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Developing a Long-Range Transportation Plan

Steps For Developing a Long-range Transportation plan

The purpose of transportation planning is to identify broad goals to meet transportation needs. The multimodal strategies for achieving these goals can and should address current and future community land use, economic development, environment (natural, human, and cultural), traffic demand, public safety, health, and social needs, among others.

There are several Federal requirements that call for an LRTP. Most Tribes are familiar with this requirement in the IRR Program Final Rule (IRR Rule 25 CFR 170.410-415). Additional requirements for LRTPs can be found in the FHWA/FTA statute and regulation on Statewide and metropolitan planning (23 United States Code [USC] 134 and 135; and 23 CFR 450.214 and 450.322).

Generally speaking, all the Federal regulations and the statute mentioned above require public involvement and a 20-year horizon for the LRTP to assist communities in the transportation decisionmaking process. In addition, there are specific elements required for States and metropolitan areas.

For Tribal governments, the IRR Rule iden tifies elements that may be included in the LRTP (see Figure 1); however, there are

A comprehensive long-range transportation plan may include:

  1. an evaluation of a ful lrange of transportation modes and connections between modes such as highway, rail, air, and water, to meet transportation needs.
  2. Trip generation studies, including determination of traffic generators due to land use.
  3. social and economic development planning to identify transportation improvements or needs to accommodate existing and proposed land use in a safe and economical fashion measures that address health and safety concerns relating to transportation improvements.
  4. a review of the existing and proposed transportation system to identify the relationships between transportation and the environment.
  5. cultural preservation planning to identify important issues and to develop a transportation plan that is sensitive to tribal cultural preservation.
  6. scenic byway and tourism plans.
  7. measures that address energy conservation considerations.
  8. a prioritized list of short and long term transportation needs.
  9. an analysis of funding alternatives to implement plan recommendations.

no statutory required steps or elements for a Tribal LRTP. This outline covers a set of eight basic steps to con sider when developing your Tribe's LRTP. It is important to note that some textbooks outline a process with as few as four steps. The important message here is that this model can be tailored to meet each Tribe's needs and resources.This module for Developing a Long-Range Transportation Plan is adapted for Tribes from the joint FHWA/FTA document titled Planning for Transportation in Rural Areas.2 These basic steps are outlined in Figure 2 below.

The LRTP steps outlined in this module can be used to develop an LRTP as required by the IRR Rule (25 CFR 170.410 through 170.415) as well as a means for coordinating planning activities within the Statewide and metropolitan transportation planning processes (23 CFR 450.214 and 23 CFR 450.322). As noted earlier, the steps outlined are neither to be considered prescriptive nor are they required. As with every Tribe, each transportation planning process is unique and should be tailored to best meet local community circumstances and needs.

Figure 1 : Basic Steps in Developing an LRTP.

Click on image for detailed description

Transportation planning provides a framework for the community to make decisions about its transportation system. The LRTP is a tool for Tribal members as well as for the Tribal decisionmakers. As you set out to develop the LRTP for your Tribe, remember that a successful process does not have to be complex and that there is no set length of pages. Through a focused set of Tribal meetings, your Tribe can develop a transportation plan that is suited to meet the unique needs of your Tribe. These planning activities can occur with a minimal budget. Ultimately, the plan will identify long and short-term needs that may be large or small investments. For example, the short-term budget may include either bridge improvements or perhaps only one van and one driver.

Public Involvement and Consultation with Planning Partners

Public involvement is an opportunity to capture a community's values and perceived needs, establish consensus, and identify issues and concerns. The IRR Rule and the FHWA/FTA Statewide and metropolitan planning process specify requirements related to public involvement. In fact, public involvement is perhaps the single most important component of transportation planning. Effective public involvement will result in opportunities for Tribal members to participate in the planning process. As depicted in Figure 2, public involvement should take place throughout the entire planning process, and it is an integral component to many of the steps.

