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Section 3: Planning and Programming

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Planning and Programming involves the identification of the project objectives and the development of a statement of work that identifies the project or program priorities and activities to be performed by the project partners. The process will include, at a minimum, the description of the project or program, the responsible organizations performing the work, the time frames for completing the work, the costs of the work and the sources of funding. The following elements are critical to completing the Planning and Programming and moving toward the execution of the Advance Funding Agreement (AFA) described in the next section.

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Local Government and TxDOT Staff

Local Government

The local government (LG) must demonstrate to TxDOT that it has adequate staff to manage all project functions. The LG staff should be experienced in managing similar type projects or programs and have a general knowledge of standard procedures for managing consultants, contractors and other vendors as required by the project.


Each TxDOT district has a planning and programming section that studies and plans for the needs of the district’s highway system. LGs should work with the TxDOT district staff to identify and prioritize funding for projects. After prioritizing local needs in the context of available funding, the district staff updates and coordinates project planning and programing with the TxDOT Transportation Planning and Programming Division (TPP) and the Finance Division (FIN) in Austin.


Within TPP, the Statewide Planning Branch integrates the district plans into TxDOT’s Unified Transportation Program (UTP). The TxDOT Project Selection Process involves a quarterly public meeting, hearing and amendment process for the UTP. The Statewide Planning Branch of TPP also is called upon to provide special reports and analysis for the Texas Transportation Commission, TxDOT administration, TxDOT districts, FHWA, LGs and private parties. The UTP is approved and implemented under a minute order from the Texas Transportation Commission. This minute order specifies the amount of funding that will be provided by TxDOT for many programs, including LG and state projects. An approved minute order and an executed contract in the form of an AFA are necessary before the division can authorize the LG to begin work on each project or program.

The project must be a product of the statewide and metropolitan transportation planning process as described in 23 CFR Part 450. As per those federal regulations, the project must be documented in the appropriate Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) and Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) before any work is initiated.

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Responsible Person in Charge

Prior to beginning work, the LG and TxDOT will each designate a Responsible Person in Charge (RPIC) for the project. Each agency’s RPIC shall be documented in writing within the project files and communicated to the other agency.

The person designated as being in “responsible charge” is required to be a public employee who is accountable for the project. The LG’s RPIC must be a full-time employee of the LG. TxDOT’s RPIC must be a full-time employee of TxDOT who is also a registered professional engineer.

Each RPIC is expected to be able to perform the following duties and functions for their agency:

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  • Inherently administer governmental project activities, including those dealing with cost, time, adherence to contract requirements, construction quality and scope of federal-aid projects;
  • Maintain familiarity of day–to-day project operations, including project safety issues;
  • Make or participate in decisions about changed conditions or scope changes requiring change orders or supplemental agreements;
  • Visit and review the project on a frequency that is commensurate with the magnitude and complexity of the project;
  • Review financial processes, transactions and documentation to ensure safeguards are in place to minimize fraud, waste and abuse;
  • Direct project staff (agency or consultant) to carry out project administration and contract oversight, including proper documentation; and
  • Be aware of the qualifications, assignments and on-the-job performance of the agency (LG or TxDOT) and consultant staff at all stages of the project.

These requirements do not restrict an agency’s organizational authority over the person designated in “responsible charge,” and they do not preclude the sharing of these duties and functions among a number of public agency employees. They also do not preclude one employee from having “responsible charge” of several projects and directing project managers assigned to specific projects. The term “responsible charge” in this section is used in the context intended in 23 CFR 635.105. It may or may not correspond to its usage in state laws regulating licensure of professional engineers. Any change in RPIC during the course of the project shall be documented in writing within the project files and communicated to the other agency.

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Qualified Person

The LG is also required to assign a “qualified person” to the project. This person must work actively and directly on the project and have successfully completed training as described on the Local Government Projects Office Web page and defined in the AFA. The “qualified person” may be an employee of the LG or an employee of a firm under contract with the local government to perform management of at least one phase of the project.

