This section of the Guide provides information on the transportation planning and conformity requirements related to the transportation plan (the plan) and transportation improvement program (TIP). The plan and TIP are the key products of the transportation planning process in metropolitan areas and guide short- and long-term transportation investments. The CAA, ISTEA, TEA-21, and SAFETEA-LU, reinforce the linkages between the plan, TIP and SIP and have prompted many changes in transportation planning in metropolitan areas.
SAFETEA-LU made a number of statutory changes to the planning and transportation conformity provisions. Interim guidance has been released by USDOT on the planning provisions and will be released jointly by USDOT and EPA on the transportation conformity provisions. Areas should refer to the interim guidance on how to implement the SAFETEA-LU changes until the planning and transportation conformity regulations can be revised. The Guide has been revised to reflect the statutory revisions, but do not detail all aspects of the interim guidance and the regulations are still based on pre-SAFETEA-LU requirements. Under SAFETEA-LU, EPA has until August 10, 2007 to promulgate conformity rule revisions to reflect the new statutory changes.
In urbanized areas with a population of 50,000 or more, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) must develop a plan that covers at least a 20-year period. The transportation plan must be updated every four years in nonattainment and maintenance areas and must reference the latest planning assumptions. The plan must identify facilities including major roadways, transit and intermodal facilities that should function as an integrated regional system.
In addition, the MPO must develop a TIP which is a multi-modal program of projects covering at least four years that includes the list of priority projects to be carried out in each of the four years for which Federal approvals or funding are sought. The TIP must be updated at least every four years and must also reference the latest planning assumptions. The MPO, in cooperation with the State and transportation providers such as public transit operators, has the lead responsibility for carrying out the transportation planning process in metropolitan areas including the development of the plan and the TIP. Please see FHWA/FTA interim planning guidance on how areas should transition to the SAFETEA-LU plans and TIP update cycles. www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/
In rural areas outside of the metropolitan planning area boundaries, the State is required to develop a statewide transportation plan and a State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) that includes both rural and urban areas. Transportation conformity does not apply to statewide transportation plans and STIPs. However, the State cannot adopt a TIP into the STIP unless the TIP has been found to conform. The STIP must be updated every four years and the FHWA/FTA exercise approval authority over the STIP. The FHWA/FTA cannot take funding actions for projects unless they are included in the Federally-approved STIP (23 CFR 450.332(d)).
In addition to the conformity requirements discussed below, the transportation plan and TIP must meet certain statutory planning requirements. The two sets of requirements are complementary and conformity was designed to rely on closer coordination and integration of transportation and air quality planning processes among transportation and air quality agencies.
SAFETEA-LU 6001 Transportation Planning
23 U.S.C. §134(h) and §135(d) are amended to read:
SAFETEA-LU requires that the State and metropolitan planning processes provide for the consideration of projects and strategies that will:
40 CFR §93.106 Content of transportation plans
The fiscal constraint requirement is intended to ensure that the total estimated costs of projects included in the plan and the estimated cost of constructing, operating, and maintaining the total (existing plus planned) transportation system over the period of the plan does not exceed reasonably available estimated revenues. A conformity determination on fiscally constrained plans ensures that conformity findings are based on realistic plans and programs, and that TCMs and other projects that may be beneficial to air quality are funded. For more information on fiscal constraint of plans and TIPs, see www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/fcindex.cfm
40 CFR §93.108 Fiscal constraints for transportation plans and TIPs.
Transportation plan and TIPs must be fiscally constrained consistent with DOT's metropolitan planning regulations at 23 CFR Part 450 in order to be found in conformity.
Financial constraint requirements for plans do not prohibit the inclusion of projects where funding is uncertain, but require that such projects be linked to new funding sources, and that a reasonable strategy for securing funds be included in the plan. The plan should identify which projects can be implemented using current revenue sources and which projects are to be implemented using proposed revenue sources. If funds are proposed from new revenue sources, realistic strategies to ensure their availability must be identified. SAFETEA-LU allows MPOs to include in financial plans, for illustrative purposes, additional projects that could be included in the long-range plan if new funds become available.
