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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Transportation Planning Update Newsletter

Winter 2000 Edition

Featured Article: Garrett Augustus Morgan 1877-1963 -- In Celebration of Black History Month
The Office of Natural Environment Proposes a Conformity Rapid Response Team
Addressing the Safety Factor in Metropolitan Transportation Planning
Context-Sensitive Design: Striking The Balance Between Transportation Goals and Community Values
Environmental Justice
FHWA Environmental Guidebook
Regional Corner: The Planning Process Updated in Massachusetts

Featured Article: Garrett Augustus Morgan 1877-1963 -- In Celebration of Black History Month

By: Deborah Burns, FTA

Garrett Augustus Morgan, was an African American businessman and inventor whose curiosity and innovation led to the development of many useful and helpful products. Morgan devoted his life to creating things that made the lives of other people safer and more convenient.

Among his inventions was the traffic light signal that greatly improved safety on American's streets. Morgan's technology was the basis for modern traffic signal systems and was an early example of what we know today as Intelligent Transportation Systems.

The Morgan traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three positions; Stop, Go and an all-directional stop position. The "third position" halted traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets more safely.

Morgan's traffic management device was used throughout North America until it was replaced by the red, yellow, and green-light traffic signals currently used around the world. Morgan was awarded a citation for his traffic signal by the United States Government.

In 1997, the Secretary of the US Department of Transportation, Rodney Slater unveiled the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program, a national program to reach and challenge one million students of all ages to focus on their math,science and technology skills so that they are ready for 21st century jobs in transportation industries. This program has lead many students to learn the many facets of transportation planning, as well as, other professions at the USDOT. The US Department of Transportation Garrett A. Morgan Program goals are:

The Federal Highway Administration, has also developed the Garrett A. Morgan Association, which consist of transportation professionals who are employed at the FHWA. The Federal Transit Administration has developed an "Introduction to Transit" workshop course in support of the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program. This workshop course was developed for college level students and now it is being revised and offered as a 1-1/2 day course for regional conferences.

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The Office of Natural Environment Proposes a Conformity Rapid Response Team

By: Jim Shrouds, FHWA

Transportation conformity requirements have become considerably more complex and in some cases, confusing over the past few years. Providing timely and useful information and support to our States and MPOs is a challenge and we would like to improve our customer service in this regard. Consequently, on an experimental basis, the Office of Natural Environment will organize and coordinate customized program, policy and analytical support for up to three areas or States throughout the country. A small team of FHWA staff augmented by consultant expertise, will be available to provide 1-3 days of on-site assistance on conformity issues. The team members will be selected based upon the kind of expertise required and the agenda for team visits will be tailored to State and/or regional needs as identified by States/MPOs and division staff. In all cases, division staff and resource center staff as appropriate, will be invited to be key participants in the Rapid Response Team. This is a completely voluntary effort that will be carried out in confidence within the FHWA family and participating State/MPOs. There will be no reporting or assessment of strengths or weaknesses in areas; the purpose is solely to offer timely and targeted expertise that may not be available readily to States and MPOs.

The complexity and dynamic nature of the conformity process and increasing incidences and threats of litigation on related issues dictates that we try new approaches to helping States and MPOs with the conformity process. Our goal is to improve our customer service on conformity issues and we hope States and MPOs will join us in this experimental effort. Please notify Cecilia Ho at or 202-366-9862 of your interest in this effort or of any questions you may have.

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By: Sherry B. Ways, FTA

A core activity of land use and transportation planning process is the development of travel networks for cars, buses, trains, bicycles, pedestrians and commercial vehicles. Traditionally, this activity has focused on achieving mobility objectives, or adequate levels of service. The consideration of safety in the planning process involves a widespread collaboration around transportation safety issues including broadening the range of entities involved.

A major component of FTA's Office of Planning Strategic Plan will be the development of regulatory and guidance materials to implement the planning provisions of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). TEA-21 speaks to safety as a major consideration in metropolitan planning and programming. One of the planning factors included in 23 USC 134 and 135 pursuant to TEA-21 deals with safety and security of the transportation system:

"Increase the safety and security of the transportation system for motorized and non-motorized users."

There is a new planning philosophy, one in which safety considerations of metropolitan planning are explicitly dealt with, and are treated at a similar level of priority to mobility and the environment. Three operational good practices of how Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) have considered safety in their metropolitan transportation planning process are presented in this article that reflect this new planning philosophy.

Below are three examples of how Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO's) have utilized safety in their planning and TIP development.

Good Practices of Safety in the Planning Process.

Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Detroit, Michigan

SEMCOG's safety program works towards five goals: to encourage comprehensive and systematic analyses/evaluation of traffic safety needs; to provide traffic assistance to local governments; to provide the umbrella for the coordination of traffic safety activities among various levels of government, the private sector and other specialized traffic safety groups; to mainstream traffic safety activities as an integral part of transportation planning; and to enhance the knowledge of local officials and the public on traffic safety.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments' Traffic and Safety Engineering Program began as part of the Transportation System Management (TSM) Planning initiated in the 1970s and was affirmed by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), which required MPOs and states to develop a Safety Management Program. In March 1991, SEMCOG published a comprehensive report entitled Regional Traffic Safety Policies for Southeast Michigan. The report articulates a detailed action agenda and establishes safety as a high priority.