Prior to adopting plans or programs, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) or State Department of Transportation (DOT) are required to provide citizens, affected public agencies, representatives of transportation agency employees, private providers of transportation, other affected employee representatives, and other interested parties with a reasonable opportunity to comment on the plan. The new IRR Rule found in 25 CFR 170 identifies a set of criteria for the BIA and Tribes regarding public hearings. After consultation with the appropriate Tribe and other agencies, the MPO or DOT then will determine the need for public involvement (based on the criteria) for an IRR transportation improvement program and an LRTP or project. In addition, a public review of the draft IRR LRTP is required.

Separate and equally important to the public involvement process is consultation with planning part ners. As described in Figure 3, there are consultation requirements specified in the Statewide, metropolitan, and IRR statute and regulation.Consultation between planning partners is an opportunity to confer on needs of the larger community, to compare and coordinate planning approaches, and to generally communicate about the mutual vision for the transportation system that often will cross over multiple jurisdictions.

The Navajo Transit System (NTS) successfully demonstrated a comprehensive process for public involvement outreach as well as consultation with planning partners while developing the Navajo Transit System.

In developing the plan, the NTS conducted extensive outreach across three States and to more than 100 Tribal chapters. This effort brought together passengers, Tribal leaders, and representatives from the Navajo Nation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs to collaborate on developing a long-range plan for the NTS. The plan demonstrates a realistic need for regional and commu nity transportation. It includes strategies for expanding mode choices and providing access to healthcare and employment for those living in remote, isolated areas with few transportation options.3

- Transportation and planning excellence awards FY 2004, Honorable mention

Table 1: Consultation and Public Involvement Statutory/Regulatory Requirements.

Action Description Statutory/Regulatory References

Indian Reservation Roads Program

Defines consultation as “government-to-government communication in a timely manner by all parties about a proposed or contemplated decision in order to (1) secure 25 CFR 170.424 meaningful Tribal input and involvement in the decisionmaking 25 CFR 170.435-441 process and (2) advise the Tribe of the final decision and provide an explanation.”

25 CFR 170.100-108
25 CFR 170.413
25 CFR 170.424
25 CFR 170.435-441

Statewide Transportation Planning

Defines distinct forms of cooperation or consultation to be undertaken by the States in the development of Statewide long-range transportation plans and Statewide Transportation Improvement Programs with the following three types of governments: (1) metropolitan planning organizations
(2) non-metropolitan local officials, and (3) Indian Tribal areas.

23 U.S.C. 135(d)-(f)
23 CFR
450.104; 450.208(a)(23);450.210(a);450.214(c)(2);

Transportation Planning

Requires that where a metropolitan planning area includes Federal public lands and/or Indian Tribal lands, the affected Federal agencies and Indian Tribal governments shall be involved appropriately in the development of transportation plans and programs. The Transportation Management Area (TMA) Planning Certification Review is an oversight opportunity for FHWA/FTA to ensure 450.330(a)
that the metropolitan planning process in each TMA is being conducted in accordance with applicable provisions of Federal law.

23 U.S.C. 134(h)(3)(B)
23 U.S.C. 134(i)(5)
23 CFR
23 U.S.C. 101(a)(23)
450.104; 450.202; 450.312(i);

Step 1: Establish Policy Goals and Objectives

The first step in developing an LRTP is to discuss the goals and objectives. At this stage, the Tribe is setting the overall goals for how the transportation system should be designed, built, operated and maintained over the next 20 years.

LRTPs should be linked to the Tribe's land use plan and should consider a full range of modal choices and investment options such as the following:

Transportation modal choices:

Investment options:

To be most useful, the goals should be specific enough to guide the development of the plan but at the same time flexible enough to respond to changing conditions and implementation priorities. For example, the Organized Village of Kake (OVK) in Alaska developed a transportation plan with a general goal to address:

...the future land use, social and economic development, traffic demand, public safety, and health and social needs for the next 20 years. The LRTP will help identify OVK's role in the community of Kake's development and help maintain the transportation infrastructure that is needed within Kake.

Policy statements are also often developed as a result of goals. In the policy statement below from the Bois Forte Indian Reservation 20-year transportation plan, multiple modes are identified. Emphasis is placed on an "interconnected and efficient system." It is also important to note that this policy statement considers the transportation boundaries beyond the limits of the reservation.

