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TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM REVISION PROCESS SUMMARY To maintain their eligibility for federal funding, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are required to adopt and regularly update a Transportation Improvement Pro- gram (TIP), identifying "a prioritized listing of projects covering a period of four years that is developed and formally adopted by an MPO as part of the metropolitan transportation planning process" (Title 23 U.S.C. Part 450.104). The TIP also has a formal revision pro- cess that occurs as either an administrative modification or an amendment. TIP administra- tive modifications are minor revisions that may include changes to phase costs, sources of funding, and initiation dates. The more substantive TIP amendments may include changes to the project scope, significant costs, or completion date, particularly if the project in question is not exempt from air quality conformity requirements in a nonattainment or maintenance area. Federal legislation does not provide rigid process requirements for conducting TIP revisions. Although the definitions of amendments and administrative modifications are relatively straightforward, other factors can complicate the TIP revision process: a high volume of TIP revisions, insufficient information about the proposed change(s) to a project, internal (MPO) policy requirements for engaging the public or other process stakeholders, or uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the change and therefore its appropriate revision path. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 also placed pres- sure on the TIP revision process in some cases, as the deadlines for obligating funds were strictly applied. This synthesis focuses on the Transportation Improvement Program and the differ- ent ways that MPOs approach TIP revisions. This study is especially timely because the ARRA requirements have placed new strains on the TIP revision process and therefore provide additional insight into how the TIP revisions are occurring under both normal and duress conditions. The study was informed by extensive outreach to MPOs around the country. A three-part survey program was conducted, informed by a literature review. This survey process-- 1. Tapped the perspectives of the FHWA, FTA, and state department of transportation (DOT) officials to identify MPOs practicing innovative, efficient, collaborative, or engaging TIP revision processes; 2. Surveyed 45 MPOs to study the issues and processes associated with TIP revisions; and 3. Included 10 case examples to study process elements beyond the major requirements of the federal regulations. Effort was made to ensure geographic and size diversity in selecting the case examples. A brief screening survey was distributed to 51 FHWA offices, 10 FTA offices, and 50 state DOTs. The questions in the screening survey asked respondents to suggest and pro- vide contact information for one or more MPOs in their state that exhibited innovative,
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2 collaborative, engaging, or timely TIP revision processes. Geographic distribution (in terms of FTA Region Office district), size of population, and air quality attainment status were also applied to help ensure diversity of the responding agencies. In all, 37 of the 45 MPOs initially contacted responded to the TIP Revision Process survey (82% response rate), and 10 follow-up telephone interviews were conducted with selected MPOs to better understand some of the responses given in the survey, as well as to provide an opportunity for informal dialogue to enrich the findings of the study. The 10 MPOs selected were based on geographic diversity, willingness to participate in a telephone interview, and if their responses to the survey indicated a process element or technique that warranted further examination. The synthesis revealed differences in the current state of the practice for TIP adminis- trative modifications and amendments. An administrative modification tends to follow a streamlined path, from initial input by telephone call, template form, or online database entry, often concluding without a meeting at the policy board level. Typically the amendment process is longer, owing in part to requirements to maintain fiscal conformity, air quality conformity, or conduct additional analysis. Furthermore, the study indicated that there may be a still-lesser level of revision, in which very minor adjustments that correct faulty lan- guage or make minor wording changes in the TIP are listed but do not include an individual approval action. Although the issues raised were diverse and inconsistent among the MPOs studied, a number of challenges in the revision process were raised multiple times during the course of the study: · Timeliness and staff capacity: Some larger MPOs struggled with the volume of changes, sometimes reaching into the hundreds per month, whereas the smaller MPOs often had competing priorities when faced with the quick turnaround times required by some TIP amendments. · Inadequate or untimely information: When the initial information required to process a change was inaccurate, incomplete, or late, more pressure was put on the MPO and other agencies to process the revision faster or process a revision to the same project more than once. · Clarification of procedures: Some MPOs had to work out procedural details with state DOTs and federal offices, creating divergent opinions on issues such as the frequency of publishing (either in paper or digital format) a revised TIP. MPOs, state DOTs, and often their partnering agencies have addressed these challenges. Process improvements that make data entry more consistent or faster were common, as were process guidelines. Some MPOs noted that they either had developed or were working to develop online entry and database tools for the initial data entry and long-term management of TIP data. MPOs have also developed cost thresholds (expressed as a percentage of project cost, an absolute figure, or both) that help delineate different levels of revision. Survey responses indicated that MPOs have responded to the federal TIP legislation by developing different types of revision processes for different types of TIP changes. Major changes to the TIP require a more formal and structured amendment process, whereas minor changes entail a more streamlined administrative modification process. Specific details on how those processes are conducted vary by MPO. Survey responses also revealed differ- ent innovative techniques that MPOs have developed for managing their TIPs, facilitating public involvement in the TIP process, and facilitating policymaker review and approval of TIP modifications. These practices may be of interest to other MPOs looking for ways to improve their TIP processes. The findings identified several knowledge and practice gaps that suggest the need for future research, including an evaluation of the role that the MPO voting structure plays in the
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3 TIP revision process; an analysis of the role of MPOs, along with the roles played by their respective state DOT and federal agencies (FHWA/FTA), in managing the TIP revision process; and an analysis of how MPOs and state and federal agencies perceive the process and the ways in which these perceptions influence their actions. Generally, MPOs appear to have made a comfortable transition into the era of congressional earmarks, increased public participation expectations, and federal stimulus funding requirements, even if the overall TIP planning process has occasionally been strained.
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