Highway Planning

At the heart of the MPO’s duties is the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). This plan projects transportation system and program needs 20 years into the future. Drafting the plan can take up to two years, as massive amounts of traffic, demographic, and employment data must be synthesized, often utilizing special software such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or transportation modeling software. Agencies impacted by transportation–such as environmental protection, social services, or historic preservation–are consulted during the process to ensure the plan compliments the goals of those agencies. The plan is also subjected to input and scrutiny from private citizens, members of advisory commissions, and MPO board members. Finally, the MPO board must approve the plan.

Transportation Improvement Program TIPs are a written three to five year work program of projects in an MPO’s region. The TIP prioritizes projects to be completed based upon the 20-year Long Range Transportation Plan, current conditions, and prevailing funding. Federal and state funds are allocated to the projects that appear in the TIP. Often, no more than a list of projects, it heavily refers to the LRTP for planned projects.The operations and management plan for the MPO is the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP). The UPWP’s purpose is to coordinate the planning activities of all participants in the planning process, including municipalities, counties, and MPOs. It contains the schedule, projected costs, and needed resources to construct planned projects. Usually approved for only one fiscal year, it is the last and most detailed step in the transportation infrastructure planning process.

The Highway Trust Fund–the principal source of transportation funding– faces insolvency. New sources of transportation funding or alternative methods of raising funds must be explored. NARC is committed to helping Congress and the Administration find new sources of revenue or new ways of thinking about funding transportation.  Included in the options being explored are public/private finance, innovative finance and infrastructure banks.

A CBO report about the Highway Trust Fund can be found HERE