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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.

10400. Review scope, cost, and staff requirements of project development

10410. Determine need for feasibility (route/corridor) study

10420. Determine if Statewide Implementation Plan requirements apply

10430. Obtain traffic data

10440. Identify multimodal and intermodal connections

10450. Determine conformity with Congestion Management Process requirements

10460. Evaluate inclusion of High Occupancy Vehicle/High Occupancy Toll lanes

10470. Evaluate inclusion of tollways

10480. Evaluate railroad corridor preservation

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10400: 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 10200: 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.

Potential project risks should be monitored to minimize the risk early and reduce the impact. Risks can drive up costs and have the potential to result in lawsuits. Cost overruns, claims, and delays are usually attributed to five difficult to control issues:

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  1. Inability to get required permits on time.
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  3. Political or acceptance issues including agreements with other political sub-divisions.
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  5. Inability to get right of way.
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  7. Inability to get utilities relocated on time.
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  9. Unforeseen site conditions.

A Major Project, by UTP definition, may also involve FHWA according to the Oversight Agreement. FHWA will have cradle-to-grave involvement with Major Projects having federal funding and total cost greater than $500 Million or TIFIA loan projects. Involvement is due to the inherent high risk of these projects. FHWA NEPA oversight is excluded, since the NEPA responsibility has been assumed by the department. Department projects considered a Major Project are automatically an FHWA Project of Division Interest (PODI).

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

Professional Engineering Procurement Services Division (PEPS) should be contacted for contracting information 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

Subtasks.

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  • When using in-house staff, select the project development team. This requires careful coordination of work assignments with various supervisors for multi-disciplined projects.
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  • When using consultant services, select a TxDOT project manager to manage the consultant contract.

When using consultant services for right of way (ROW) acquisition:

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  • Prepare a work authorization to a statewide ROW acquisition provider contract. Contact the Right of Way division for more information.
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  • The district right of way administrator manages the consultant contract.

Critical Sequencing.

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  • The need to outsource work should be identified early because the consultant selection process can take several months.

Resource Material.

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10410: 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 or routes within a corridor.

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:

Responsible Party. District Director of Transportation Planning and Development

Subtasks.

The usual steps of performing a feasibility study are summarized as follows:

Helpful Suggestions. When preparing a feasibility study, cover the following areas:

Critical Sequencing.

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  • 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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10420: Determine if State Implementation Plan requirements apply

Description. Texas’ State Implementation Plan (SIP) is an enforceable plan, which requires the department to produce and regularly update a SIP. The Federal Clean Air Act (FCAA) revisions have been prepared for specific areas in the state (e.g., Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston Galveston, etc.).

The FCAA requires each state to develop an SIP that outlines a series of steps, over time, to improve air quality. These include mobile source plans affecting transportation planning and programming. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is responsible for air quality planning and has an interface with TxDOT on all transportation planning and programming in areas that are in nonattainment or maintenance areas for “criteria pollutants”. These pollutants include particulates, carbon monoxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds (VOC), and nitrous oxides (NOx).

In nonattainment or maintenance 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. See Task 10300.

Pertinent Project Types. Added capacity projects in MPO nonattainment or maintenance areas.

Responsible Party. Project manager

Helpful Suggestions.

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  • Contact the district planning office to determine the MPO compliance for MTP, TIP, and federal conformity.
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  • Consult the State Implementation Plan (SIP) to determine whether it includes the project. If required, work early with the MPO to amend the local TIP and allow time for the redetermination of air quality conformity.
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  • If the project is not in the SIP, the process to amend the SIP and determine air quality conformity is time consuming.
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  • Traffic Analysis Section of the Transportation Planning and Programming Division is available for assistance.

Authority.

Resource Material.

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10430: 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 and published in various forms such as maps, reports, and electronic files by the Traffic Analysis Section of the Transportation Planning and Programming (TPP) Division. The online interactive TPP Statewide Planning Map is updated regularly and can be used for informational purposes; however, consult TPP Traffic Analysis Section for latest data or reports.

Data gathered locally, or at district level, for use in project development must be reviewed by the TPP Traffic Analysis Section.

The following information is available from TPP Traffic Analysis:

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  • Annual statewide system traffic counts,
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  • Urban area saturation counts on a five-year cycle for urban areas,
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  • Air quality and noise analyses,
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  • Transportation Analysis and Forecasting can provide 18 kip loadings, peak hour factors, K factors, air and noise analyses, and travel demand models for urban areas.

Pertinent Project Types. All projects except preventive maintenance.

Responsible Party. Project manager

Subtasks.

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

Helpful Suggestions.

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  • Contact the district planning office for assistance with obtaining traffic data.
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  • Contact the TPP Traffic Analysis Section for additional assistance.
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  • Electronic copies of saturation count and district maps are available through TPP.

Critical Sequencing.

Resource Material.

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10440: Identify multimodal and intermodal connections

Description. To address mobility needs, there are a range of multimodal considerations (i.e., highway, street, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian) or intermodal freight transport (i.e., air, rail, and port to surface freight transport). Consider provisions for pedestrians and bicyclists on all projects.

Pertinent Project Types. New location, reconstruction and rehabilitation projects

Responsible Party. Project manager

Subtasks.

