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Interim Report to the U.S. Congress on the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program SAFETEA-LU Section 1807

Chapter 6: NTPP Implementation Challenges, Opportunities, and Responses

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Setting The Stage For Pilot Communities To Lead Ntpp Implementation

From the outset, FHWA engaged the pilot communities and NTPP partners directly in the implementation of the NTPP. FHWA and RTC organized and facilitated the December 2005 kick-off meeting, bringing together representatives of the pilot communities, their respective State DOT's, and FHWA Division Offices. FHWA invited representatives of the Volpe Center and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) to supplement the technical expertise of other participants in the meeting.

The kick-off meeting set the stage for the overall implementation of the NTPP. The participants identified implementation challenges and opportunities. FHWA division office, State DOT and pilot community representatives agreed to work together to advance NTPP projects. Pilot community leaders looked beyond the borders of their individual areas. They recognized their collective responsibility for demonstrating the extent to which bicycling and walking can carry a significant part of the transportation load by deciding to:

FHWA facilitates discussions during biweekly conference calls of the Working Group. FHWA also serves as the Working Group's principal representative for technical oversight of the University of Minnesota's research and related evaluation efforts. The Volpe Center provides technical advice to the Working Group primarily on evaluation issues and prepares summaries of each biweekly conference call. FHWA is using research funds, separate from NTPP funds, for the Volpe Center's support and participation in the Working Group. Table 6.1 summarizes the NTPP's administrative and program evaluation costs through spring 2007.

Table 6.1: NTPP Administrative and Program Evaluation Costs through Spring 2007

  NTPP Costs FHWA Costs
University of Minnesota $329,509 
Rails-to-Trails $646,941 
Volpe Center $151,400$182,732
Total $1,127,850$182,732

Advancing Federal-Aid Highway Projects

Pilot communities are advancing NTPP as Federal-aid highway projects as required by SAFETEA-LU and Title 23. Pilot communities are working quickly and effectively with their respective Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to identify nonmotorized projects and add the projects as amendments to the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Pilot communities have raised the broader profile of nonmotorized projects, and have enhanced the ability of the nonmotorized organizations to participate successfully in broader transportation planning and decisions.

The pilot communities have streamlined and expedited the project development process as much as possible. Pilot communities also are obtaining the necessary environmental clearances and following other procedures applicable to Federal-aid highway projects. Pilot communities' representatives report that it takes more staff effort and time to advance Federal-aid highway projects, compared to projects that rely solely on local funds. They also share with one another their experiences and strategies for advancing these projects.

Selecting NTPP Projects and Outreach Within the Pilot Communities

Each pilot community has done a considerable amount of local outreach for the NTPP. This outreach has resulted in a high level of interest in the NTPP in each pilot community (as reflected in media coverage, involvement of elected officials, and public attention), and volunteers in each community continue to serve on advisory groups and committees. Each community has developed a viable approach to solicit, review, and select projects and programs from those proposed. The number of applications received has exceeded the funding available, in some cases, to a significant extent.

Pilot communities' representatives determined it was essential to develop a carefully considered and comprehensive set of criteria to prioritize and rank projects. It is important to document the criteria, and for the criteria to be transparent to all interested parties. The criteria should be developed with broad community involvement. Each pilot community is conducting extensive outreach and relying on advisory groups to receive public input on the selection of NTPP projects.

Each community has developed its own participatory planning process, bringing in a broad range of partners representing transportation organizations as well as other public and private sector perspectives. Some pilot communities have created advisory committees specifically for the NTPP, while others are relying on existing groups. While these planning processes differ in each community, the NTPP pilots have developed effective models for investing in nonmotorized projects -- in capital or infrastructure projects, as well as promotional and educational programs. These planning and outreach efforts have sparked community-wide interest in nonmotorized transportation and in changing local agency policies on bicycle and pedestrian transportation.

The pilot communities believe it is essential to combine outreach, which raises community interest and expectations, with a sound technical process for selecting projects. When community participants accept the process as fair and balanced, it is possible to gain the broad support necessary to move ahead quickly to fund and implement the selected subset of proposed projects. Such outreach results in better applications for project funding. Across all communities, there is an interest in combining infrastructure projects with non-infrastructure projects, including education, outreach, and planning.

Coordinating Among Jurisdictions Within Each Pilot Community

When implementing large or complex projects, the pilot communities recognize the need to coordinate across jurisdictional boundaries. In some cases coordination involves working with city or county planning agencies, with MPOs to integrate the new projects within the metropolitan area-wide planning process (and meet federal requirements), and with State DOT and U.S. DOT field staff. In other cases, coordination expands beyond the traditional transportation sector, to include active collaboration with schools on Safe Routes to School projects or public health agencies to add rigor to consideration of the physical activity aspect of the NTPP's health theme.

Pilot communities expect these coordination efforts will contribute significantly to many aspects of NTPP's successful implementation such as meeting governmental requirements, leveraging resources, and expanding the scope and likely impact of projects.

Leveraging Additional Resources

While $100 million can support a wide range of nonmotorized projects, the development of complete nonmotorized networks in each of the four pilot communities requires leveraging additional resources. Thus, the pilot program's ability to generate insights that may be shared among other U.S. communities is limited by the extent of the nonmotorized network and nonmotorized projects that each of the four pilots can feasibly undertake.

Developing an open, constructive framework for selecting NTPP projects and coordinating across jurisdictions within the pilot communities opens the door to partnering and leveraging of resources.

The NTPP provides $25 million annually for infrastructure projects and educational programs. Pilot communities are using the funds to leverage State, local, and private funding to create a sophisticated network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and related initiatives. For example, Marin County is investing $1 million of NTPP funds for nonmotorized access as part of a $200 million rail-trail tunnel conversion; the County is also investing in nonmotorized access to a new medical campus and to improve nonmotorized facilities within a major rail-trail tunnel conversion. These projects could not be implemented with NTPP funds alone. Leveraging will compound NTPP's impact in the pilot communities, hasten the ability to show results, expand the scope and array of projects implemented, and thus increase the knowledge and understanding about the impacts of different types of projects.

Pilot communities also are leveraging in-kind support for the NTPP. For example, the CDC is providing expert consultation on how to measure improvements in physical activity, and the PBIC (part of University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center) is providing helpful advice on travel behavior measurement.

Sharing Information Among the Four Pilot Communities

Pilot community representatives believe it is essential to coordinate efforts among the four communities, to share lessons learned as outlined in this chapter on challenges and opportunities, as well as to respond to inquiries about the NTPP in a consistent manner. The communities are diverse in terms of size, extent of existing bicycle and pedestrian networks, travel behavior, and many other characteristics. Thus, each community benefits from an exchange of different implementation approaches and planning practices.

Evaluating NTPP

As summarized in Chapter 5, the University of Minnesota research team has collected community-wide "before" data. They encountered and overcame challenges inherent with this type of survey design and data collection, including the need to estimate relatively small numbers (e.g., bicycle mode split) within large geographic areas and to use limited financial resources to develop practical survey methods.

The Working Group has agreed to use a common framework and set of protocols (developed by the Volpe Center) for evaluating projects and programs within each community. Each pilot community will apply the framework to all projects, and select a sub-set of infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects in each community for detailed assessment, including through counts and surveys, to identify changes in travel behavior. Consistent data collection and evaluation are essential for synthesizing results across communities for similar types of projects and programs.

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Updated: 02/10/2014
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