The purpose of this study is to develop a guide for transportation improvements over a 20-year period, looking at all modes of transportation affecting the reservation. This study looks at the entire Bois Forte transportation network in order to develop a plan that links all modes together into an interconnected and efficient system. In addition, the study examines ways to connect reservation residents to other parts of the State whether it be through increased service from the Orr Regional Airport, or mass transit that links the reservation to the Iron Range cities of Minnesota.4

Additional items to consider in the development of policy goals and objectives include the following:

Goals and objectives may include qualitative and quantitative characteristics. For example, one goal may be for all members of the Tribe to have access to some form of transportation. A possible objective to achieve this goal may be to establish a dial-a-ride system, accessible to all Tribal members. Figure 4 identifies NTS' goal and objective for completing their long-range plan.

FHWA/FTA Transportation Planning Excellence Awards:2004 Honorable Mention (co-sponsored by The American Planning Association).

In 2003, the NTS completed a long-range plan to guide the gradual strengthening and expansion of its services and facilities. This long-range plan was the first of its kind in the history of the NTS and represents a unique achievement in Tribal transportation planning. While short-range, three-year plans are commonly prepared in order to secure Federal transit funding, those plans are limited by their lack of ability to pursue the "big picture" and are not appropriate tools for implementing major changes in strategy or direction. The NTS recognized that a longer-range vision was needed to address the large-scale route restructuring and capital improvements needed for the system, including a new administrative and maintenance facility. In developing the plan, it became evident that a clear and financially sustainable long-term strategy would be necessary to meet future transit demand across the reservation. The result was a long-range plan unique in its assessment of need and in ts prescription of incremental and cumulative change.

Every Tribe will, of course, have different priorities and therefore different goals and objectives. Nevertheless, the key factor is that the goals and objectives are developed in a consultative manner, including significant public involvement; are measurable; and are used to guide plan development.

Step 2: Analyze Transportation System Conditions

To determine what future investments to make, theTribe should first evaluate the existing conditions of the transportation system. There are a variety of tools andtechniques available to evaluate existing conditions. To evaluate the existing system condition, you mustfirst identify the types of system performance measuresto use. The measurements will vary on the basis of themode. For example, service objectives for roadwaysmay include consideration of roadway capacity, design,and safety. Examples of transit service standards arepopulation coverage and frequency of service. The Navajo Nation provides a good example of how the first two steps support the development of an LRTP.

The Navajo Nation is by far the largest Tribal reservation in the United States, covering over 26,000 square miles and comprising over 280,000 members. The NTS currently has fifteen vehicles serving seven routes. The long-range plan found that, given the continuation of historical trends, transit demand is anticipated to outpace system growth by a factor of seven over the next 20 years. It was clear that the NTS faces some unique challenges in meeting future demand within current funding levels. It also became clear that, given the real funding constraints of the past two decades, the plan would need to carefully prioritize improvements. Based on a comprehensive assessment of existing capital facilities and service levels, ridership data, Tribal leadership priorities, and Reservation demographics, the NTS long range plan identified and prioritized a series of capital and service improvements over the next 20 years.5

Factors to consider when conducting a conditions analysis are as follows:

If data collection is beyond your current resources,it is important to remember that Federal, State, and local agencies (such as the Federal Lands, BIA, State, city, and county) are valuable resources for obtaining existing systemconditions data. The BIA maintains a database of Indian Reservation Roads. The State DOT may have data regarding operational and physical char acteristics of the State and county system.

Data sharing enables cooperating agencies to effectively utilize one another as a resource.Some areas, like Washington State, are working with Tribes to develop an accurate database of incidents on reservation roads. Another example of data sharing comes from the Executive Summary of the Grand Portage Transportation Plan:

The first step taken toward completing the transportation plan consisted of working with the Grand Portage Natural Resources Department to obtain the comprehensive inventory of all roads within the reservation developed by their Geographic Information System staff. Results from the inventory were used to establish an up-to-date database of all reservation roads.6

Measurement/Monitoring of Existing System Conditions

The steps involved in the measurement and monitoring of existing system conditions are as follows:

Types of condition information that fall into the following categories are shown in Table 1.

