What is Transportation Planning?

Recently, FHWA put on a webinar entitled “Transportation Planning 101: The Role of Resource and Regulatory Agencies in Transportation Planning.” The purpose of the webinar was to describe how statewide and metropolitan transportation planning works. The presentation was a good basic overview of transportation planning from the perspective of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). (All of the slides from the presentation are embedded at the end of this blog post.)

FHWA’s Definition of Transportation Planning

What is Transportation Planning Slide

General Points of Interest

  • There are nearly 400 Metropolitan Planning Organizations or MPOs in the US
  • Transportation Planning Laws are 23 USC 134/135, 23 CFR 450 and SAFETEA-LU
  • “We expect census urban populations and boundaries about spring 2012” – Spencer Stevens, FHWA

Transportation Planning versus NEPA

  • The transportation planning process is not subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or Section 106 reviews as opposed to individual projects which are subject to NEPA and Section 106.
  • The Purpose and Need (P&N) in transportation planning is different from the P&N for NEPA. According to FHWA, the P&N for transportation planning should identify system wide requirements whereas the P&N for NEPA should be project specific.

Transportation Planning and TIP

Transportation projects that are not in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) cannot receive federal funds. Projects not in the TIP must be added to the TIP (which is often updated annually) before receiving federal funds. And just because a project is listed in the TIP doesn’t mean that that project will be funded. In other words, inclusion in the TIP doesn’t guarantee project funding.

GIS Data for Transportation Planning

Examples of GIS Data Needed for Transportation Planning

And this is where Cubit and other GIS tools enter the transportation planning scene. The ability to quickly pull data like environmental justice data and demographic trends can help planners make good decisions during the transportation planning process.

So what wasn’t included in FHWA’s presentation on What is Transportation Planning? Or do you think they hit the highlights about as well as could be done for a brief overview on this topic?

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