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Performance Based Planning and Programming Guidebook

7. Develop Investment Priorities in the LRTP

Investment priorities are made through policy-level discussions about what packages of investments will be adopted and supported for implementation by the agency. These policy discussions culminate in the development of the LRTP. This decision-making process is iterative, and may involve going back to technical staff to answer questions, re-examine options, or evaluate hybrid scenarios.

A key element of a PBPP approach is that the LRTP is founded on an understanding of anticipated performance outcomes, and consideration of tradeoffs that may need to be made across various goal areas given resource constraints. While performance measures guide investment priorities in the LRTP, other factors, such as equity and consideration of qualitative factors inform the resulting plan.

Development of the LRTP

The purpose of the LRTP document is to document the processes, data, and analyses used to make investment decisions. The LRTP pulls together information from a variety of sources, and serves as the basis for future actions. All LRTPs lay out a long-range plan for the transportation system, investments, and policies. However, there is a large amount of variation in LRTPs, particularly between those of MPOs and State DOTs. MPO plans are fiscally constrained and identify major projects and strategies that cover the time horizon of the plan. Projects are typically described in considerable detail, although certain types of projects may defer details until a later time. MPO plans typically involve travel demand modeling to assess project needs and the performance impacts of those projects, including congestion, emissions, and mode share. In contrast, State DOT LRTPs often are policy or investment documents that do not contain the specifics associated with individual projects. Some states choose projects on high priority corridors, while others allocate available funds into investment categories but not select projects. Some states maintain a unifying policy plan, and delegate project selection to subsidiary investment plans or modal plans. However, with the advent of MAP-21 both the metropolitan and statewide and nonmetropolitan transportation planning processes are enhanced to incorporate performance goals, measures, and targets - along with reporting on the overall effectiveness of performance-based planning. Also, public involvement remains a hallmark of the planning process.

Regardless of how a plan is organized-or who authors it-a performance-based LRTP will contain some basic elements:

  1. A set of goals, performance measures, and desired trends or targets. Taken together, they form a basis for selecting investments and policies during later components of the LRTP. Goals and performance measures may address the 3-C planning factors and should address national goal areas. They also should reflect state or regional priorities and policy directions.
  2. A status report of current conditions. Status reports include an analysis of the existing system's performance. This information serves as a baseline of performance within the plan. Baseline condition analysis should include tracking of progress over several years to show recent trends in performance. This can help inform meaningful discussion of targets.
  3. An assessment of needs. Needs are composed of two different sets of information. The first component is the shortfall (or backlog) between existing conditions and optimal system conditions. The second component is established by comparing existing conditions with anticipated trends in population, employment, land use, and other factors. Taken together, needs reflect the investment required to bring the system to an acceptable state of performance before the time horizon of the plan. Optimal system conditions are usually in excess of the targets set by the plan. There will almost always be a backlog of needed projects and investment.
  4. Identification of investment priorities, policies, and strategies. The document should identify investments and strategies to be implemented to help meet performance targets that support progress toward goals. Priorities should have a clear link to the goals and objectives stated earlier in the plan. For plans that do not select individual projects, the plan should identify the amount and mix of funding within individual program areas and lay out a package of major investments and strategies.

Requirements for Long Range Transportation Plans

"A [metropolitan] transportation plan … shall contain, at a minimum, the following: (A) Identification of transportation facilities…(B) Performance measures and targets.--A description of the performance measures and performance targets used in assessing the performance of the transportation system in accordance with subsection (h)(2). (C) System performance report.--A system performance report and subsequent updates evaluating the condition and performance of the transportation system with respect to the performance targets described in subsection (h)(2), including-(i) progress achieved by the metropolitan planning organization in meeting the performance targets in comparison with system performance recorded in previous reports; and (ii) for metropolitan planning organizations that voluntarily elect to develop multiple scenarios, an analysis of how the preferred scenario has improved the conditions and performance of the transportation system and how changes in local policies and investments have impacted the costs necessary to achieve the identified performance targets." 23 USC Section 134(i)(2).

"The statewide transportation plan should include-- (A) a description of the performance measures and performance targets used in assessing the performance of the transportation system…; and (B) a system performance report and subsequent updates evaluating the condition and performance of the transportation system with respect to the performance targets [associated with national performance measures, as applicable], including progress achieved by the metropolitan planning organization in meeting the performance targets in comparison with system performance recorded in previous reports." 23 USC Section 135(f)(7).