SAFETEA-LU section 6011(c) Time Horizon for Conformity Determinations in Nonattainment Areas
This provision provides an option for reducing the time period covered by conformity determinations. It amends section 176(c) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7506(c)) by adding at the end the following:
The transportation plan must describe the highway and transit system envisioned for selected future years which are called "horizon" years as described above (40 CFR §93.106(a)(1)(i)-(iv)), so that the regional emissions analysis for conformity determinations can be performed.
40 CFR §93.101 Definitions
Horizon year is a year for which the transportation plan describes the envisioned transportation system according to §93.106.
Example of Horizon Years in an 8-Hour Ozone Nonattainment Area With an Attainment Date of 2007 and a 2005-2030 transportation plan:
(Note: also see SAFETEA-LU section 6011(c), 40 CFR §93.118, 40 CFR §93.119, and Chapter 5 for more information on how horizon years relate to regional emissions analysis. See Appendix G for FHWA memo on planning horizons)
For these horizon years, the transportation plan must quantify and document demographic and employment factors that influence transportation demand, including land use forecasts. This quantification and documentation of these planning assumptions must be developed through the consultation process. (See Section B and Chapter 2.)
The transportation plan should discuss how proposed investments would address anticipated mobility problems in future years due to population, employment and economic growth. Additions to the system should be described in terms of the transportation benefits they provide at their expected completion and operational dates.
The transportation plan must also describe any proposed regionally significant additions or modifications to the transportation (highway and transit) system that are expected to be operational in each horizon year. Regionally significant projects must also be identified in sufficient detail to analyze their emissions impacts.
40 CFR §93.101 Definitions
Regionally significant project means a transportation project (other than an exempt project) that is on a facility which serves regional transportation needs (such as access to and from the area outside of the region, major activity centers in the region, major planned developments such as new retail malls, sports complexes, etc. or transportation terminals as well as most terminals themselves) and would normally be included in the modeling of a metropolitan area's transportation network, including at a minimum all principal arterial highways and all fixed guideway transit facilities that offer an alternative to regional highway travel.
Projects that are regionally significant, regardless of funding source, must be included in the regional emissions analysis. The determination of other regionally significant projects for the purposes of regional emissions analysis may vary in accordance with the interagency consultation procedures included in 40 CFR §93.105(c)(1)(ii) of the transportation conformity rule. Regionally significant additions or modifications to the transportation system must be identified and described in the following level of detail per §93.106(a)(2)(ii):
In addition, the plan must discuss other future transportation policies, requirements, services, and activities, including intermodal activities (e.g. access improvements to ports, airports, major transfer hubs between truck and rail terminals, etc.).
The interagency consultation process must establish a mechanism to ensure that recipients of FHWA/FTA funds (including but not limited to the MPO) notify the MPO of any plans for construction of regionally significant non-Federal projects. Regionally significant non-Federal projects are those regionally significant projects that do not require Federal funding or approval. (See earlier discussion of regionally significant projects.) In addition, the following requirements must be met:
As noted above, the addition of regionally significant projects to the plan/TIP is subject to the interagency consultation process. This provision was included in the rule to ensure that the emissions effects of all regionally significant projects, regardless of funding source, are taken into account in the transportation planning process. Further, emissions increases from such projects could impact the area's ability to attain and maintain the NAAQS.
The TIP must contain all projects that are selected by the MPO to be initiated in the TIP time frame (not less than four years) in order to advance the improvements envisioned in the highway and transit system as presented in the transportation plan. Projects in a TIP originate in the following way: the MPO develops a transportation plan in cooperation with the respective implementing agencies' and those agencies (in many cases, this will be the State) carry out the plan elements in the priority reflected in the TIP.
Projects must be sufficiently described in the TIP (and then the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)) for FHWA/FTA to make fiscal constraint determinations based upon the information provided. This level of detail will vary depending on the nature of the project but may include completed detailed engineering plans and specifications, completed NEPA requirements, number and type of transit vehicles to be purchased, facility engineering plans, or other information as needed.
In the first two years of the TIP, only projects that can be implemented with funds that are available or committed may be included. Funds must be identified and associated with specific projects within the TIP. Only projects for which funds can reasonably be expected to be available during the period of the TIP may be programmed, and it must be shown that the existing transportation system is being adequately operated and maintained. SAFETEA-LU also allows TIPs to include, for illustrative purposes, additional projects that would be included in the approved TIP if reasonable additional resources beyond those identified in the financial plan were available. Metropolitan areas must include all funding sources in their TIP (e.g. Federal, State, local, private sector) in order to comply with the fiscal constraint requirements.
