Section 5: The Metropolitan Transportation Plan

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The purpose of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) is to provide systematic, long-range planning for transportation projects and programs in the metropolitan areas. It requires the local decision-makers and the department to identify needs, financial resources, and priorities in a cooperative manner.

The metropolitan transportation planning process shall include the development of an MTP, which is required under 23 CFR §450.322. The MTP should address at least a 20-year planning horizon and include both long-range and short-range strategies or actions that lead to developing an integrated, intermodal transportation system to facilitate the efficient movement of people and goods. The MTP is cooperatively developed by the MPO, TxDOT, and operators of publicly owned transit services and is approved by the MPO policy board. The department is also responsible for reviewing plans and submitting new and revised plans to FHWA and FTA for their information. (43 TAC §15.6)

In all areas, proposed improvements shall be described in sufficient detail to develop cost estimates. Also, a unique project number shall be assigned to each project to provide a means of tracking the project movement from the MTP to the TIP.

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Specific Requirements for Nonattainment and Maintenance Areas

Areas classified as nonattainment and maintenance have specific requirements in addition to the attainment-area MTP development process. First and foremost is the requirement to perform a conformity determination in accordance with the U.S. EPA conformity regulations in 40 CFR §51. Section 8, Air Quality, discusses air quality and conformity. As part of this conformity determination, the MTP shall include design concept and scope descriptions of all existing and proposed transportation facilities in sufficient detail, regardless of the funding source, to permit the conformity determinations required.

For TMAs that are nonattainment areas for carbon monoxide and ozone, the MTP shall include the identification of SOV projects that result from a congestion management system meeting the requirements of 23 CFR §500. Also, these areas must provide an opportunity for at least one formal public meeting annually to review planning assumptions and the MTP development process with interested parties and the general public.

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Review/Update Cycle

Each metropolitan area must review and update their MTP on a regular basis. The purpose is to confirm the MTP’s validity and consistency with current and forecasted transportation and land use conditions and trends and to extend the forecast period. For attainment areas, the cycle for reviewing and updating the MTP is every five years. The nonattainment areas must review and update the MTP every three years.

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Intermodal/Multimodal Transportation Systems

As stated earlier, the MTP shall identify an integrated intermodal transportation system that facilitates the efficient movement of people and goods. The MTP includes highway and public transportation improvements, pedestrian and bicycle facility improvements, the investigation of freight movements on the highway system, and rail and port facilities.

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Project Development

The transportation system developed through the MTP process will be the basis for the selection of projects for further development.

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Travel Demand Model

One tool to assist in the project development process is the travel demand model. The travel demand model identifies performance of the existing system and needs of the future system. These characteristics are based on projected growth in population and travel demand. The travel demand modeling process is discussed in the Traffic Data and Analysis Manual, , Urban Travel Demand Forecasting.

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Financial/Programming Data

The MTP development process must include a financial plan that demonstrates the consistency of the proposed transportation investments with already available and projected revenue. The sources of revenue for these transportation improvements include federal, state, county, city, and private entities. All these sources must be considered when developing the MTP.

TxDOT, through the Unified Transportation Program (UTP), projects the federal and state revenue amounts for highway and transit improvements. The UTP can be used as one funding source for the first ten years of the financial plan. The UTP is discussed in greater detail in the Transportation Programming and Scheduling Manual, Chapter 4, Elements of the Unified Transportation Program. Funding projections for transit projects that do not fall under the UTP will come from the local transit agencies, if applicable, based on direct federal funds, bond programs, and fare box revenues.

City and county revenue sources include bond programs and various types of road taxes. Funding for all local projects and repair and maintenance of local roads is important in the financial planning process.

In addition to capital improvement projects, the financial plan must consider operation and maintenance costs for existing and proposed facilities in the area. These type costs are usually developed from historical data for the various funding entities.

Fiscal Constraint. Proposed transportation improvements, operations, and facility maintenance must be consistent with existing and proposed funding, both existing and proposed. This concept is known as fiscal constraint. Typically, proposed MTP projects exceed the amount of funding available; therefore, it is necessary to identify funding shortfalls and recommend additional funding strategies that can be used. This may include financing through toll roads, additional bond programs, and other such strategies.

When these shortfalls occur, it is tempting to modify the assumptions for the revenue projections to meet this shortfall. However, federal regulations stipulate the financial plan be based on future funding reasonably expected to be available for transportation uses. In addition, all revenue projections shall be based on data reflecting the existing situation and historical trends.

Needs Plan (Illustrative Project List). Recognizing the fact that there is not enough funding available to meet many metropolitan areas needs, TxDOT has encouraged the MPOs to include a “needs plan” or an “illustrative list of projects” as part of the MTP. The needs plan allows interested parties to see the results of funding shortfalls. It also recognizes the fiscally constrained portion of the MTP is not all-inclusive of the area’s transportation demands.

TEA-21 also recognized the importance of identifying all area needs and included language in TEA-21 to address this issue. TEA-21 states the financial plan may include, for illustrative purposes, additional projects that would be included in the adopted MTP if reasonable additional financial resources beyond those identified in the financial plan were available.

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