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Initial Project Meeting

The appropriate TxDOT district personnel will contact the LG to schedule a meeting (and an inspection of the proposed project site, when applicable). It is recommended that this “kick-off” meeting be held as soon as possible after the project is selected for funding. Details on the project meeting are contained in the Local Government Project Management Guide (LGPM Guide).

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Coordination with a Metropolitan Planning Organization


In urban areas, the LG for a transportation program or planning project may be a metropolitan planning organization (MPO). In other instances, the MPO may award project funding to another LG (city, county, etc.) within the MPO planning area. The MPO is an association of local agencies established to coordinate transportation planning and development activities within a metropolitan region. The MPO is the forum for cooperative transportation decision-making for the metropolitan region. Establishment of the MPO is required by law in urban areas with a population greater than 50,000. All MPOs have a Policy Board comprised of officials representing the counties, cities and state transportation agency (in Texas, this agency is TxDOT). Most MPOs also have a Technical Advisory Committee consisting of professional planners and engineers who are usually employees or consultants of the same government entities.

Federal Requirements

  1. 23 CFR 450.300 – Sets forth FHWA policy that the MPO designated for each urbanized area is to carry out a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive multimodal transportation planning process that encourages and promotes the safe and efficient development, management and operation of surface transportation systems to serve the mobility needs of people and freight.
    1. A MPO must be designated for each urbanized area with a population greater than 50,000.
    2. 23 CFR 450.316(e) – Requires the MPO to develop a documented process that outlines the roles, responsibilities and key decision points for consulting with other governments and agencies.
    3. 23 CFR 450.322(f) – Requires the transportation plan to include existing and proposed transportation facilities in sufficient detail, regardless of funding source, to develop cost estimates. The plan must include all projects and strategies proposed for funding under 23 U.S.C., 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 or with other federal funds, state assistance, local sources and private participation that relate to projects with regional significance.

State Requirements

  1. 43 TAC, Chapter 16, Subchapter A – Provides for the development and structure of MPOs in Texas. 43 TAC §16.51(d) provides that agreements be developed between TxDOT, the MPO and LGs. The agreement will include roles and responsibilities.

Required Practices

Detailed information regarding the practices associated with MPOs with respect to transportation projects is included in the LGPM Guide. In general, all state and federally funded projects in metropolitan areas will be selected through the metropolitan planning process and must be included in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). All projects on the state or federal-aid highway system, as well as any projects deemed regionally significant, must be included in the approved transportation plan regardless of funding source to maintain the integrity of the planning process.

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Functional Classification


Functional classification is the process by which streets and highways are grouped into classes, or systems, according to the character of service they are intended to provide. The process classifies roadways according to traffic flow from the movement function to the access function.

Federal Requirements

  1. Federal Aid Highway Act of 1973 – Requires the use of functional highway classification to update and modify the federal-aid highway systems.
  2. 23 CFR 470.105(b) – Gives state transportation agencies the primary responsibility for developing and updating a statewide highway functional classification in rural and urban areas to determine functional usage of the existing roads and streets. The functional classification shall be mapped and submitted for approval to the FHWA.

State Requirements

  1. Texas Transportation Code §201.903 – Gives TxDOT the authority to classify, designate and mark state highways in Texas.

Required Practices

The LGPM Guide provides the procedures used to determine functional classification. In general, the district must coordinate with TxDOT’s Transportation Planning and Programming Division (TPP), which has the primary responsibility for implementing functional classification for TxDOT. For all projects with state or federal funds and all projects on the state highway system, the LG must use functional classification maps developed by TxDOT and approved by FHWA.

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Minute Order


A minute order is a formal expression of opinion, direction or intent approved by the Texas Transportation Commission to authorize actions by TxDOT. Minute orders are required for several actions involving project administration by the LG, including, but not limited to, access control, new route designation and donations.