Development of the LRTP involves considering tradeoffs. Ultimately, decision-makers will need to decide which goals and objectives are most important. Since available transportation dollars are limited, resources should be chosen using selection criteria that are clearly related to the goals and objectives in the plan as well as other non-transportation factors identified by the community or required by regulation. This evaluation should be built upon performance information, as well as analysis of issues such as geographic equity, cultural preservation and environmental justice, natural environment impacts, and air quality conformity, if applicable. Asset management approaches can help set priorities by considering factors such as risk, life-cycle costs, and long-term sustainability.

Documentation of scenario analysis can help demonstrate the results of investment scenarios. This helps communicate to the public how different levels of funding could affect investment options and performance of the system.

The primary outputs of the LRTP part of the process should provide a direct connection to support project level decision making by identifying:

Link to Other Planning Documents

While the LRTP lays out a long-range transportation strategy and investment plan, several other planning documents are important to the PBPP process. These specific plans further define projects and programs. Examples of related planning documents include modal (highway, transit, bike/pedestrian) plans, operations and management plans, and freight system plans. At State DOTs where LRTPs have traditionally been policy-oriented, these optional planning documents are particularly important as they develop their PBPP. Federally-required performance-based planning documents include Transportation Asset Management Plans, Strategic Highway Safety Plans, and Congestion Management Processes. These performance-based planning documents should be developed within the framework of goals, objectives, and performance measures established in the LRTP. In order to improve coordination between plans, agencies should monitor implementation of these other federally-required plans, incorporate strategies into subsequent planning and programming efforts, and periodically update these plans as well.

There is a complex interplay between the LRTP and other planning documents. Each document is adopted on an independent cycle; therefore existing documents should inform the development of the LRTP. Documents developed after the LRTP should incorporate information from the LRTP. The goals and performance measures used in these plans should be coordinated. By capturing information throughout all planning documents, trends can be identified. Improving or declining performance trends can help decision-makers adjust targets, or add new ones.

Colorado Department of Transportation - Policy Plan Detailing Performance Scenarios

The Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) 2035 Statewide Transportation Plan is a broad policy plan, with more detailed information available in technical reports that were part of the 2035 planning effort. The statewide plan addresses the funding-performance link by analyzing three investment scenarios, each of which projects anticipated performance based on investment levels. For example, CDOT estimates that under the forecasted revenue scenario, pavement condition will deteriorate to only 25% of roads in good/fair condition and that congestion will increase to 70 minutes of delay per traveler. CDOT has been straightforward about its need to make difficult trade-offs and has clearly stated that safety will continue to be the main focus of its work, with other programs reduced to assure the safety of the traveling public. The plan says that to deal with shortfalls in funding that will preclude maintaining current performance levels, "CDOT needs to [invest] available dollars on only the most critical purposes, [target] only the most significant corridors, and/or [lower] performance standards, or some combination of the three."

The first table represents the "Total Plan Costs 2008-2035." The table compares "Forecast Revenue," "Cost to Sustain Current Performance," and "Cost to Accomplish Vision" between two Investment Scenarios - Total and Annual. Total Investment (2008 Dollars in Billions). Forecast Revenue: $123B. Cost to Sustain Current Performance:$176B. Cost to Accomplish Vision:>$249B. Annual Investment (2008 Dollars in Billions) Forecast Revenue: $4.4B Cost to Sustain Current Performance:$6.3B. Cost to Accomplish Vision:$8.9B. The second table represents the "Estimated 2035 State Highway System Performance Outcomes". Total Investment (2008 Dollars in Billions). Forecast Revenue: $28B. Cost to Sustain Current Performance:$64B. Cost to Accomplish Vision:$107B. Performance Measure: 1. Congestion (avg minutes of daily delay per traveler in congested corridor) Forecast Revenue: 70. Cost to Sustain Current Performance: 22. Cost to Accomplish Vision:<22. 2. Maintenance Grade Forecast Revenue: F. Cost to Sustain Current Performance: B. Cost to Accomplish Vision: B. 3. Pavement Condition (% in good/fair condition). Forecast Revenue: 25. Cost to Sustain Current Performance: 60. Cost to Accomplish Vision: 75. 4. Bridge Condition (% in good/fair condition). Forecast Revenue: 60. Cost to Sustain Current Performance: 95. Cost to Accomplish Vision: 100. 5. Safety (fatality rate per 100M vehicle miles travelled). Fforecast Revenue: 1.26. Cost to Sustain Current Performance: 1.10. Cost to Accomplish Vision: 1.00.

For more information, see:

Updated: 10/20/2015
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