Chapter 1: Planning and Programming

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Section 1: Needs Identification

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This section discusses the tasks of identifying and documenting the need for a project. The need for a project may be identified in many ways, including suggestions from maintenance supervisors, area engineers, district staff, local elected officials, developers, and the traveling public. Once a project is suggested, research should be conducted to prioritize the need for one project relative to others competing for limited funds.

This section includes the following tasks listed in chronological order.

1000. Identify project need and scope

1010. Perform site visit

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1000: Identify project need and scope

Description. Many factors are considered in determining project need including accident frequency and severity, pavement condition, bridge condition, and conformance with current geometric standards. The need for a project may be identified in the following ways:

  • Projects may be suggested by maintenance supervisors, area office staff, district staff, local officials, developers, or the traveling public.
  • For urban projects, particularly capacity improvements, the need for a project may be determined from traffic modeling of future travel demands. This data may be requested from the Transportation Planning and Programming (TPP) Division through the Director of Transportation Planning and Development or, in some cases, from local governmental entities. The project should be evaluated for compliance with planning documents. (See 1300: Evaluate compliance with planning documents).

    For some specific urban projects, the development process may also arise from a need for a sustainable street and transit network associated with the potential project in the context of desired land uses and urban design established in regional plans, comprehensive plans, neighborhood plans, other local plans, special district plans, relevant public-private partnerships or economic development plans. While not indicated directly in the project development process flow chart, these plans may indicate that the Needs Identification step should be revisited.

  • The need for rural added capacity projects may be identified through a trend analysis and forecasted growth data obtained from TPP through the Director of Transportation Planning and Development.
  • Area Engineers generally determine rehabilitation needs for their areas in consultation with maintenance supervisors and local officials.
  • Off-system projects are generally identified through statewide ranking formulas and through consultation with local officials.
  • Public meetings may generate comments on area-wide transportation needs.
  • A review of traffic accident (or crash) information may alert the department to needed improvements.
  • Needs may be identified through the Pavement Management Information System or the Wet Weather Accident Reduction Program.
  • Studies from adjacent projects (see 1310: Identify and review related studies) may indicate needs in other areas.

Pertinent Project Types. All projects.

Responsible Party. District staff


  • Gather information on pavement conditions from the district Pavement Engineer.
  • For bridges, coordinate with bridge planning engineers in the Project Development Section of the Bridge Division.
  • Review Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) meeting minutes.
  • Identify community concerns and critical issues. In urban areas, this includes coordinating with the MPO. In some areas, coordination with Municipal Urban Planning Organizations, Neighborhood Land Use Planning Groups, etc. may be appropriate.
  • In urban areas, evaluate compatibility of the project with the MTP.
  • Consider the need for multimodal alternatives and intermodal connections (see 1450: Identify multimodal alternatives and intermodal connections) and coordinate with other disciplines (e.g. planner, landscape architect).
  • Consider the impacts of freight transportation and freight movement patterns.
  • Review existing geometrics and compare to current rehabilitation and reconstruction design criteria.
  • Consider the need for control of access.
  • Evaluate conversion of two-way frontage roads to one-way operation. Refer to the Roadway Design Manual Chapter 3, Section 6, “ Conversion of Frontage Roads from Two-way to One-way Operation”.
  • Review traffic accident information to identify locations having a high incidence of traffic accidents (relative statewide incidence) for potential projects. Refer to the Highway Safety Improvement Program Manual, Obtaining Crash Data for information on how to obtain and analyze traffic accident information. Assistance in obtaining or reviewing traffic accident information is available from the Traffic Operations Division (TRF).
  • Include curb ramp construction on any project that includes the construction of new curb.
  • 1300: Evaluate compliance with planning documents.
  • Prepare a draft purpose and need statement, (see 3240: Prepare “Purpose and Need” statement) it likely will be required, later on, as part of an environmental document.

Critical Sequencing. Needs identification should be done as the first step in the project development process.

Resource Material.

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1010: Perform site visit

Description. Site visits should be performed to properly assess project needs and, later, to adequately design a project. Although maps or aerial photography may exist and may give an overview of a project area, a site visit is essential to obtain a complete understanding of the project area. The purpose of the visit should be to identify needed improvements and physical/environmental constraints.

Pertinent Project Types. All projects.

Responsible Party. Project manager


  • Gather pertinent plans, maps, and reference material to use as guides in locating existing features.
  • Gather information on governmental jurisdiction boundaries such as cities, counties, utility districts, and water reservoir areas.
  • Visit project site with others having relevant knowledge - such as the drainage engineer, structural engineer, traffic engineer, biologist/botanist and other environmental staff.
  • Take notes, photographs, and/or videotape of the project area and key project issues. Make notes on the presence of any utilities, development adjacent to the right of way, overall terrain, etc.

Helpful Suggestions. The following suggestions are offered to make the visit to the site more productive:

  • Input from an environmental specialist, while at the site, can be useful in determining environmental constraints. For more information on obtaining environmental data, refer to the TxDOT Environmental Manual, Chapter 2, Preliminary Survey.
  • For visiting remote, off-road sites, consider using portable Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to determine locations.
  • Use a measuring wheel or tape to check as-built dimensions.
  • If videotaping the area, include appropriate verbal comments describing areas being videotaped such as road signs or other small, delineating features that may be difficult to see on a video image. Be sure to drive and tape the project in both directions. Consider calling out odometer readings to establish relative locations on a large project. Review part of the tape as a check before leaving the site.
  • Photos of stream areas can be especially useful, later, in determining roughness coefficients used in hydraulic calculations and in determining high water marks.
  • In collecting data for preliminary design, look for the following features:
  • Potential project constraints (e.g., major utilities, wetlands, parks, historic structures, potential hazardous materials, floodplains, cemeteries, cultural facilities.)
  • utility markers
  • flood-prone areas
  • clear zone or right of way encroachments
  • significant trees to preserve
  • possibly contaminated areas
  • intersection geometry.

Critical Sequencing. A right of entry (see 2150: Obtain right of entry) or other written evidence of permission must always be obtained before entering private property.

Resource Material. TxDOT Hydraulic Design Manual.

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