Planning Steps

Inventory of Existing Facilities and Services

Performing an inventory of existing infrastructure facilities is the first step in transportation planning. Data items characterizing roadways infrastructure such as roadway geospatial location, layout, number of travel lanes, turning lanes, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, bus-bays, intersections, bridges, culverts, etc., should be part of the inventory. The geospatially enabled data offers not only precise location information but also time series and trending information.

Monitoring both Infrastructure Operating Condition and Performance

Data covering infrastructure inventory and condition (e.g., pavement condition, structure integrity (e.g., bridge rating), operating condition (e.g., traffic volume, speed, travel time reliability, number of crashes, and level of service), and performance characteristics (travel reliability, crash rate, etc.) are collected and processed to understand infrastructure conditions. Such data also offer foundational information to study causation relationships among various factors (e.g., how truck weight affects pavement deterioration, how speed relates to crash, how population growth affects travel demand).

Involving Public

Meaningful public and community involvement is critical for success. Any adopted processes and procedures designed to facilitate planning need to ensure that public input on moving forward receives adequate consideration. Public involvement needs to be a continuous effort throughout the planning process.

Gathering Land Use Data and Working with Local Zoning Officials

Land use refers to how a geographical area is used or will be used for various human activities (Figure 2.7). Types of activities that can be performed in a zone are governed by zoning regulations and laws. Typical land-use categories include singlefamily residential, high-density residential, light commercial, retail and business, office and retail, light manufacturing, heavy manufacturing, and industrial usage. Virtually all zoning regulations and laws are locally enacted (e.g., county and city governments pass local zoning ordinance).

Land use covers both current and planned land usage. While roadways affect land-use decisions, land-use decisions also significantly affect roadway needs. Roadway needs and land-use patterns are highly intertwined.

Gathering Social, Demographic, Economic, and Other Related Data

Data and information related to population, population growth, land use, land-use policy, economic growth, and population outlook are critical for quantitative analysis. The U.S. Census Bureau offers a significant amount of information on such data. To achieve quality data, data quality control procedures and protocols should

A sample land-use map

Figure 2.7 A sample land-use map. (Courtesy of Frederick County, Maryland Zoning GIS at be established. Written procedure and written protocol with periodic updating are ways to ensure data quality.

Analyzing Transportation Demand through Modeling

Transportation infrastructure investment is costly. Before any real field investment is made (e.g., to reconstruct a road from two to four lanes or to construct new bike lanes on both sides of the road), the least costly method to test out a potential project’s effectiveness is through computer modeling and simulation. Through computer modeling, a wide range of project options can be analyzed to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Regional Air Quality Issue Consideration

For any area designated by the EPA as air quality non-attainment for PM (РМ2.5/ PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), and/or ground-level ozone (03), the transportation improvement plan for the area must be evaluated to meet air quality goals established in the area’s State Improvement Plan (SIP).

Air quality impact analysis for a non-attainment area covers both the macrolevel (all transportation projects) during the planning phase and the micro-level (individual project) during the project-level environmental analysis phase.

Regional air quality analysis as related to transportation planning is only needed for NAAQS nonattainment or maintenance areas.

For air quality attainment areas, air quality analysis is only carried out at the project level (micro-level) during the environmental evaluation analysis phase for carbon monoxide.

For air quality non-attainment areas, macro-level analysis is to ensure that total vehicle emissions (e.g., volatile organic compounds, NOx, PMs from all vehicles and all roads) from all transportation operations do not exceed a predetermined amount known as the SIP “emission budget” established for the mobile source.

Cost and Revenue Estimation

Cost estimates for a proposed action or project are typically based on historical data and experience. The availability of historical project and program cost data is vital to a planning agency’s ability to perform cost estimation. One of the critical issues associated with project cost estimates is the need to specify the year the cost is based. For example, a project that costs 1 million 2001 dollars is different from 1 million 2020 dollars. Factors related to inflation and the time value of money must be considered given the cycle of the transportation project is often long.

In addition to cost estimation, both the source and quantity of revenue must be analyzed. The amount and sources of revenue for each of the four years covered in the TIP must be identified (e.g., for the year 2024, federal-aid fund: $350 million; State fund: $450 million; local fund: $125 million ...).

Funding sources may range from local, state, and Federal government to other sources. Again, historical data on revenue is essential to the estimation. For each government entity, funding can come from fuel tax, vehicle tax, toll, sales tax, general revenue, and others.

Cost and revenue analysis is directly tied to the fiscal constraint requirement for a TIP per Federal regulation. Federal transportation planning regulation requires that the total cost of projects contained in a TIP must be constrained to available revenue. In addition to meeting the Federal law need, balancing expenditure and revenue is a standard business operation.

Assigning Appropriate Fund to a Project

During this step of the analysis, a proposed project is assigned with appropriate funding types. Given the wide range of revenue sources, certain revenue may have limitations or prohibitions on the types of projects or programs the fund can be used. The process of assigning funding is to optimize the overall fund usage.

LRTP and TIP Adoption

Throughout the steps outlined so far, a preliminary LRTP and a draft TIP are produced for presentation to the MPO policy board for further discussion, comment, modification, and approval or rejection.

The final LRTP and TIP adoption is decided through voting by Board members. Given that board members are elected political leaders, it is inevitable that the process is a political one. This is also why the final TIP and LRTP are often characterized as political products.

During an MPO Boards adoption processes, alternative solutions and projects may be proposed by board members. MPO staff analyze such alternative solutions and projects and report back to the Board for further discussion and adoption.

Planning Regulation

State DOTs and MPOs follow Federal transportation planning laws and regulations promulgated in 23 USC 134 and 135-

Fiscally Constrained TIP

A TIP must be fiscally constrained meaning projects identified in a TIP must have identifiable funding sources - revenue to cover their cost.

Conformity Determination

Applicable to air quality non-attainment areas only. A TIP must pass transportation conformity determination — meaning total vehicle emissions from all transportation projects (activities) within a non-attainment area cannot exceed a preestablished limit known as mobile source budget.

Critical components of the Federal transportation planning legislation are as follows:

■ Establishing and operating an MPO

■ Conducting meaningful public involvement

■ Cooperating with all agencies including private transportation operators in developing transportation plans

■ Ensuring that transportation improvement plans meet transportation conformity needs, and

■ Ensuring all projects contained in a transportation improvement plan are fiscally constrained, meaning the revenue or forecasted revenue must be enough to cover the projected cost.

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