Section 9: Major Investment Studies

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The Major Investment Study (MIS) was envisioned as a tool for making better decisions at an earlier time than under previous methods, thus improving transportation planning in metropolitan areas. The MIS is an integral part of a metropolitan area’s long-range planning process and is designed to provide decision makers with better and more complete information on the options available for addressing transportation problems before making investment decisions. The MIS provides a focused evaluation of needs and problems within a corridor or sub-region. The MIS may identify an appropriate set of multimodal investments and policy options to address needs and problems; develop measures of benefits, costs, and impacts; and specify financial requirements. The MIS process leads to a decision on the design concept and scope for a corridor/subarea’s major investments.

The MIS process, along with the overall policies of ISTEA and TEA 21, provides a framework for informed decision making on major transportation investments for a metropolitan area. As an integral element of the metropolitan planning process, the MIS is a cooperative and collaborative process whose direction and conduct are generally decided locally. The specific scope, context, needs, and conditions of each MIS are usually defined locally. The MISs will vary in scope and scale so that “no one size fits all.”

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Federal Requirements

Major Investment Studies were called for in Section 450.318 of the joint FHWA/FTA Final Rule on Statewide and Metropolitan Planning issued in the Federal Register on October 28, 1993, which became effective on November 29, 1993.

A major investment is officially described as a “high-type highway or transit improvement of substantial cost that is expected to have a significant effect on capacity, traffic flow, level of service, or mode share at the transportation corridor or subarea scale.”

TEA-21 replaces the stand-alone MIS requirement of FHWA/FTA’s joint planning regulations with a directive that, for federally funded highway and transit projects, analyses under the planning provisions of the act and NEPA be integrated. This essentially eliminates the MIS as a separate requirement as set forth in the planning regulations and calls for an integration of the requirements into the planning and NEPA analyses, as appropriate. In outreach meetings across the nation, FHWA has found substantial support for integrating the MIS and the NEPA process.

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Texas MIS Process Guidelines

In January of 1997, TxDOT, assisted by Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), published “The Texas MIS Process Guideline.” This document describes the Texas MIS process and includes a comprehensive flowchart. A separate flowchart of the NEPA process contains charts for each of the two options addressing this aspect of the MIS process. These flow charts are intended to guide the reader through the entire MIS process, providing references to specific detailed materials as needed. The flowcharts show the major steps in the MIS process, and each step is referenced to a section of the guidelines dealing with the details of the specific step.

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General Guidance

Draft regulations which will address the expectations of TEA-21 in regard to the MIS process are currently under review by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Final rules are expected to be published early in the year 2001.

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