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Section 3: Project Responsibility and Authorization

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Overview

This section discusses various aspects of project responsibility and authorization. Subsections cover:

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Responsibility/Authority for Project Selection

The responsibility and authority for selecting projects vary by UTP category and with the geographical location of the project. Federal code and regulations dictate the selection authority and the degree of interaction between TxDOT, the MPOs, and local governments for federal-aid projects. Table 3.1 shows this interrelated project selection process.

Anchor: #CIHFEJCJTable 3-1: Project Selection Authority

Project Location

Federal-aid Program

Project Selection

In an MPO area designated as a TMA

Project on NHS

By state, in cooperation with MPO

Bridge

IH maintenance

Other, except federal lands

By MPO, in consultation with state

  • Table information is from 23 CFR 450.222 and 23 CFR 450.332.
  • For definition of terms, see Reference 23 CFR 450.104.
  • "Consultation" means that one party confers with another identified party and, prior to taking action(s), considers that party’s views.
  • "Cooperation" means that the parties involved in carrying out the planning, programming and management systems processes work together to achieve a common goal or objective.
  • Federal Lands Highway Program projects are selected in accordance with 23 USC 204.
  • Transportation Management Area (TMA) – An MPO for a metropolitan area with a population greater than 200,000.


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Selection Criteria for Highway Projects

The selection criteria for highway projects are listed in Chapter 5, UTP Categories, for each of the UTP categories.

A cost-effectiveness measure is used in several categories for prioritizing projects selected on a statewide basis. Although there are exceptions, the measure is generally a ratio of project cost to the traffic (in vehicles per day) affected by the project.

The district engineer is authorized to determine the selection criteria for projects selected on a TxDOT district-wide basis (some Bank Balance Allocation Programs), except for those projects in UTP categories where the MPO is authorized to select projects.

The MPOs adopt selection criteria to be used for those UTP categories where the MPO is granted the selection authority.

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Project Development Authorization

The project selection process for most project-specific programs includes authorizing the extent of project development allowed (levels of authority). This provides a timely progression through the stages of project development. The four levels of authority are Feasibility Studies, Long Range Project Authorization, Priority 2 Authorization, and Priority 1 Authorization. Priority 1 and Priority 2 levels of authority are established as part of the UTP development process.

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Feasibility Studies

For some projects, the initial authorization stage may be limited to feasibility studies. A feasibility study may be appropriate in the following situations:

  • The project is outside the MPO’s jurisdiction.
  • The project involves a major investment of funds.
  • The solution is unknown.
  • There are major environmental concerns.
  • Consensus of the general public and property owners along the route has not been developed.

Feasibility studies may also be initiated by the Commission in response to requests from delegations for transportation improvements. Table 3.2 lists procedures for obtaining authorization for a feasibility study.

Anchor: #i1009252Table 3-2: Obtaining Feasibility Study Authorization

Step

Action

Responsible

1

District submits a request for authorization to conduct a feasibility study to the Programming and Scheduling Section of the Transportation Planning and Programming Division.

District Engineer

2(a)

If estimated cost of study is $25,000 or less, Director of TPP Division can approve feasibility study.

Division Director TPP

2(b)

If estimated cost of study is greater than $25,000,�

TPP prepares a Commission Minute Order.

TPP

3

If approved, the Programming and Scheduling Section establishes a Control-Section-Job Number in DCIS for the feasibility study

TPP



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Long Range Project Authorization

In general, projects that require an extended time period to develop are considered for LRP status. Table 3.3 lists procedures for obtaining LRP authorization. Projects in the following UTP categories may be granted LRP status:

  • Category 3A - NHS: Mobility
  • Category 3B - Texas Trunk System
  • Category 3D - NHS: Traffic Management
  • Category 3E - NHS: Miscellaneous
  • Category 8B - Texas FM Road Expansion
  • Category 13B - Hurricane Evacuation Routes.

LRP status authorizes the advanced planning activities to include right-of-way determination, environmental studies, and the conduct of public hearings. LRP projects are not listed in the UTP.

