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Section 4: Study Requirements Determination

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Overview

This section includes information on determining the project’s scope and addressing regional, state and federal requirements. Federal and State requirements, along with Texas Transportation Commission policies, affect project development.

This section includes the following tasks that may be performed concurrently.

1400. Review scope, cost, and staff requirements of project development

1410. Determine need for feasibility (route/corridor) study

1420. Determine if Statewide Implementation Plan requirements apply

1430. Obtain traffic data

1440. Determine need for Major Investment Study

1450. Identify multimodal alternatives and intermodal connections

1460. Determine conformity with Congestion Management Process requirements

1480. Evaluate inclusion of High Occupancy Vehicle/High Occupancy Toll lanes

1490. Evaluate inclusion of tollways

1500. Evaluate railroad corridor preservation

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1400: Review scope, cost, and staff requirements of project development

Description. The scope of the project should be reviewed to determine specific work tasks that will be needed. Refer to the scope discussion contained in Task 1200: Prepare Cost Estimate.

The Advance Planning Risk Analysis (APRA) tool developed under TxDOT research project 0-5478 offers a method to measure project scope definition for completeness and identify potential risks early in the project. With this tool, users identify the critical elements of the project scope across all disciplines. A high level assessment of the project is recommended at this stage of project development. The APRA tool and the User Guide is available here.

A project work schedule should be developed manually or with the aid of various software programs to identify the critical path. The schedule describes work tasks, estimated task durations, and responsible parties. The schedule helps approximate the project completion date and determine time requirements of staff. It may be revised as necessary.

Staff requirements should be assessed several months before beginning each of the following work phases:

  • preliminary engineering
  • environmental studies and documentation
  • right of way acquisition
  • PS&E preparation.

Consultant services (see the DES615 Consultant Management and Administration Class Manual for more information) may be used when TxDOT does not have the necessary resources. Consultant selection should be done according to the Consultant Selection Process adopted by the Texas Transportation Commission.

Pertinent Project Types. All projects except preventive maintenance.

Responsible Party. Project manager

Sub-tasks.

  • When using in-house staff, select the project development team. This requires careful coordination of work assignments with various supervisors for multi-disciplined projects.
  • When using consultant services, select a TxDOT project manager to manage the consultant contract.
  • When using consultant services for right of way (ROW) acquisition:
    • Prepare a work authorization to a statewide ROW acquisition provider contract. Contact the Right of Way division for more information.
    • The district right of way administrator manages the consultant contract.

Critical Sequencing. The need to out source work should be identified early because the consultant selection process can take several months.

Resource Material.

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1410: Determine need for feasibility (route/corridor) study

Description. A feasibility study addresses possible alternatives when the solution is unknown. The study may show that the project is not economically justifiable - or that it has so many environmental impacts that it is not viable. Early determination of such a finding will avoid unnecessary expenditure of funds on preliminary engineering and related costs. A feasibility study may include studying potential transportation corridors and/or routes within a corridor.

Districts should submit written requests for feasibility study authorization [FEAS] to the director of the Transportation Planning and Programming Division.

Pertinent Project Types. A feasibility study may be done at the district's discretion. A district may want to perform a feasibility study in the following situations:

  • the project is outside the MPO’s jurisdiction
  • the project may involve a major investment of funds
  • the solution is unknown
  • there are major environmental concerns
  • consensus of general public and property owners along the route has not been developed, or
  • as directed by the Texas Transportation Commission.

Responsible Party. Project manager

Sub-tasks.

  • Consult with the district environmental coordinator.
  • Determine if the project is in a “rural” or “urban” area.
  • The usual steps of performing a feasibility study are summarized as follows:
    • Determine broad route requirements (e.g., type of highway or transportation mode needed, control points).
    • Select corridors and identify major alternatives.
    • Examine planning reports and conduct preliminary surveys to gather information on population densities and trends in land use development, travel patterns, travel trends, economic, social and environmental conditions that should be considered in selecting alternate corridor/route locations.
    • Prepare a preliminary plan drawing/map.
    • If needed, generate profile layouts for each alternative route so that cost estimates can be made and construction feasibility can be tested.
    • Conduct public involvement for study, as required.

