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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    House Document No. 11

    Document Title
    A Plan for Reassigning Roads to Virginia’s Administrative Classification System Using the Federal Functional Classification System: A Response to Chapter 896 of the Acts of Assembly of 2007

    Department of Transportation

    Enabling Authority
    Chapter 896 Enactment Clause 7. (Regular Session, 2007)

    Executive Summary

    Chapter 896 of the Acts of the Assembly of 2007 requires the Virginia Department of Transportation, with the advice and consent of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, [to submit] on or before January 1, 2009 . . . to the Governor and the General Assembly a plan to reassign the various highways, bridges, and other facilities comprising the state primary, secondary, and urban highways systems so that the assignment of components to such systems is based, to the maximum degree practicable, on the components’ functional classification. Such plan shall include an analysis of the costs, benefits, and programmatic and other implications of such reassignment.


    The purpose of this study was to comply with the mandate of Chapter 896, and the scope of the study was limited to the following:

    • develop a plan for reassigning road segments to Virginia’s three administrative categories based on their functional classification

    • show how the implementation of the plan would affect (1) the allocation formula inputs for each of VDOT’s districts and (2) urban maintenance payments, and (3) show what other impacts the implementation of the plan would have.


    The purpose of the study was achieved by performing the following tasks:

    1. Develop a plan for reassigning road segments to Virginia’s Administrative Classification System based on the functional classification of the road segments.

    2. Acquire, organize, and validate the necessary data.

    3. Reassign road segments to the administrative categories based on the plan developed in Task 1.

    4. Analyze the results of the plan with respect to the changes in the allocation inputs, urban maintenance payments, and other impacts.


    Task 1: Develop a Plan for Reassigning Road Segments to the Administrative Classification System Based on the Functional Classification of the Road Segments

    Problem Statement

    Fulfilling the mandate of Chapter 896 poses special difficulties. There are primarily two issues of importance:

    1. FHWA’s functional classification designations are made to road segments, not roads as a whole. By contrast, Virginia’s primary, secondary, and urban systems are based on roads, not segments. This difference between these systems of classification tends to lead to discontinuities in the primary system for any reassignment plan that uses functional classification as its basis.

    2. The determination of how a road segment should be functionally classified is how well it meets a set of complex FHWA criteria. The FHWA criteria for functional classification have little or no relationship to the existing administrative classification for the Commonwealth. Consequently, it is very difficult to develop reassignments in a consistent, easily documented and understood methodology to comply with the mandate of Chapter 896.

    Establishment of Basis for Reassignments

    Among the issues the authors of this study faced is the fact that the structure of Virginia’s Administrative Classification System—the system into which the road segments were to be reassigned—distinguishes between the state highway system (primary system), the roads within counties (secondary system), and the roads within corporate limits (urban system), which means that geographic criteria play a significant role in sorting roads into the administrative categories. The approach taken in this study had to take cognizance of this fact; consequently, the approach taken here adhered as closely as possible to the requirement that the reassignment be based on the functional classification of the roads while at the same time retaining the basic structure and character of the Administrative System. However, in order to accomplish this, the reassignment plan had to deviate to some extent from a strict dependence on functional classification as the basis of the reassignment. Thus, in the attempt to retain the basic character of the Administrative System, the authors based the reassignment on (1) the similarity of the functional classification criteria to the apparent functional character of the primary, secondary, and urban systems, and (2) the geographic boundaries within which the road segments are actually located.

    The Reassignment Plan

    The authors maintained as a guiding assumption of the development of the reassignment plan that the cities and towns in Virginia’s Urban Program would continue to maintain control of their roads and that the reassignment should not be inconsistent with the “First Cities Initiative,” which allows cities and towns to administer their own road improvement projects. Consequently, the urban principal arterials and the urban minor arterials within the corporate boundaries of cities and towns in the Urban Program are assigned to the urban system rather than the primary system. To have assigned them to the primary system would have meant that the cities and towns would have lost operational control over these roadways. Further, this would have led to reductions in urban maintenance payments and responsibilities.