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  • Review Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).
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  • Review any municipal plans, including existing neighborhood plans affected in study area, and document any reviews made.
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  • Review special purpose studies (e.g., studies on making an area into an intermodal hub or expanding a port).
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  • Assess the need to accommodate multiple modes 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.
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  • In urban areas provide accessible routes for pedestrians and bicycle facilities.
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  • Provide bicycle connectivity for suburban and rural mobility.
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  • Evaluate transit corridors for needed pedestrian and accessibility improvements.
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  • Implement public involvement.
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  • Develop evaluation framework for comparing modes.
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  • Analyze and compare alternatives.
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  • Identify preferred alternative.
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  • Amend the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) MTP and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), if warranted.
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  • If the area is nonattainment for air quality, the MPO and TxDOT will submit the project to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to determine compliance with the Statewide Implementation Plan. See 10420: Determine if State Implementation Plan requirements apply.
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  • Determine whether the area has a conforming plan and TIP.

Helpful Suggestions. The following table depicts contacts for multimodal and intermodal issues:

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Subject

Contact

Bicycle facilities

District bicycle coordinator

Pedestrian facilities

District pedestrian coordinator

Transit facilities

Public Transportation Division

Air/surface mobility

Aviation Division

Rail

Rail Division

Port and waterway

Maritime Division



Resource Material.

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10450: Determine conformity with Congestion Management Process requirements

Description. The congestion management process (CMP) provides information on multimodal transportation system performance and alternative strategies for easing congestion and enhancing mobility. For Transportation Management Areas (TMA) with census population greater than 200,000, the CMP is required in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) . The CMP is beneficial for smaller MPOs.

A CMP is a living document that 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 nonattainment areas may not be programmed for funding, unless the project is addressed through a CMP.

Developed strategies include Transportation Control Measures (TCM), which include Transportation System Management (TSM), roadway system operational improvements, and Transportation Demand Management (TDM). TCMs are maintained, on a rolling basis, for at least five years.

The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and MPOs that are in nonattainment areas to include TCMs in the State Implementation Plan (SIP).

TCM

TSM

TDM

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  • Ride Share (real time service arranged between drivers and passengers)
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  • Car Share (short-term vehicle access without ownership or traditional rental)
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  • Bike Share (short-term bicycle use, rented as needed)
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  • Transit incentives (employer trip reduction program, carpools, vanpools)
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  • Transit improvements (expanding service to underserved traffic generators, park and ride facilities)
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  • Employer (flexible work hours, compressed workweeks, or telecommuting)
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  • Congestion pricing (parking, toll lanes)

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. District Director of Transportation Planning and Development

Subtasks.

Helpful Suggestions.

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  • In TMA nonattainment areas, coordinate with the district planning staff and MPO.
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  • 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.

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  • In TMA, 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) which affect project development and design.

Authority.

Resource Material.

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10460: Evaluate inclusion of High Occupancy Vehicle/High Occupancy Toll lanes

Description. Managed lanes are single or multiple lanes separated from general purpose lanes by physical structure, barriers, or by pavement striping. Most often Texas uses two categories of managed lanes: high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, which are vehicle eligible (i.e. trucks, buses, 2+ or 3+ occupants) and qualified price high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes where pricing is dynamically changed one or more times per day in response to changing traffic conditions. If HOV lanes are underutilized, conversion to HOT lanes allows single occupant vehicles to use the managed lane under congestion priced tolls. HOV lanes should be monitored for vehicle and occupancy level eligibilities and operating hours. Managed lanes should be evaluated for their ability to reduce congestion and increase throughput in urban and suburban routes. For information on determining whether HOV or HOT lanes are practicable, contact Toll Operations Division.

By statute, Texas has four tolling authorities:

Pertinent Project Types. HOV and HOT facilities are appropriate only in urban and suburban 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.

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  • 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.

Resource Material.

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  • 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.
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  • An operator or administrator may be solicited from outside TxDOT to manage the HOV or HOT lane.
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  • Once built, a new HOV facility may take more than a year to reach its potential for use.
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  • Assistance with HOV and HOT lane studies is available from the Toll Operations Division.
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  • TxDOT Roadway Design Manual, Chapter 3, Section 7, Freeways with High Occupancy Vehicle Treatments
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  • Federal-aid Highway Program Guidance on High Occupancy Vehicles ( HOV) lanes, November 2012
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10470: Evaluate major project feasibility

Description. The design, construction, and operation of major transportation infrastructure requires a significant commitment of federal, state, and public funding. In some instances, private funding is required. Because of limited available funding to develop transportation facilities, major projects can sometimes be developed through comprehensive development agreements (CDA). Innovative project delivery methods can accelerate project delivery. Planning of major projects should investigate the tollway alternative.

A Major Project, by UTP definition, may also involve FHWA according to the Oversight Agreement. FHWA will have cradle-to-grave involvement with Major Projects having federal funding and total cost greater than $500 Million or TIFIA loan projects. Involvement is due to the inherent high risk of these projects. FHWA NEPA oversight is excluded, since the NEPA responsibility has been assumed by the department. Department projects considered a Major Project are automatically an FHWA Project of Division Interest (PODI).

Pertinent Project Types. Significant statewide or regional transportation projects requiring large capital expenditure to construct or rehabilitate a facility.

Responsible Party. District Director of Project Planning and Development through the District Engineer

Helpful Suggestions.

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  • Partnering with regional mobility authorities, and metropolitan planning organizations to assist in determining the viability of a major project with or without tolls.

Critical Sequencing.

Resource Material.

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10480: Evaluate railroad corridor preservation

Description. Railroad corridors constitute a source of right of way for future improvements to the transportation system. The corridor must first be identified as abandoned or under consideration of abandonment as verified by the Rail 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. District Director of Transportation Planning and Development.

Subtasks.

Helpful Suggestions.

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

Resource Material.

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