Helpful Suggestions.

  • When preparing a feasibility study, cover the following areas:
    • The purpose of, and need for, a project
    • Conformance with the Texas Transportation Plan (see 1300: Evaluate compliance with planning documents)
    • Description of the limits of the study area. If corridors are being considered as part of the study, the corridor should be large enough to accommodate route alternatives, design alternatives, detours, utility relocations, and possible construction staging areas. (e.g., equipment site, borrow/waste areas).
    • Social (e.g., a demographic profile), economic, and environmental features. Existing land use and environmental features have impacts on a feasibility study and may include: historical buildings, trees, endangered species, noise, wetlands, lakes, buried fuel tanks, and hazardous waste sites.
    • Level of community support
    • Cost effectiveness
    • Safety issues
    • Level of service analysis (see 2310: Perform preliminary Level of service analysis)
    • Comparison of different routes, or corridors, and/or design alternatives. The “no-build” alternative must always be considered.
    • Existing transportation systems in the study area should be analyzed and described.
    • Recommendations.

Critical Sequencing. This task should be done after identifying the need for a transportation improvement and before spending funds on preliminary design.

Resource Material.

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1420: Determine if Statewide Implementation Plan requirements apply

Description. Statewide Implementation Plan (SIP) requirements apply to the state's non-attainment areas listed in the Environmental Manual, Chapter 2, Section 5.

The Clean Air Act Amendments require each state having an urban area in non-attainment for air quality to develop a SIP that outlines a series of steps over time to improve air quality. These include mobile source plans affecting transportation planning and programming. In Texas, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) is responsible for air quality planning and has an interface with TxDOT on all transportation planning and programming in areas that are in non-attainment for pollutants. These pollutants include particulates, carbon monoxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds (VOC), and nitrous oxides (NOx).

In non-attainment areas, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) must have a Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) in conformance with the SIP. Proposed projects must be in a conforming MTP to be eligible for funding. The project manager should verify that the proposed project is included in the current, conforming TIP.

Pertinent Project Types. Added capacity projects in MPO non-attainment areas.

Responsible Party. Project manager

Helpful Suggestions.

  • Contact the District Transportation Planning and Development section to determine the MPO's compliance for MTP, TIP, and federal certification.
  • Consult the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) to determine whether it includes the project. If it is not in the STIP, work early with the MPO to amend the local TIP and allow time for the re-determination of air quality conformity.
  • The Transportation Systems Planning Section of the Transportation Planning and Programming Division is available for assistance.
  • If the project is not in the STIP, the process to amend the STIP and determine air quality conformity is time-consuming.

Authority Requirements. 30 TAC §114.260

Resource Material.

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1430: Obtain traffic data

Description. The design of a new transportation facility is based on future traffic projections. Planning level traffic data (based on either historical trend analysis or a travel demand model) is used to quantify estimated facility demand and level of service. Design traffic, which is a refinement of planning level traffic data, provides:

Traffic data is collected annually and published in an annual report in various forms such as maps, reports and electronic files. Electronic files are available from ROSCOE which contain a Roadway Information System (RIS) (See the Transportation Planning Manual). To obtain this data, one needs the control-section number and beginning and ending mile points.

Data gathered locally, or at district level, for use in project development must be reviewed by the Traffic Analysis Section of the Transportation Planning and Programming (TPP) Division.

The following information is available from TPP:

  • Annual District Traffic maps (see the Transportation Planning Manual) show Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) on the state highway system. The AADT data is adjusted for trucks and seasonal variation.
  • Annual Automatic Traffic Recorders (ATR) Report (see the Transportation Planning Manual) contains traffic volume data 24-hours per day and 365 days per year.
  • Annual Vehicle Classification Report (see the Transportation Planning Manual) gives percentages of trucks and other vehicles using a roadway.
  • Maps showing county road/urban saturation counts (see the Transportation Planning Manual).
  • Individual traffic forecasts and existing traffic counts requested by districts.

Pertinent Project Types. All projects except preventive maintenance.

Responsible Party. Project manager

Sub-tasks.