Table 2: Condition information and category.

Category Measure


Extent of the system-
basic inventory

  • Number of lane miles
  • Number of transit vehicles
  • Square footage of bridges
  • Length of culverts, etc.
  • Services available

Use of system

  • Traffic, ridership, etc.

Physical conditions/

  • Pavement,bridges, transit equipment

Operational conditions/

  • Mobility
  • Safety

Remember that these steps are general. Many Tribes will not develop this level of detail when measuring existing system conditions. For example, in the Organized Village of Kake Transportation Plan, factors considered are "weather, soil, and topography," "community road system," drainage, "right-of-way road ownership," and "inventory of maintenance equipment."

Forecasting Future Conditions

Plans are future oriented. Although they typically respond to a backlog of needs, they should address future conditions and plan for them. In rural areas, straightforward approaches can be used to forecast future conditions.

There are a number of ways to estimate travel demand within the transportation planning context. These range from simple techniques, such as historical trend analysis, to variants of more complex computer models that require large databases of demographic and socioeconomic information to forecast travel demand. Simplified demand estimation techniques and analysis are appropriate in most Tribal planning situations.

The demand analysis should identify all perceived mobility issues, impediments, and opportunities in the region. For example, if a section of roadway is thought to be unsafe and safety improvements are proposed, then a detailed accident history should be compiled to support the assessment. Or if the transportation of the elderly and/or disabled is felt to be an important transportation need, then various findings from State, regional, and local transit needs and benefits studies should provide the supporting documentation. The State DOT will be able to provide modal data, such as traffic volumes, volume/capacity ratios, accident rates, transit ridership, and the core rail system to assist in this analysis.

Land use and economic development information can be accessed through the following:

Local Comprehensive Plans

Rural Development Plans

Census Bureau

US. Geological Survey

Step 3: Perform Needs Analysis

Transportation system needs are most usefully assessed by evaluating the gap between the goals and objectives that are established for the transportation system and the baseline system conditions. The needs are the planned actions for addressing this gap. How much can be implemented over the planning horizon will depend in large part on finance levels. A successful needs analysis should:

In identifying the deficiencies, results from public involvement meetings/activities should be used as input, although these may be mostly subjective. The Grand Portage Transportation Plan states the following:

Following the gathering of the road inventory data, the first transportation steering committee meeting was held to review the inventory data and identify issues within the Grand Portage transportation system. Issues regarding the transportation system were also gathered from Grand Portage residents through the use of a community wide survey mailed in June 2002. The issues were grouped into the following topics: trails and recreation; the Grand Portage National Monument; community walkability and safety; the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino; and maintenance issues. In addition, the public was offered an additional opportunity to comment on the transportation planning process during an open house held at the Grand Portage Community Center in June 2002.

Gap Analysis

The needs analysis can be used to determine broad but different categories of need for achieving planning mgoals. A first step in a needs assessment is to measure the gap between the transportation system goals and current objectives and conditions. This requires a set of goals and objectives that can be quantified and that can relate to the operational and physical condition of the transportation system. The results of this gap analysis are often referred to as deficiencies.

Evaluation of Alternative Strategies and Actions to Address the Gap

The purpose of this step is to assess the cost and impacts on transportation system condition of alternative strategies or improvements that address transportation needs. For long-range planning purposes, the needs areas can be grouped different ways. They can be organized for the different elements of the transportation system (roads, bridges, rail, etc.) and different policy goal areas (mobility, safety, preservation, economic development, environmental, etc.) that are established in the plan. Evaluation can be undertaken at a "coarse” level to consider the full range of alternative strategies and to identify those meriting further consideration. These can be then subject to a more detailed analysis.