FHWA/FTA's planning regulations require transportation agencies to establish a public involvement process. A minimum public comment period of 45 days is required before the official public participation process for the MPO can be adopted. In addition, the metropolitan planning regulations require a public comment period of at least 30 days before approval of plans, TIPs, and major amendments thereto. (Note: see earlier discussion of when amendments are required.) In nonattainment areas that are Transportation Management Areas (TMAs), at least one formal public meeting must be held annually to review planning assumptions and the plan development process with parties and the general public. The procedures also shall include publication of the approved plan or other methods to make it readily available for information purposes (23 CFR §450.322(c)). The public involvement requirements for the conformity process are discussed in Chapter 2.
With respect to Federal funds, a plan/TIP may assume that funds will be available throughout the authorization period of current applicable Federal surface transportation legislation at historical appropriations levels. This does not mean that the Federal funds will definitely be available in exactly those amounts or at the precise times indicated in the plan or TIP. This depends on the Federal budget process and on the obligational authority of the respective State for any given fiscal year. This approach is acceptable with respect to estimating resource availability in the context of an uncertain Federal budgeting process.
The TIP must be consistent with the conforming transportation plan, and the TIP must be found to conform to the SIP. Specifically, the transportation plan/TIP must result in emissions consistent with those allowed in the SIP for the timeframe of the transportation plan
Section 6011 of SAFETEA-LU affects the frequency of when conformity determinations are required for metropolitan plans and TIPs:
SAFETEA-LU section 6011(b) Frequency of Conformity Determination Updates
This provision replaces the 3-year conformity update cycle with a 4-year conformity update cycle for plans and TIPs. It amends section 176(c)(4)(B)(ii) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. §7506(c)(4)(B)(ii)) to read:
The provisions of SAFETEA-LU supercede the applicable provisions in the Conformity Rule below, which will be amended.
40 CFR §93.104 Frequency of conformity determinations
At a minimum, the MPO and DOT must make a conformity determination on the transportation plan and TIP at least once every four years. A new transportation plan or TIP must be found to conform before approval by the MPO or acceptance by DOT. A conformity determination is also required for plan and TIP amendments, unless the amendment only involves exempt projects. The new plan or TIP conformity determination must include a new regional emissions analysis using the latest planning assumptions and emissions models. The four-year clock starts when the DOT makes a conformity determination on the plan or TIP, not the date when the MPO approves or transmits the plan or TIP to DOT. If four years elapse after the DOT makes a conformity determination, and a new conformity determination is not made within 12 months after that deadline, then conformity will lapse. During a lapse, no new project-level conformity determinations may be made until a new conforming plan/TIP are in place (see Chapter 4 for a complete discussion of lapsing).
SAFEATEA-LU section 6011(e) Lapse of Conformity
This provision provides an additional 12 months after an applicable deadline is missed before the area enters a conformity lapse. It amends section 176(c) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. §7506(c)) by adding the following:
40 CFR §93.101, Definitions
Lapse means that the conformity determination for a transportation plan or TIP has expired, and thus there is no current conforming transportation plan and TIP.
Many States and MPOs have long-established plan/TIP development schedules depending on factors including State fiscal year, transportation financing sources at the State and metropolitan level, and other issues or requirements unique to each State or MPO. Recognizing that the transportation plan update and TIP (and STIP) update or amendment schedules are usually not the same as SIP schedules, there are specific provisions in the rule that determine when a new conformity determination on either the plan or TIP is required.
Section 6011 of SAFETEA-LU affects the frequency of when conformity determinations are required for metropolitan plans and TIPs:
SAFETEA-LU section 6011(a) Conformity Redeterminations
This provision replaces the 18-month trigger with a 24-month trigger for transportation plan and TIP conformity determinations that are currently found at 40 CFR 93.104(e). It amends section 176(c)(2) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. §7506(c)) to read:
If a new conformity determination on existing transportation plans and TIPs is not made within 12 months after the applicable 24-month deadline, then conformity will lapse (see Chapter 4). In the case of a lapse, no new project level conformity determinations may be made until a new plan/TIP conformity determination has been made.
The provisions of SAFETEA-LU supercede the applicable provisions in the Conformity Rule below, which will be amended.
