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Introduction to Transportation Planning

VI. What Are the Transportation Planning Processes?

Metropolitan Transportation Planning

In metropolitan areas with a population over 50,000, MPOs are responsible for transportation planning. MPO transportation planning examines travel and transportation issues and needs in a defined metropolitan area. It includes an analysis of socio-economic characteristics of the region, as well as an examination of travel patterns and trends. The planning process includes an analysis of alternatives for addressing future transportation needs. In addition to meeting future travel demand, alternatives must also consider the way the projects affect public safety, transportation system efficiency, overall mobility, and the environment.

The MPO planning process involves the participation of key stakeholders including the business community, community groups, environmental organizations, and Tribal governments. Tribes located in or near the metropolitan area will likely be affected by planning decisions made by the MPO. MPOs are required to consult with Tribes located within their planning area to ensure that their concerns are addressed and their needs met. Tribes located adjacent to or near MPO planning areas should also get involved in the MPO planning process to ensure Tribal concerns are recognized and addressed.

After the LRTP is completed, MPOs, Tribes, and Federal Lands agencies develop together a list of short-range transportation projects and services intended to implement the planning vision and goals. These projects are compiled into the second key planning product, the MPO TIP.

How can Tribes benefit from being involved in the MPO process?

In Washington State, the coordination between the Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC), the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation provides an example of strong partnership and collaboration between tribes and an MPO. TRPC is an intergovernmental board comprised of representatives from local government jurisdictions within Thurston County and the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Nisqually Indian Tribe. TRPC serves as both the federally designated MPO and the State-designated regional transportation planning organization. The cooperation between TRPC and these two tribes has resulted in improved visibility of tribal needs in the county, improved regional coordination of projects, more and better data, and awareness of regional transportation needs that the organization have in common.

Statewide Transportation Planning

Federal regulations require that States conduct transportation planning for the entire state. As part of the planning process, they are required to coordinate their planning activities with those of every MPO in the state.

Federal regulations require States to consult with Tribes when developing the State LRTP. States are also required to consult with Tribal governments when considering environmental issues. As part of the LRTP process the State must include a discussion of possible environmental mitigation activities for environmentally sensitive areas are likely to be adversely affected when implementing the State LRTP.

The statewide planning process should reflect the needs and interests of a wide variety of stakeholders and transportation system customers. Through comprehensive public involvement efforts, stakeholders have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the plan.

The statewide transportation plan covers at least the next 20 years. Generally, the statewide transportation plan:

States are also required to develop a State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP)-a prioritized list of every transportation project in the state that is planned to be developed over the life of the STIP, usually four years. This includes projects planned by the MPO, under the IRR program, and other projects funded through and by the Tribes. One of the most important elements of the STIP-as with the other TIPs-is that every project included must have funding already identified. Projects that are not included in the STIP are not eligible to receive Federal funding. However, the STIP can be modified to include new projects as the need arises and funding becomes available.

How do Tribal liaisons ensure coordination between Tribes and States when developing the STIP?

In 1999, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), with the help of the State's Native American Advisory Committee, worked with the California Transportation Commission to pass a regulation requiring that Tribes must be consulted when preparing the STIP, which includes all MPO TIPS, Indian Tribe TIP, and the IRR TIP. To complement these rules, Caltrans is now training its staff to look for evidence of Tribal consultation in all aspects of the plan, not only in reference to cultural resources.

Indian Reservation Roads Transportation Planning

The IRR Program is one of the funding categories under the Federal Land Highway Program. IRR facilities are public roads that provide access to and within Indian lands. In states where Tribes do not have reservations, public roads that serve Indian communities or are primarily used by Tribal members may be designated as IRR facilities.

The Indian Reservation Road Transportation Improvement Program (IRRTIP) is a multi-year listing of transportation improvement projects programmed for construction by a BIA regional office, with IRR Program funds, for the next three to five years. The IRRTIP contains eligible projects from the various TTIPs. A separate IRRTIP is prepared for each State within each BIA regional jurisdiction.


The IRR planning process has several characteristics not found in the metropolitan or state planning processes:


Updated: 5/8/2015
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