  • Acquire, assemble, and review available traffic data.
  • In urban areas, review travel demand model assignments.
  • Identify new connecting roads or special traffic generators such as major shopping centers or new residential subdivisions.
  • Determine if traffic data exists at the city, county, Metropolitan Planning Organization, and district level, such as traffic counts for signal warrants. Request TPP review and approval of this data if it will be used in project development.
  • Request traffic data from TPP (see the Transportation Planning Manual).

Helpful Suggestions.

  • Contact the District Transportation Planning and Development section for assistance with obtaining traffic data.
  • Contact the TPP Traffic Analysis Section for additional assistance.
  • Electronic copies of saturation count and district maps are available through the Director of Transportation Planning and Development.

Critical Sequencing. Traffic data will be needed before beginning preliminary design.

Resource Material.

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1440: Determine need for Major Investment Study

Description. When a district desires to develop a project in a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) area, a collaborative meeting among stakeholders should be held to determine whether a Major Investment Study (MIS) will be performed. The MIS considers all modes of travel and alternate routes, refines the long range plan, and determines a recommended design concept and scope.

The MIS process includes significant public input in the following activities:

  • defining purpose and need
  • commenting on the long and short list of alternatives
  • and, selecting the preferred project scope and definition.

The selected project scope and definition must be incorporated in the area's financially constrained Transportation Improvement Program (see 1640: Place project in Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)) and must meet conformity requirements (see 1420: Determine if Statewide Implementation Plan requirements apply) in non-attainment areas.

An MIS must always be listed in the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) and Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).

Pertinent Project Types. Added capacity projects determined with the MPO, TxDOT and others as needing a MIS.

Responsible Party. Director of Transportation Planning and Development

Helpful Suggestions.

  • A collaborative meeting of stakeholders should be held to determine which entity will take the lead in performing an MIS.
  • The MIS process does not delineate the range of alternatives. The process simply requires that all stakeholders meet and reach an agreement on the nature of these alternatives.
  • For information on conducting an MIS, refer to the Transportation Planning Manual, Chapter 5, Section 9, Major Investment Studies.

Critical Sequencing. The MIS is conducted before preparing a schematic.

Authority Requirements. 23 CFR §450.318

Resource Material.

  • TxDOT Transportation Planning Manual, Chapter 5, Section 9, Major Investment Studies
  • Metropolitan Transportation Plan and its components (available from the MPO in urban areas)
  • MPO Public Involvement Plan
  • City plans: comprehensive plan; land use; street, transit, pedestrian and bicycle or transportation plan
  • The Texas MIS Process Guidelines; January 1997; Prepared for TxDOT by TTI-Texas A&M
  • FHWA Involving Citizens in Metropolitan Region Transportation Planning; 1977
  • FHWA Innovations in Public Involvement for Transportation Planning; January 1994
  • USDOT MIS Desk Reference; August 1996
  • AASHTO and USDOT Guidance on Major Investment Studies; August 19, 1994.
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1450: Identify multimodal alternatives and intermodal connections

Description. When a district begins to address a mobility need, it has a range of multimodal alternatives (highway, street, transit, bicycle and pedestrian) it can use. For more information on multimodal planning refer to the Transportation Multimodal Systems Manual. Consider provisions for pedestrians and bicyclists on all projects.

Pertinent Project Types. New location, reconstruction and rehabilitation projects.

Responsible Party. Project manager

Sub-tasks.

  • Review Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).
  • Review any municipal plans, including existing neighborhood plans affected in study area, and document any reviews made.
  • Review special purpose studies (e.g., studies on making an area into an intermodal hub or expanding a port).
  • Assess the need to accommodate multiple modes (see the Transportation Multimodal Systems Manual) in developing alternatives by coordinating with district experts on those topics. These modes may include transit, pedestrian, bike, high occupancy vehicles, single occupant vehicles, port, railroad, aviation and freight.
  • Consider providing sidewalks as part of the project. Refer to the Roadway Design Manual, Chapter 2, Section 6, “Sidewalks and Pedestrian Elements” for important factors to consider.
  • Evaluate transit corridors for needed pedestrian and accessibility improvements.
  • Implement public involvement, as needed.
  • Develop evaluation framework for comparing modes.
  • Analyze and compare alternatives.
  • Identify preferred alternative.
  • Amend the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO’s) MTP and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), if warranted.
  • If the area is non-attainment for air quality, the MPO and TxDOT will submit the project to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to determine compliance with the Statewide Implementation Plan (see 1420: Determine if Statewide Implementation Plan requirements apply) and, therefore, determine whether the area has a conforming plan and TIP.
  • Helpful Suggestions. The following table depicts contacts for multimodal issues:
    Anchor: #i1005771Meeting Multimodal Needs