40 CFR §93.104 (e)
Triggers for transportation plan/TIP conformity determinations. Conformity of existing transportation plans and TIPs must be redetermined within 18 months of the following, or the existing conformity determination will lapse, and no new project-level conformity determinations may be made until conformity of the transportation plan/TIP has been determined by the MPO and DOT:
The regional emissions analysis forms the basis of the conformity determination and is performed to demonstrate the consistency of transportation plans/TIPs with the SIP motor vehicle emissions budgets (See Chapter 5 for more information on the regional emissions analysis requirement).
The July 1, 2004 rule amended § 93.110(a) to allow conformity determinations to be based on the latest planning assumptions that are available at the time the conformity analysis begins, rather than at the time of DOT's conformity determination for a transportation plan, TIP, or project. The interagency consultation process should be used to determine the "time the conformity analysis begins" (69 FR 40052, July 1, 2004).
40 CFR §93.110 Criteria and procedures: Latest planning assumptions.
Except as provided in this paragraph, the conformity determination, with respect to all other applicable criteria in §§93.111 through 93.119, must be based upon the most recent planning assumptions in force at the time the conformity analysis begins. The conformity determination must satisfy the requirements of paragraphs (b) through (f) of this section using the planning assumptions available at the time the conformity analysis begins as determined through the interagency consultation process required in §93.105(c)(1)(i). The ``time the conformity analysis begins'' for a transportation plan or TIP determination is the point at which the MPO or other designated agency begins to model the impact of the proposed transportation plan or TIP on travel and/or emissions. New data that becomes available after an analysis begins is required to be used in the conformity determination only if a significant delay in the analysis has occurred, as determined through interagency consultation.
EPA recognizes that transportation conformity determinations may be using more recent planning assumptions than those used in the approved SIP. The most recent planning assumptions must be used for conformity purposes and for SIP development. SIPs are revised periodically to account for new emissions factors, VMT growth, changing planning assumptions, etc. See Section B and Chapters 5-10 for more information about regional and project level analysis and the relationship to SIP assumptions.
On January 18, 2001 the EPA, FHWA, and FTA issued joint guidance to clarify their expectations for implementing the transportation conformity rule's requirements for use of latest planning assumptions in conformity determinations. See Appendix L. This guidance also reiterates EPA's expectations for using latest planning assumptions in the development of motor vehicle emissions budgets in State Implementation Plans (SIPs). The guidance does not create new requirements; it simply clarifies existing requirements. Below is a summary of the guidance.
(From FHWA/FTA/EPA January 18, 2001 Memorandum: Use of Latest Planning Assumptions in Conformity Determinations)
...Nonattainment and maintenance areas must use the most recent planning assumptions that are available in their conformity determinations. Areas are encouraged to review and update their planning assumption regularly. Although these updates are not required by the transportation conformity rule, areas are strongly encouraged to review and strive towards regular 5-year updates of planning assumptions, especially population, employment, and vehicle registration assumptions. Areas with network-based travel models should review their assumptions and data used in model validation through the consultation process, and newer assumptions and data must be used whenever available. Conformity determinations must be based upon the most recent planning assumptions in force at the time of the determination. Conformity determinations that are based on assumptions that are older than 5 years should include written justification for not using more recent information. For areas where updates are appropriate, the conformity determination should include an anticipated schedule for updating assumptions. Air quality and transportation agencies should use the consultation process to ensure that the latest available planning assumptions are used in conformity determinations and SIP development...
...Motor vehicle emissions budgets in SIPs must be based on the most current information available at the time that the SIP is developed. These assumptions, including vehicle miles traveled (VMT), socioeconomic variables, emissions modeling inputs (including vehicle registration by age and type) and other planning assumptions, must be based on the latest information available at the time that the SIP is developed and as required by EPA guidance on SIP inventories and the MOBILE Users' guide.
In 2003, FHWA published "Transportation Conformity Domestic Scan: Use of Latest Planning Assumptions and Transition to MOBILE6." The transportation conformity domestic scan was initiated to identify good practices among a select number of nonattainment and maintenance areas for meeting the transportation conformity requirements of the Clean Air Act. This project was targeted at identifying and sharing good practices in meeting the latest planning assumptions of the transportation conformity process. The study also highlighted areas' efforts to address data issues associated with the transition to EPA's most recent motor vehicle emissions model, MOBILE6.