In April 1996, SEMCOG hosted a seminar entitled, "Incorporating Safety Into Transportation Planning: A Seminar for Metropolitan Planning Organizations" which addressed topics such as: An Overview of Michigan's Safety Management Systems; Integrating Safety Analysis and Planning into Regional Transportation Plan Development; What Does Traffic Safety Mean to You? Helping Local Communities Develop Safety Programs; and Traffic Safety Resources.

SEMCOG also conducted a study on the crash patterns and the characteristics of elderly drivers and pedestrians in Southeast Michigan. SEMCOG's Elderly Pedestrian and Driver Study: Southeast Michigan was funded through grants from the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration.

For more information on SEMCOG's safety programs contact their website at

Denver Regional Council of Governments, Denver, Colorado

The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) conducts transportation planning and programming of transportation improvements throughout the metropolitan planning area. The organization works close with the state, county and local units of government on growth and development, and on transportation improvements.

DRCOG programs transportation safety improvement projects as part of their updated TIP. The MPO is proposing to implement a safety point look-up table for road widening, operational and interchange construction projects. It is proposed that for the 1999-2006 TIP Project Safety Scoring Points are awarded based on the forecasted decrease in the number of accidents per 3 years per mile and the proposed projects weighted crash rate (Rw). This calculation is compared to the statewide average.

For more information on DRCOG's Project Safety Scoring contact David Beckhouse, FTA Region 8 at 303/844-3242.

Dane County Regional Planning Commission, Madison, Wisconsin

The Dane County Regional Planning Commission (DCRPC) also uses a scoring system to gauge safety in the development of their TIP. DCRPC scores proposed transportation projects for safety in the following manner: High reduction in accidents or high increase in safety = 6, medium reduction = 4 and low reduction = 2. For DCRPC, safety and security is considered as part of an overall goal of "Improving Efficiency and Effectiveness of the Regional Transportation System." The assessment of Safety and Security is based on existing problems and how a proposed project will decrease problems in a regional context. For roadway and bicycle projects, accident statistics and standards are used. For transit projects, safety and security aspects of passengers and employees are considered. Of noteworthy importance is the fact that DCRPC recognizes that roadway projects could have an affect on the safety aspects of the transit system.

For more information regarding DCRPC's Safety Scoring contact:
Dane County Regional Planning Commission
217 S. Hamilton Street, Suite 403
Madison, Wisconsin 53703-3238
Telephone: (608) 266-4137

These are just a few ways that Metropolitan Planning Organizations are addressing the Safety and Security Planning factor. If you know of any other good examples of how MPOs are using safety within their long-range planning or TIP development, please send those examples to Sherry B. Ways at or call (202) 366-1587.

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Context-Sensitive Design: Striking The Balance Between Transportation Goals and Community Values

By: Chimai Ngo, FHWA

Context-sensitive design is a way to integrate highways and communities. This concept encourages designers to balance the transportation goals of mobility and safety with community values by enhancing and preserving that community's cultural and natural resources, while not establishing any new geometric standards or criteria. Context-sensitive design is supported by provisions in the ISTEA, NHS Act, and TEA-21 which emphasize the importance of good highway design that is sensitive to the human-made and natural settings. The Clinton-Gore Livability Initiative, launched in 1999, further supports context-sensitive design.

Success in context-sensitive design requires involvement of an interdisciplinary team, in which the community plays an active role throughout planning and implementation. With early and continuous collaboration, this team may identify valuable features for incorporation into plans and projects. An example of context-sensitive design is the cut-and-cover design of I-35 through Duluth, MN. Designers placed the roadway below the existing ground level and covered it over with a park to save a historic district and to improve pedestrian access to Lake Superior waterfront.

FHWA fully supports the concept of context-sensitive design. "Context-sensitive design is an important part of our effort to provide sustainable transportation service to the public," says Tony Kane, FHWA Executive Director.

For three years, the FHWA and AASHTO have been actively institutionalizing context-sensitive design. In 1997, FHWA completed a publication entitled Flexibility in Highway Design to help designers and planners develop environmentally sensitive projects. To complement this publication, AASHTO is developing additional chapters dealing with geometric design, environmental design, safety, and liability issues.

Five pilot States, one from each AASHTO region, are working cooperatively with FHWA to institutionalize context-sensitive design. The five States, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, and Utah, are incorporating context-sensitive design into their daily activities. The States are developing strategies, tools, and training materials which are instructive but also reflect geographical distinctions. Regional training activities have been sponsored in Connecticut, Maryland, and Kentucky. Training includes not only technical modules, but also communication skills and public involvement techniques. Results and status of these pilot programs will be captured in a NCHRP report scheduled to be completed in December 2000.