    Subject

    For more information, contact:

    bicyclist facilities

    District bicycle coordinator

    pedestrian facilities

    district pedestrian coordinator

    air/surface mobility issues

    Aviation Division

    waterway, rail, and seaport issues

    Multimodal Section of TPP



Resource Material.

  • Metropolitan Transportation Plan and its components (available from the MPO in urban areas)
  • City plans: comprehensive plan; land use; street, transit, pedestrian and bicycle, aviation, port, rail, freight or transportation plan
  • AASHTO Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities
  • AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities
  • TxDOT State Aviation Plan
  • TxDOT State Transportation Plan.
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1460: Determine conformity with Congestion Management Process requirements

Description. The requirements for a Congestion Management System (CMS) were replaced with a Congestion Management Process (CMP) by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) in 2005. The CMP is a systematic process which provides information on multimodal transportation system performance and alternative strategies for alleviating congestion and enhancing mobility that can be reflected in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). A CMP includes methods to monitor and evaluate performance of the multimodal transportation system, identify and evaluate alternative actions, identify causes of congestion, assess and implement cost-effective actions, evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of implemented actions, provide for data collection and system performance monitoring, and identify an implementation schedule, responsibilities and funding options.

Added capacity projects (except safety improvements or elimination of bottlenecks) in non-attainment areas may not be programmed for funding unless the project is addressed through a CMP.

Alternative strategies may include Transportation Control Measures (TCMs) which include Transportation System Management (TSM) or roadway system operational improvements and Transportation Demand Management (TDM).

The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s) that are in non-attainment areas to include TCMs in the State Implementation Plan (SIP). The following is a list of examples of TCMs, subgrouped under TSM and TDM strategies:

TSM

  • traffic signal improvement, signal synchronization
  • intersection improvements
  • pavement markings
  • freeway bottleneck removal
  • intelligent vehicle/highway system elements
  • high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes
  • high occupancy/toll (HOT) lanes
  • access management
  • bicycle and walking facilities
  • incident detection/response
    • surveillance and response
    • motorist assistance program.

TDM

  • employer trip reduction program (commute solutions such as carpools and vanpools, flexible work hours, compressed work weeks and telecommuting)
  • carpool/vanpool program
  • public transit system improvements (such as park and ride facilities)
  • congestion pricing
  • growth management.

For more information on congestion management, refer to the Transportation Planning Manual

Pertinent Project Types. Projects in Transportation Management Areas (TMAs) that meet criteria in the published MPO Congestion Management Process Plan. Examples include added capacity projects, traffic signalization, arterial bottleneck elimination, and ITS projects.

Responsible Party. Director of Transportation Planning and Development

Sub-tasks.

  • Review MPO’s Congestion Management Process Plan.
  • Review Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).
  • Review the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
  • Review TCMs in SIP.
  • Verify that the MPO has received its federal certification for the Metropolitan Planning Process.
  • Evaluate congestion management/pricing. (See the Transportation Planning Manual.)

Helpful Suggestions.

  • In TMAs, especially those in non-attainment areas, coordinate with the district planning staff and MPO.
  • Locally, consult the MTP and TIP to determine whether the project is on both. If it is not, work early with the MPO to amend the MTP and TIP, and allow time for the determination of air quality conformity - if required.

Critical Sequencing. In TMAs, the MPO coordination and CMP considerations may become critical because developing typical highway projects becomes subject to numerous conditions - air quality conformity, transportation demand and operational management strategies. All these affect project development and design.

Authority Requirements.

Resource Material.

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1480: Evaluate inclusion of High Occupancy Vehicle/High Occupancy Toll lanes

Description. Dedicated lanes such as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) and High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes should be evaluated for their ability to reduce congestion and encourage carpooling. For information on determining whether HOV/HOT lanes are desirable, refer to the TxDOT Transportation Planning Manual.