    The reassignment plan has the following elements:

    1. Assign all road segments that are currently classified as a rural or urban principal arterial and that are not inside the corporate boundaries of a city or town in Virginia’s Urban Program to the primary system.

    2. Assign all road segments that are currently classified as a rural minor arterial and that are not inside the corporate boundaries of a city or town in Virginia’s Urban Program to the primary system.

    3. Assign all road segments of any functional classification that are inside the corporate boundaries of a city or town in the Urban Program to the urban system.

    4. Assign all road segments that are not inside the corporate boundaries of a city or town in the Urban Program and that are functionally classified as a rural major collector, rural minor collector, rural local, urban minor arterial, urban collector, or urban local to the secondary system.

    Task 2: Acquire, Organize, and Validate Necessary Data

    The authors acquired data on the functional classification, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and lane miles of all roads in the primary, secondary, and urban systems. The internal VDOT database which is called the Statewide Planning System (SPS), is the official repository of functional classification data. Even though the official repository of VMT and mileage data is the Highway Traffic Records Inventory System (HTRIS) database, the use of the VMT and lane mileage data from SPS was validated by comparing SPS and HTRIS data. This comparison showed that for the purposes of this study, SPS was an acceptable data source, even though it is not the official road inventory data source.

    Task 3: Reassign Road Segments to the Administrative Categories Based on Plan Developed in Task 1

    Table ES-1 shows the way functionally classified road segments would be distributed within Virginia’s Administrative System as a result of the reassignment plan. Table ES-2 shows the changes in the centerline mileage in each of the administrative categories that would result from the implementation of the plan. (See full report for Table ES-1 and Table ES-2)

    Task 4: Analyze the Results of the Plan with Respect to the Changes in the Allocation Inputs, Urban Maintenance Payments, and Other Impacts.

    Allocation Formula Inputs: Primary VMT and Primary Lane Miles

    The allocation formula for primary system construction funds that is used to determine a district’s share of primary construction allocations is set forth in 33.1-23.2 of the Code of Virginia. According to the Code, the inputs to this formula are the district proportion of the primary system VMT, multiplied by 0.7, the district proportion of primary system lane miles, multiplied by 0.25, and a CTB needs adjustment through which 5% of the monies are distributed to certain districts. As previously stated, the primary VMT and primary lane miles were determined for each district from official VDOT inventory data; however this project used a different data set to produce approximations of the current and proposed primary system VMT and lane miles for each district. This means that representations of current primary system VMT or lane miles are approximations for planning purposes only. Hereafter, for the sake of brevity, the word “inputs” is used to mean primary system VMT and primary system lane miles, but not the 5% CTB needs adjustment.

    Table ES-3 shows the percentage of change in each district’s share of approximate current allocation inputs that would result from implementation of the reassignment plan, so that, for example, for Bristol the difference between the approximate current inputs and the inputs that would result from implementation of the plan is an 18.4% reduction in the current percentage from 8.7% to 7.1%. (See full report for Table ES-3)

    Urban Maintenance Payments and Continuity of the Primary System

    If the reassignment plan described in this study were to be implemented, (1) urban maintenance payments in 39 cities and towns would increase somewhat and (2) there would be discontinuities in the resulting primary system.


    Since Chapter 896 does not indicate what goal or goals the proposed reassignment is intended to achieve, it is difficult to evaluate the success of one approach over another; however, many issues and complications arose during the course of this study in the attempt to “merge” the system of functional classification and Virginia’s Administrative Classification System in the manner specified by Chapter 896.

    Although the goals of the reassignment approach described here were designed practically to minimize impacts on system continuity, primary system allocations and other programmatic impacts, and to provide a rational plan for cross-walking functional to administrative class, achieving those multiple purposes is not practical. Consequently, there appears to be no practical way to provide a plan as called for in Chapter 896 that remains neutral in terms of programmatic and system continuity impacts.


    This plan was presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board at their workshop on November 19, 2008. At their meeting on December 18, 2008, the Board unanimously passed resolution that accepted the report for submission to the Governor and General Assembly but did not recommend that the plan be implemented (Commonwealth Transportation Board, 2008).