All conformity determinations must be based on the latest motor vehicle emissions factor model available and approved by EPA. See Chapter 5 for a complete discussion on the use of the latest emissions model(s) for the conformity analysis.
Interagency consultation is central to the entire conformity process. It serves as the underpinning for conformity determinations and as the primary mechanism for ensuring early coordination and negotiation between all parties affected by transportation conformity. See Chapter 2 for a complete discussion on the interagency consultation requirements.
The plan/TIP must conform with the approved SIP and it must be demonstrated that priority has been given to the timely implementation of TCMs in the approved SIP (See Chapter 3) for a complete discussion of timely implementation requirements.
If implementation schedules for individual projects within the conforming transportation plan change, an assessment by the MPO may be needed to ensure that such changes do not affect assumptions such as operational dates of projects, milestone years, etc. that would in turn affect modeling assumptions and the validity of the regional analysis for the transportation plan (see Chapter 5). If changes in project schedules within the plan occur, the transportation plan, taken as a whole, must continue to meet all of the transportation conformity requirements or a new conformity determination is required. When a project is proposed to be moved from a conforming transportation plan to the TIP, the metropolitan planning regulations and procedures for TIP development must be followed. If a project is moved within the first three years of the plan to the TIP, a TIP amendment and a conformity determination is not required. If a project is moved from later years in the plan to the TIP, a TIP amendment and a new conformity determination is required. In both cases, the interagency consultation process is a crucial point for discussion of proposed changes and reaching agreement on the impacts of any such changes on the conformity determination.
In addition to rule requirements listed above, the interagency consultation process must include a procedure for assessing when new conformity determinations are needed. For example, when TIP amendments are proposed, notification of such amendments is required through the interagency consultation process. If the proposed TIP amendment involves non-exempt projects or changes in project design concept or scope, a new conformity determination is required. If the amendment involves an exempt project under the rule, a new conformity determination would not be needed. However, this assessment must be part of interagency consultation and subject to the agreed upon consultation process.
Finally, the implementation of TCMs contained in the approved SIP must be implemented on the schedule contained within the SIP. Thus, TCMs that are in the approved SIP cannot be delayed beyond the date committed to in the SIP because of a TIP amendment.
On occasion, an MPO may be faced with a situation where a regionally significant project is proposed to be implemented that is not included in the currently conforming transportation plan or TIP. In that case, the MPO must comply with the provisions of the rule related to such projects as noted above.
The plan/TIP must meet the regional emissions analysis requirements as described in Chapters 5-14 of this Guide. In addition, the conformity requirements do not supersede any of the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), (i.e. project development, consideration of alternatives). Project level conformity requirements must be met as a part of the NEPA process. Refer to Section F and Chapter 5 for Project Level Analysis requirements.
Further, should the NEPA process result in a substantially different design concept and scope than assumed in the transportation plan or TIP, then the project is subject to a project level re-analysis and the regional emissions analysis requirement on the plan/TIP must also be met prior to NEPA process completion. Thus, conformity must be re-determined for both the plan/TIP based on the new project scope prior to NEPA process completion and project approval. See also Appendix O for a May 20, 2003 joint FHWA/FTA memorandum clarifying the transportation conformity requirements for FHWA/FTA projects requiring environmental impact statements.
 23 CFR Part 450.322
 23 CFR Part 450, 49 CFR part 613
 23 CFR Part 450.322(b)(11)
 Interim FHWA/FTA Guidance on Fiscal Constraint for STIPs, TIPs, and Metro Plans
 40 CFR §93.105
 23 CFR Part 450.324, 49 CFR Part 613
 23 CFR Part 450.324(e)
 23 CFR Part 450.316(b)(1), 49 CFR Part 613
 SAFETEA-LU section 6011(b)
 Revised in the July 1, 2004 amendments. See 40 CFR 93.110(a).
 User's Guide to MOBILE6.1 and MOBILE6.2: Mobile Source Emissions Factor Model, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, August 2003.
 The Transportation Conformity Domestic Scan report can be found at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/air_quality/conformity/research/domestic_scan_report/
 58 FR 58062
 40 CFR §93.105(c)(iii)
 23 CFR Part 771