Select Strategies and Actions Identify Costs

For your Tribal transportation plan, remember to consider alternative strategies for addressing deficiencies. Once a strategy is developed, the cost of implementing this strategy defines the needs. The total cost of the plan improvements is important for determining implementation. This is developed by determining the cost of implementing the selected strategies. See "Cost Estimates" under Step 5.

Step 4: Set Prorities

Because transportation needs typically outweigh expected revenues, it is important to prioritize the needs identified during the transportation planning process. Given the often overwhelming number of potential improvements, it is important that the planning process has an agreed upon approach to project prioritization. The key success factors for setting priorities are as follows:

In the case of the Grand Portage Transportation Plan, the "Step 3: Needs Analysis" outlined in this module was addressed in combination with the "Step 4: Set Priorities." This again underscores the point made earlier that Tribes should customize the process to
fit their needs and available resources.

Step 5: Establish a Funding Plan

The transportation plan needs to be realistic, and usually that means fundable. A financial analysis of the specific projects that implement the transportation plan will help to ensure that it is realistic. Without tying transportation projects to reliable funding, the recommended solutions that are developed can easily become a “wish list.” Principles for developing a funding plan include the following:

Financial Planning Steps

The following steps can be used to develop the transportation finance analysis:

  1. Identify transportation needs and solutions.
  2. Develop cost estimates for solutions.
  3. Assess the ability to pay for these projects and services.
  4. Develop financing policies.
  5. Forecast revenue from existing and potential sources.
  6. Develop a financing schedule by matching transportation projects and services to revenue projections.
  7. Establish policies to govern the management of the transportationfinancing program.

These steps are not strictly sequential. For example, forecasting revenue from existing and potential sources can proceed at the same time as the identification of transportation needs.

Cost Estimates

Cost estimates are necessary to compare the transportation needs with available revenues.Costs should be estimated for the following:

On the highway side, there are wel lestablished unit costs that can be applied to develop needs estimates for improvements. Project development costs to consider include planning, environmental analysis and review, engineering, design, construction, right of way (property, relocation, and settlement costs), construction, and maintenance costs. Use "rough" unit prices, for example, $3,000/linear foot of new roadway, $800/linear foot
of new, shared bike pedestrian path, and $200/square foot for a new bridge. These unit prices can come from a variety of sources such as BIA, county, State, FLH, FHWA, or FTA.

Unit costs can be developed and factored for inflation. For other transportation modes there are less well established methods; however,most State DOTs are now working on developing consistent assumptions and a rigorous approach for developing cost estimates for other transportation modes

It is important to estimate transportation systems operations and maintenance costs, because these will likely consume a significant portion of the existing revenue resources. Estimates can usually be based on existing historic data. The information required is likely to be available from the finance officer of the State, transit agency, and city or county. Estimates of new costs for facilities and services will generally be based on a combination of rough estimates and specific cost estimates. Detailed cost estimates based on preliminary engineering, right-of-way appraisals, or operating plans only need to be done for the most immediate recommended improvements. Most of the recommended improvements in a long-range transportation plan will need an “order-of-magnitude” cost estimate. These estimates are

based on factors such as typical “per mile” construction costs for different types of roadways or the operating costs for similar transit services in other counties.

Step 6: Develop the Plan

Developing the plan document or "putting it all together" can be a difficult process if not approached in a systematic fashion. Key success factors for developing plans include the following:

Just as the Statewide, MPO, and LRTPs are the basis for the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, for the Indian Reservation Roads Program Transportation Improvement Program (IRRTIP), the LRTP is used to develop the Tribal Transportation Improvement Program and the IRRTIP.

During the planning process, all technical data and methodologies used should be documented. All references and other reports cited should also be documented. A model outline for a transportation plan is provided in Figure 5. After the evaluation, analysis, and public involvement process takes place, a recommendation is made to the Tribal Council. A formal presentation should be made to the decisionmaking group, presenting the technical analysis and information gathered. As decisionmakers for the Tribe, Tribal Council members may want further information or may choose a different alternative than exactly what is presented by Tribal staff. With the technical analysis and information presented, the Tribal Council can make an informed decision.


Provides an overall summary of the plan's objectives, methodology, findings, and recommendations.