Federal Requirements

  1. There are no federal regulations that require issuance of a minute order.

State Requirements

  1. 43 TAC, Chapter 1, Subchapter M, §1.503 – Acceptance of a gift or donation made to the TxDOT under this subchapter must be approved by the executive director (any gift or donation with a value of $500 or greater must also be acknowledged by order of the commission).
  2. Texas Transportation Code §201.101 – Authorizes broad authority to the commission to develop rules and carry out the responsibilities of TxDOT.
  3. Texas Transportation Code §91.004 – Grants TxDOT broad authority for the location, construction, maintenance and operation of a rail facility or system in Texas.
  4. Texas Transportation Code §201.103 – Grants the commission the authority to designate and remove highway segments on the state highway system.
  5. Texas Transportation Code §203.031 – Grants the commission the authority to designate access control on the state highway system.

Required Practices

Information on the responsibilities and practices required by the LG and the TxDOT district regarding minute orders is available in the LGPM Guide.

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Traffic Data


Traffic data is used in a variety of project development situations, such as selection of design criteria and pavement design. For the purpose of this chapter, “traffic data” is defined as whatever data is required to complete the associated design activity. TxDOT’s Transportation Planning Policy Manual provides information related to traffic data and requires TxDOT to maintain a single source of all traffic data reported to the commission, Legislature, governor and the public.

Federal Requirements

  1. 23 CFR 420.105(b) – Requires state departments of transportation to provide data that support the FHWA’s responsibilities to Congress and the public.
  2. 23 CFR 500.203(b) – Requires traffic monitoring systems to comply with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guidelines for Traffic Data Programs and the FHWA Traffic Monitoring Guide, and to be consistent with the FHWA Highway Performance Monitoring System Field Manual.
  3. 23 CFR Part 625 – Designates standards and policies that are acceptable to FHWA for application in the geometric and structural design of highways.
    1. Projects on the national highway system (NHS) must adequately serve existing and planned future traffic of the highway in a manner that is conducive to safety, durability and economy of maintenance.
    2. Federally funded projects off the NHS are to be designed and constructed in accordance with state laws, regulations, directives, safety standards and design standards.
  4. AASHTO’s A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets is a document accepted by FHWA as satisfactory for use on federally funded projects. In Texas, FHWA accepts TxDOT’s Roadway Design Manual for use on federally funded projects and for compliance with AASHTO policy.

State Requirements

  1. 43 TAC §15.56 – Requires projects to be designed in accordance with TxDOT procedures, standards, and guidelines.

Required Practices

The LGPM Guide provides guidance for the LG and TxDOT in the use of traffic data. In general, for all projects with state or federal funds on the state highway system, the LG must use traffic data furnished by TxDOT. For projects with state or federal funds off the state highway system, the LG may request traffic data from TxDOT or use other data if approved by TxDOT.

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Unified Transportation Program (UTP)


The Unified Transportation Program (UTP) is the 10-year planning document that guides and controls project development for TxDOT in a feasible and economical manner. The UTP is a tool used by TxDOT to implement these statutes. The UTP is part of a comprehensive planning and programming process flowing from TxDOT’s agency mission to project-level implementation. That is, the UTP is an intermediate programming document linking the planning activities of the Texas Transportation Plan (TTP) and the Metropolitan Transportation Plans (along with plans submitted directly to TxDOT’s Transportation Planning and Programming Division as part of the TTP that were previously included in Rural Transportation Plans) with the detailed programming activities under the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and TxDOT’s 24-month (2-year) letting schedule.

Specifically, the UTP is a listing of projects and programs that are planned to be constructed and/or developed within the first 10 years of the TTP 2040 plan document. Project development includes activities such as preliminary engineering work, environmental analysis, right-of-way acquisition and design. Despite its importance to TxDOT as a planning and programming tool, the UTP is neither a budget nor a guarantee that projects will or can be built. However, it is a critical tool in guiding transportation project development within the long-term planning context.

