Transportation decisionmaking is carried out at several different levels of government:
The Federal definition of "interested parties" includes citizens, affected public agencies, representatives of public transportation employees, freight shippers, providers of freight transportation services, private providers of transportation, representatives of users of public transportation, representatives of users of pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities, representatives of the disabled, and other interested parties.(23 U.S.C. 134 and 135, and 49 U.S.C. 5304)
State Departments of Transportation (State DOTs) are the largest units of government that develop transportation plans and projects. They are responsible for setting the transportation goals for the State. To do so, they work with all of the State's transportation organizations and local governments as well as other interested parties. They are responsible for planning safe and efficient transportation between cities and towns in the State and connecting to neighboring States. They have overall responsibility for the safe operation of their State's transportation system.
Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) are organizations created and designated to carry out the metropolitan transportation-planning process. An MPO may have "council of governments," "regional planning commission," or some similar phrase in its official name. MPOs are as different as the individual metropolitan areas they represent. A policy board, which is comprised of local elected officials, sets the MPO's policy. Other groups, such as nonprofit, community based, and environmental organizations, can influence the direction an MPO follows.
Local governments carry out many transportation-planning functions, such as scheduling improvements and maintenance for local streets and roads.
Transit agencies are organizations that provide transportation for the public. Public transportation includes buses, subways, light rail, commuter rail, monorail, passenger ferryboats, trolleys, inclined railways, and people movers.
Federal Government, represented by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), oversees the transportation planning and project activities of the MPOs, State DOTs, and transit agencies. The USDOT also provides advice and training on transportation topics, ranging from pavement technology to efficient design and operations of highway and transit systems. The USDOT also supplies critical funding needed for transportation planning and projects. At least every 4 years, the USDOT approves a program of projects submitted by the State DOTs; the program includes all projects proposed for Federal funds, along with any other regionally significant project(s) involving FHWA or FTA, regardless of how it is funded.