Anchor: #i1009311Table 3-3: Obtaining LRP Status

Step

Action

Responsibility

1

Prepare a Programming Assessment.

It should be concise (about five pages in length). The assessment should include the following:

  • brief description of project
  • project location map
  • existing and proposed typical sections
  • an evaluation of the following areas (one to two paragraphs for each area)
    • congruity with the Statewide Transportation Plan
    • congruity with the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (if applicable)
    • major environmental issues
    • level of community support
    • cost effectiveness
    • safety issues
    • level of service analysis
    • other areas of interest
  • concluding paragraph providing basis for requesting LRP status

TxDOT District

2

Submit the Programming Assessment to the Transportation Systems Planning Section of the Transportation Planning and Programming Division.

Note: A feasibility study that addresses all of the pertinent criteria may be submitted to the Transportation Systems Planning Section of the Transportation Planning and Programming Division in lieu of the Programming Assessment.

TxDOT District

3

The TPP will review the Programming Assessment.

TPP

4

If approved, TPP – Transportation Systems Planning Section will authorize LRP status and advise TPP – Programming and Scheduling Section by memo.

TPP

5

Project Control-Section-Job Number will be assigned by TPP with LRP status indicated.

TPP



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Priority 2 Authorization

Priority 2 authorization permits the preparation of plans, specifications, and estimates (PS&E), and right-of-way acquisition. With this authorization level, project plans should be nearly complete (geometric, structural, hydraulic, and pavement design approved by Design Division) and a substantial amount of the required right-of-way acquired. Districts should establish a proposed fiscal year for receipt of bids.

Project-Specific Programs

Project-specific programs with Priority 2 authorization are listed in the UTP. These Priority 2 projects are generally selected from the pool of LRP projects using the ranking criteria specified for the appropriate UTP category.

Priority 2 authorization does not assure that the project will be authorized as Priority 1 in the subsequent or future UTPs. There is no assurance that the project will be advanced in a specific time period.

Bank Balance Allocation Programs

Continuous, revolving Priority 2 programming authority has been provided to the districts for the following UTP categories. Priority 2 authorization for these projects is initiated by the district with a request submitted to TPP (Reference: Commission Minute Order 107561 dated July 30, 1998 and Commission Minute Order 105320 dated April 27, 1995).

  • Category 4C - STP: Metropolitan Mobility/Rehabilitation
  • Category 4D - STP: Urban Mobility/Rehabilitation
  • Category 4E - STP: Rural Mobility/Rehabilitation
  • Category 5 - Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement
  • Category 11 - State District Discretionary

As these projects are moved to funded programs with Priority 1 authorization, the dollar value of Priority 2 programming authority will be made available for other projects.

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Priority 1 Authorization

All phases of work are permitted for projects with Priority 1 authorization. Generally, Priority 1 projects are the highest and best-ranked projects that have proposed letting dates within the next four years of anticipated available funding. Projects granted Priority 1 authorization are funded for construction.

Project-Specific Programs

Priority 1 projects are generally selected from the Priority 2 projects using the ranking criteria specified for the appropriate UTP category. Candidate projects are those with 75 percent of design completed and 75 percent of right-of-way acquired. Priority 1 project-specific programs are listed in the UTP.

Bank Balance Allocation Programs

All projects selected for and funded in the Bank Balance Allocation Programs have Priority 1 Authorization.

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Public Hearing on Project Selection Process

The Texas Transportation Commission holds annual hearings regarding the project selection process and the relative importance of the various criteria on which the Commission bases its project selection decision. (Refer to Texas Transportation Code, Section 201.602)

The Commission is also required by state law to distribute federal aid for transportation purposes to the various parts of the state in a manner consistent with the federal formulas used to apportion federal funds to the states. (Refer to Texas Transportation Code, Section 222.034.) Although this statutory requirement states that the intended distribution is to be accomplished through project selection, it is predominantly accomplished in the allocation of federal-aid funds as discussed in Chapter 2, Funding Considerations. The Commission includes this subject and permitted variances at the project selection process public hearing.

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