the transportation funding system in the Commonwealth.  Most transportation revenues are now being directed to a new Commonwealth Transportation Fund and the existing Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund. Funds are then disbursed, based on codified formulas, to sub-funds established to meet the varying transportation needs of different modes of transportation.

Q: Does NVTA allocate all its revenue to the Six Year Program?

A: No. Per Virginia Code, NVTA allocates its revenues to two accounting funds, the Regional Revenue Fund (70 percent of revenue) and the Local Distribution Fund (30 percent of revenue).NVTA funds the Six Year Program from the Regional Revenue Fund deploying 70 percent of revenues received to projects determined solely by NVTA.  NVTA allocates the Local Distribution Fund revenue to member jurisdictions (counties and cities in Northern Virginia) for transportation purposes of their choice.

Q: How does NVTA estimate its revenue for the Six Year Program?

A: NVTA adopts long-term revenue estimates typically three to four years in advance of a funding cycle.  NVTA develops estimates with a very conservative nature targeted to result in some mid-cycle positive variances. Under the direction of the NVTA’s Finance Committee, NVTA staff recommends revenue projections and Six Year Program funding levels to NVTA for final approval and appropriation.

Recommendations

Q: Does NVTA set aside funding allocations for different types of project?

A: No, NVTA applies a single consistent methodology to all projects. Set asides are not consistent with the requirements of Virginia Code.

Q: For projects approved for funding, does NVTA meet their funding request in full?

A: Not necessarily. Due to the high demand for NVTA’s regional revenues, NVTA will sometimes allocate less funding than requested. If this occurs, NVTA will try to allocate sufficient funds to enable completion of entire phases, thereby enabling projects to partially advance.

Q: How does NVTA review the recommendations?

A: NVTA will review the staff recommendations with its two statutory advisory committees. These are the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Planning Coordination Advisory Committee (PCAC).  NVTA’s standing committee, the Planning and Programming Committee, will consider the TAC and PCAC recommendations prior to developing its own recommendations. Lastly, these will advance to the Authority for action.

Approval Process

Q: Who approves funded projects?

A: NVTA is the sole decision-making body. NVTA may accept the project selection recommendations in full. However, NVTA has the discretion to modify these recommendations prior to approval, provided it documents the reasons.

Q: Does the Commonwealth of Virginia have a say in the approval process?

A: Not directly. However, NVTA includes representatives of the Commonwealth of Virginia. There are two gubernatorial appointees – the Northern Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) member and a citizen appointee – who are voting NVTA members. Furthermore, the VDOT NOVA District Administrator and the Director of DRPT are non-voting NVTA members.

Q: For unsuccessful applicants, are there other funding sources for their projects?

A: Yes, there are a wide variety of local, regional, state, and federal funding programs, including NVTA’s Local Distribution Fund (30 percent revenues). Unsuccessful applicants can also reapply to NVTA for regional revenues in future Six Year Program updates (every two years).