Pertinent Project Types. HOV/HOT facilities are appropriate only in urban freeway corridors where significant traffic congestion is observed, or forecast, and where the feasibility of meeting demand by adding lanes is limited.

Responsible Party. District planner

Helpful Suggestions.

  • Planning HOV and HOT facilities is best performed as a two-step process:
    • determine if general warrants for HOV and HOT exist, typically by affirming whether the levels of congestion and demand exist to support the need for any dedicated lane treatment.
    • identify and evaluate various physical and operational concepts that address this need; identify specific benefits, impacts and costs.
  • Determining feasibility usually includes collaborative involvement from agencies and stakeholders such as Metropolitan Planning Organizations, transit service providers, city and county traffic departments, FHWA, FTA, and representatives from law enforcement agencies.
  • Establishing operational policy is typically performed at the corridor level and may not be consistent between corridors in a region. All affected agency stakeholders should provide input in setting this policy.
  • An operator/administrator may be solicited from outside TxDOT to manage the HOV or HOT lane. This agency may be the transit service provider, city, county, or tollway authority in the region. Terms for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be needed for this arrangement, and early identification of such an arrangement is desirable.
  • Successful HOV projects have involved a public involvement and marketing effort, in parallel with planning and design activities, to gain and maintain project support. Once built, a new HOV facility may take more than a year to reach its potential for use.
  • Assistance with HOV/HOT lane studies is available from the Transportation Management Section of the Traffic Operations Division.

Resource Material.

  • TxDOT Traffic Data and Analysis Manual
  • TxDOT Roadway Design Manual, Chapter 3, Section 7, Freeways with High Occupancy Vehicle Treatments
  • Guide for the Design of High Occupancy Vehicle Facilities; 1992; by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
  • HOV Systems Manual; 1998; National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Transportation Research Board
  • Implementation Elements for Conversion of a General Purpose Freeway Lane into a High Occupancy (HOV) Lane; 1997; Paper No. 970819; Texas Transportation Institute.
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1490: Evaluate inclusion of tollways

Description. The design, construction, and operation of a major transportation facility require a significant commitment of federal, state and public funding. In some instances, private funding is also required. Because of limited available funding to develop non-toll facilities, major improvements can sometimes be completed faster by developing them as toll facilities.

Planning of major projects should investigate the tollway alternative. Current federal legislation also encourages the consideration of tollways in conjunction with high occupancy vehicle (HOV) facilities as a means of managing congestion in periods of peak demand ( congestion pricing).

Pertinent Project Types. New construction and reconstruction projects having high traffic volumes.

Responsible Party. District planner

Helpful Suggestions. The Turnpike Authority Division (TTA), Regional Tollway Authorities (RTA), and Metropolitan Planning Organization may be contacted to assist in determining the viability of tolled options.

Critical Sequencing. The decision whether to include tolled facilities in the project should be made before beginning preliminary design.

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1500: Evaluate railroad corridor preservation

Description. Railroad corridors constitute a source of right of way for future improvements to the highway system. The corridor must first be identified as abandoned or under consideration of abandonment as verified by the Multimodal Section of the Transportation Planning and Programming (TPP) Division. If a transportation project can be foreseen within all or a portion of the railroad property, the affected districts should prepare a railroad corridor evaluation report recommending for or against corridor acquisition.

Pertinent Project Types. Projects with potential to utilize railroad corridors.

Responsible Party. Director of Transportation Planning and Development.

Sub-tasks.

  • Inquire about corridor status.
  • If rail line is in a metropolitan area, coordinate with the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
  • Coordinate with any type of rail district that has jurisdiction in the area.
  • Prepare railroad corridor evaluation report. (Consult TPP for further information)
  • Obtain minute order through TPP.

Helpful Suggestions.

  • Authorization of a minute order is conditional pending a satisfactory survey, appraisal, and environmental investigation.
  • A title insurance policy should be obtained for corridor acquisition.

Authority Requirements. Corridor Preservation Task Force Report; 04/02/97; by TxDOT

Resource Material.

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