This section presents the overall vision, goals, and objectives developed during the planning process. These form the overall umbrella for the direction of the transportation plan in terms of plan priorities.

Chapter I. Introduction
The introduction outlines the purpose of the plan, the plan participants, and the organization of the document.

Chapter II. Existing Conditions
This section presents the existing condition of the transportation system in terms of:
  • Roadways (road and bridge conditions, traffic volumes, safety, and other criteria).
  • Public or quasi public transportation (transit, school bus, emergency service routes and facilities, air, and water).
  • Non-motorized transportation (bicycle pathways, pedestrian pathways, and equestrian routes).
  • Land use and population considerations, plans and programs of other agencies and jurisdictions, and county-wide policies.

Chapter III. Traffic Forecasts
This section presents historical traffic trends; population and land-use trends; population and demographic projections; population distribution; future land-use map; and future traffic projections and trends.

Chapter IV. Alternative Strategies Evaluation
The alternative strategies evaluation section presents the determination of needs based upon existing conditions and traffic. It forecasts the evaluation of alternatives for traffic safety, level of service and congestion, environmental impacts, financing, community support, and consistency with plans of other agencies and jurisdictions.

Chapter V. Priorities and Recommendations
This section presents prioritized recommendations for improvements to the area transportation system including: level of service; new corridors; road widenings; spot/ intersection widenings; realignments or channelization; traffic control or signalization; shoulder improvements; paving, bridge replacements, or other physical improvements; pedestrian, bicycle, or equestrian improvements; transit and transit facilities; and land-use/transportation linkages.

Chapter VI. The Financing Element of the Plan
The financing section presents cost estimates for identified improvements, potential financing options,
reassessment of identified improvements based upon financial constraints, and the 3-year transportation improvement program for the area.

Chapter VII. Implementation and Monitoring
This section provides the plan for continually monitoring the performance of the transportation system to determine the progress being made in improving system performance and to identify additional areas of improvement.

A. References
B. Technical Data and Methodologies
C. Excerpts from other Reports

Step 7: Develop the Program

Programming refers to a series of activities carried out by transportation planners, including data assessment, appraisal of identified planning needs, and consideration of available or anticipated fiscal resources (i.e., funding) to result in the drawing up, scheduling, and planning of a list of identified transportation improvements for a given period of time. The programming of projects for funding should consider:

  1. Timing of the need for improvements (e.g., when the facility falls below the locally established level of service under assumed growth rates).
  2. Timing for fund availability (i.e., transportation project may need to be replaced, phased over several years).

Plans often will require more funds than are available from Federal, State, and local sources traditionally dedicated to transportation funding. This means that the agencies engaged in transportation planning should identify funding mechanisms to support implementation of the transportation plan or reassess their desired levels of service.

Step 8: Implement and Monitor The Plan

For a transportation plan to be successful, it must be implemented effectively, and its progress should be monitored against the plan’s objectives, thereby providing a "feedback loop." Transportation planning includes continually monitoring the performance of the transportation system and ensuring that plans are being implemented to meet the intended objectives.
The success factors for implementation and monitoring of the transportation plan include the following:

Less effective transportation plans typically lack an effective implementation plan and monitoring mechanism. These are required to "keep the plan alive" and to ensure that the plan guides and shapes transportation decisions in the future. Transportation plans need to be periodically reviewed and updated to stay current. The IRR Program requires an annual review of the LRTP and updates every 5 years (see 25 CFR 170.414).

2 This section is adapted from the joint FHWA/FTA document titled Planning for

3 The Navajo Transit System Long-Range Transportation Plan received an honorable mention through the Transportation Planning Excellence Awards in FY 2004. More information is available at

4. Bois Forte Indian Reservation 20-year Transportation Plan, March 2002

5 The Navajo Transit System Long-Range Transportation Plan received an honorable mention through the FHWA/FTA Transportation Planning Excellence Awards in FY 2004. More information is available at

6 Grand Portage Transportation Plan Executive Summary, January 2003.

Updated: 5/8/2015
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