Since 1998, several national conferences on context-sensitive design have been held. The first conference, held in May 1998 by the Maryland State Highway Administration, set the stage for the initiative. Another conference, designed around case studies and working sessions, was sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers in June, 1999.

For further information on context-sensitive design, please contact Harold Peaks (FHWA) at 202-366-1598 or Chimai Ngo (FHWA) at 202-366-6539.

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Environmental Justice

By: Susan Grosser

FHWA/FTA planning staff are responding to requests for assistance in meeting EJ requirements in a number of ways. Two clarification memos have already gone out to field staff discussing how to address this during the planning certification review process. Additional follow-up information is being prepared now, which should be available before the issuance of the joint planning notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

Several research efforts are being initiated. An NHCRP project will review analytical tools for evaluating planning level EJ issues that are either currently available or need to be developed. FTA in cooperation with FHWA will be issuing shortly a solicitation for up to four EJ challenge grants to assist state and local agencies presently employing techniques to address EJ in the planning process. A separate SBIR grant will be devoted to developing outreach techniques to bring into the planning process hard to reach, undeserved communities.

A federal user group has been convened to develop information materials, training tools and other technical assistance for field staff and federal funds recipients. A multi-modal USDOT retreat was held recently to discuss the improved coordination of efforts agency-wide, with FHWA, FTA, FAA, FRA and OST staff participating. Also the approach of EJ civil rights investigations within DOT is being revised.

In addition, a well attended joint AASHTO/APTA/AMPO workshop was held recently in Washington to discuss EJ activities and information needs.

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FHWA Environmental Guidebook

The Office of NEPA Facilitation is announcing the availability of the Environmental Guidebook on Compact Disc (CD) and on the web. The Environmental Guidebook is a collection of environmental and project development guidance and reference materials that have been compiled over many years of FHWA's environmental responsibilities.

The Environmental Guidebook website is a companion to the CD where new and revised information will be maintained. The website is found at

If you would like a copy of the CD, you can request one from the Office of NEPA Facilitation. Please contact Benita E.J. Smith at 202/366-2065 to order your copy or visit the website.

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The Planning Process Updated in Massachusetts

By: Paul Branch and Andrew Motter

The planning requirement for MPOs to include State DOT, local officials, and transit operators to work together cooperative to carryout metropolitan and statewide planning processes is not always an easily defined task. However, more often than not there are success stories and best practice examples that serve as a reminder that the planning processes can work with a little extra effort, and great encouragement by regional staff.

The MPO and State DOT worked out a good example of how an MPO planning process can be upgraded. There was tremendous public outcry during the first round of Planning Certification Reviews in Boston and the four other TMA areas, that the MPO transportation decision-making process was not working. The lack of local elected official representation on MPO boards led participants to characterize the MPO process as an area of great concern. The Boston MPO was the last MPO to be reviewed in that round and the FTA and FHWA withheld certification for the Boston MPO pending resolution of how to increase involvement of local elected officials.

The State DOT and Boston MPO met over a period of months, using a facilitator to discuss how they could develop a more collaborative process. As a result, the Boston MPO was restructured to include additional local elected officials as members of the MPO.

This process opened the way for other MPOs, such as Southeastern Massachusetts (SRPEDD), Merrimack Valley (MVRPA) and Pioneer Valley (PVPC) in Massachusetts to define how best they could restructure their MPO to increase the involvement of local elected officials. It is anticipated that several of the non TMA MPOs may also avail themselves of this restructuring opportunity.

This is a great example of steps taken to improve participation in the planning process.

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Upcoming NTI, NHI Training Opportunities

Provided below is a partial listing of National Transit Institute (NTI) and National Highway Institute (NHI) courses.

Corridor, Subareas, & Major Investment Studies - Dates TBA
Contract Administration: Dates TBA
Introduction to Metropolitan Transportation Planning - Dates TBA
Public Involvement in Transportation Decision-making - Dates TBA
Statewide and Metropolitan Transportation Programming: Dates TBA
Forecasting Travel Demand for Transit and HOV: Dates - TBA
ITS for Training: Solving Real Problems - Dates TBA

Additionally, NTI will hold the following workshops: Pedestrian Planning and Facilities, Bicycle Planning and Facilities, and Fare Collection. For more information on the courses listed above and additional course offerings, contact the NTI at 732-932-1700 or access the NTI Internet site at

Access Management and Traffic Analysis of Highways - Dates - TBA

For more information on NHI courses, contact the NHI at 703-235-0519 or access the NHI Internet site at

ITS Training Opportunities
A series of ITS seminars and workshops scheduled at several locations around the country are being conducted as part of the Professional Capacity Building (PCB) program. These sessions are intended to increase the knowledge of local FTA and FHWA field staff, state DOTs, MPOs, transit operators and other interested organizations about ITS technology and planning issues.

The current schedule includes the following sessions:
Deploying Integrated ITS
Telecommunications Shared Resources Workshop
ITS and the Transportation Planning Process

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Updated: 4/1/2016
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