Federal Requirements

  1. 23 CFR Part 450 – Requires states to have a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive planning process as a prerequisite to receiving federal funds. The process is developed by the state transportation agency and is subject to federal review and approval as conforming to federal regulations. However, there are no specific federal regulations requiring development of a UTP.

State Requirements

  1. Texas Transportation Code §91.004 – Grants TxDOT broad authority for the location, construction, maintenance and operation of a rail facility or system in Texas.
  2. Texas Transportation Code §201.103 – Requires TxDOT to plan and make policies for the location, construction and maintenance of a comprehensive system of state highways and public roads.
  3. Texas Transportation Code §203.002 – Allows the Texas Transportation Commission to promote public safety, facilitate the movement of traffic, preserve the public’s financial investment in highways, promote the national defense and accomplish the purposes of Chapter 203 of the Texas Transportation Code. The commission may:
    1. Lay out, construct, maintain and operate a modern state highway system, with emphasis on the construction of controlled access highways; and
    2. Plan for future highways.

Required Practices

In general, all projects with state or federal funds must be in the current version of the UTP for TxDOT to authorize the LG to proceed. The LGPM Guide provides more information regarding the LG and TxDOT district responsibilities related to the UTP.

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State Comprehensive Planning Process


As a condition of receiving federal transportation funds, states are required to have a comprehensive planning process. The Texas Transportation Plan (TTP), Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) are various documents developed during this planning process and are used to assure projects selected for implementation best balance identified needs within available federal resources. TxDOT is the state agency involved in transportation planning, while the two primary federal agencies are FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Federal Requirements

  1. 23 CFR 450.216(g) – Requires the STIP to include projects proposed for funding under 23 U.S.C. and 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53. The statute lists a few exceptions, such as safety projects funded under 23 U.S.C. 402 and most emergency relief projects.
  2. 23 CFR 450.220(a) – Requires that only projects in the FHWA/FTA approved STIP shall be eligible for funds administered by the FHWA or the FTA, and notes a few exceptions.
  3. 23 CFR Part 450 Subpart C – Establishes a national policy requiring designated MPOs to develop a MTP and corresponding TIP.

State Requirements

  1. 43 TAC §16.103 – Requires TxDOT to develop a STIP and requires a project in the STIP to be consistent with the Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan and metropolitan TIPs.
    1. A highway or transit project funded under 23 U.S.C. or the Federal Transit Act ( 49 U.S.C. 5307 et seq.) will be included in a federally approved STIP.
    2. Regionally significant projects to be funded with non-federal funds will be included in the STIP for planning, coordination and public disclosure purposes.

Required Practices

The LGPM Guide provides guidance to the LG and TxDOT district related to the state comprehensive planning process. In general, all federally funded projects must be included in the STIP. TxDOT also requires all regionally significant projects to be in the STIP.

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Major Project Financial Plan and Project Management Plan Requirements


A project with an estimated total cost of $500 million or more that utilizes federal financial assistance, or a project that utilizes TIFIA loan funds (regardless of the project’s estimated total cost) is considered a “Major Project”. An LG developing a Major Project is required to submit to the Secretary of Transportation a project management plan and an annual financial plan, including a phasing plan when applicable.�For projects that utilize federal financial assistance and have an estimated total cost of $100 million or more, but less than $500 million, an LG is required to prepare an annual financial plan that must be made available to the Secretary of Transportation for review upon request by the Secretary.

Federal Requirements

  1. 23 U.S.C. §106(h) - Requires that federally funded Major Projects include a project management plan and an annual financial plan, both of which must be submitted to the Secretary of Transportation.
  2. 23 U.S.C. §106(i) - Requires federally funded projects with an estimated total cost of $100 million or more, but less than $500 million, include an annual financial plan that must be made available to the Secretary of Transportation upon request.

State Requirements

  1. No comparable statute

Required Practices

The LG must follow the requirements regarding federally funded Major Projects and projects in excess of $100 million. The matters that must be included in annual financial plans and project management plans are described in Chapter 2 of the LGPM Guide.

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