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Section 3: Metropolitan Planning Funds Overview

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Planning Requirements

Federal law ( 23 USC §134) and state promulgated rules ( 43 TAC Chapter 15) mandate a comprehensive, continuing, cooperative (3-C) planning process between state and local governments in urbanized areas (cities having a population of 50,000 or more) that results in plans and programs consistent with the comprehensively planned development of the urbanized area. Federal funds are allocated to the states on a formula basis to fund the planning process.

The department is responsible for monitoring and obtaining assurance of MPO compliance with federal and state requirements. State law must be followed when it is more restrictive than the federal requirements.

The department contracts with each MPO to establish terms and conditions under which the MPO will operate. There are currently 25 MPOs in Texas which share an annual budget of approximately $22 million in PL funds and approximately $7 million in Section 5303 funds.

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The department through its district offices was originally responsible for developing and carrying out the planning process when first initiated in the mid 1960’s. Through the district offices, the department developed and staffed a planning process. In the 1973 Federal-Aid Highway Act (PL 93-87), federal regulations were implemented which required the governor of each state to designate an MPO for each urbanized area to assume this responsibility, in cooperation with the department, for the metropolitan planning process. Section 112 of the 1973 Act newly established metropolitan planning funds (PL funds) for the MPOs to use for approved transportation planning activities.

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Federal Funds

The federal government apportions funds to assist, stimulate, and support the transportation planning process. These funds are awarded in grants to the department as the grantee. Subgrants are then awarded by the department to MPOs as subrecipients. MPOs may also award subgrants to other subrecipients, such as a local government, for transportation planning work.

Metropolitan PL funds are a 1.25 percent deduction of five federal construction program allocations: (1.) Interstate Maintenance, (2.) National Highway System, (3.) Surface Transportation Program, (4.) Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation, and (5.) Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) apportions PL funds to the department which are then all made available to the MPOs. MPO distribution is by formula developed cooperatively between the department and MPOs, through the Association of Texas Metropolitan Planning Organizations ( TEMPO), and approved by FHWA. The department uses State Planning and Research Program funds (SPR) for grant administration, not PL funds.

The Federal Transit Administration ( FTA) also provides funding (commonly referred to as FTA Section 5303 funds) to the MPOs for planning activities. See 49 USC §§5303, 5305, and 5308. MPO distribution is by formula developed cooperatively between the department and the MPOs (through TEMPO), and approved by FTA. The department does not use Section 5303 funds for grant administration, but uses SPR funds instead.

FHWA PL funds and FTA Section 5303 funds are combined into the Transportation Planning Fund (TPF) for use by the MPOs.

Regardless of funding source, federal funds that support metropolitan planning may be used to plan for and evaluate any mode of transportation.

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PL Funds Defined

PL funds are those available for MPOs to carry out the metropolitan transportation planning process required by 23 USC §134, including the development of metropolitan area transportation plans and transportation improvement programs. Apportionments of PL funds are addressed in 23 USC §104(f).

PL funds are also discussed in A Guide to Federal-Aid Programs and Projects, within the document, Metropolitan Planning Funds. (Find the document by linking to the guide's main page, then scrolling down the table of contents).

From the guide's document on Metropolitan Planning Funds:

  • Eligible activities include conducting inventories of existing routes to determine their physical condition and capacity, determining the types and volumes of vehicles using these routes, predicting the level and location of future population, employment, and economic growth, and using such information to determine current and future transportation needs.
  • The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century ( TEA-21) did not alter the basic provisions for PL funds. However, with the restructuring of the federal-aid highway program under the TEA-21, the categories of funds that PL funds are derived from has changed. In addition to increasing the PL takedown to 1.25 percent, SAFETEA-LU added a new provision, 23 USC 104(4)(B), that requires states to reimburse an MPO for PL funds expended within 30 days of receipt of a request for reimbursement from the MPO.

The following terms are often used interchangeably to indicate federal highway metropolitan planning funds:

Anchor: #i1000166Interchangeable Terms for PL Funds

PL funds

PL program funds

Metropolitan planning funds

PL-112 funds

PL-112 program funds

FHWA highway planning funds

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