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Metropolitan Planning Process

What is the Transportation Improvement Program?

The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is a federally required planning document produced annually by the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The TIP lists all transit and highway projects that are anticipated to be implemented with federal aid over a three-year horizon and continues beyond federal requirements by listing non-federal aid highway projects as well. The TIP is financially constrained and can only program projects for which funds are expected to be available. A transit project must be programmed in the TIP in order to receive federal funding, while a roadway project must be programmed in the TIP to be eligible for either federal or state funding.

MPO map
Boston Regional Metropolitan Planning Organization Municipalities

How does the project development process work?

Most roadway projects begin at the local level with the identification of a particular need or deficiency. If the city or town is seeking state or federal participation, the project must be coordinated through the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). To initiate this process, the city or town must contact the appropriate MassDOT Highway District Office. Assuming the district and the community agree on the merits of the project, the district submits a Project Initiation Form to the Central Office. The project request is then submitted to MassDOT's Project Review Committee (PRC) for a determination of funding eligibility and project feasibility. If the project is approved by the PRC, it is entered into MassDOT's internal project information system (ProjectInfo) and assigned to a project manager. For most roadway projects, the city or town is responsible for funding and overseeing all facets of the design process, including acquisition of any necessary right-of-way. The project manager works with the community and the design consultant to shepherd the project through the process. Typical milestones in the design process include: submission and approval of the 25% design plans, a public hearing on the 25% design, submission and approval of the 75% design plans, submission and approval of the 100% design plans, and preparation of the plans, specifications and estimates (PSE). Concurrent with this process, right-of-way must be acquired and environmental requirements must be satisfied.

Other roadway projects and most bridge projects are initiated by MassDOT. These projects are often identified through one of MassDOT's ongoing management systems. The Bridge Management System, the Safety Management System, the Congestion Management System, and the Pavement Management System periodically monitor roadway facilities to estimate current or future construction needs. Projects may also be identified through planning or corridor studies. Regardless of their genesis, these projects go through the design process discussed above; however, MassDOT assumes responsibility for funding and overseeing all facets of the design process, including the acquisition of any necessary right-of-way.

The process for developing transit projects differs from that used for roadway projects. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is responsible for overseeing all facets of the process from planning studies through design and construction. Maintenance projects are primarily generated through the use of the MBTA's Systemwide Condition Assessment and Capital Investment Program Database. This database, which is actually a detailed computer model, contains information on the operational attributes (age, service life, cost, etc.) of all MBTA facilities. Based upon a formula developed by the MBTA, the database prioritizes current and future capital needs. Transit expansion and service improvement projects are primarily generated through ongoing planning processes. The Program for Mass Transportation (PMT) ranks possible projects into low, medium, and high priorities based upon a set of performance measures. This process involves a robust public outreach effort that provides for direct public input. The MBTA and the MPO may also work directly with affected cities and towns to address current and future transit needs on a project-specific basis.

How is the TIP developed?

The TIP is developed by the MPO's Planning and Programming Committee. The process begins with the development of programming targets. MassDOT, in consultation with the Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies (MARPA), estimates the amount of federal and state funding available for highway projects over the period of the TIP. The Planning and Programming Committee then develops a financially constrained TIP by reviewing all of the highway projects contained in ProjectInfo and any other project proposals eligible for federal funding (e.g., transportation demand management projects). Projects are selected for programming in the TIP based upon various factors, including but not limited to: facility condition, mobility needs, safety issues, policy considerations, geographic equity, and design readiness. For the transit program, the MBTA provides the Planning and Programming Committee with an estimate of available transit funding for a three-year period and a recommended list of projects to fund under the program. These recommendations are based, in large part, upon the Systemwide Condition Assessment Database. The Transportation Planning and Programming Committee developed criteria to select projects for the TIP in order to promote a fair and objective process. The project selection criteria address condition, safety, mobility, cost-effectiveness, economic development, land use, community impact and other pertinent factors. These factors outline project information forms as a means for the MPO to collect information about projects. Once the information is collected, it is analyzed by MPO staff and the results are given to the Transportation Planning and Programming Committee members to be used as a tool in prioritizing projects to program. Project information forms are sent to the TIP Contact of the project proponent(s) (typically a municipality or state agency) for review and comment, and are returned to the MPO. The MPO's project information forms are not the same as Project Initiation Forms submitted by the MassDOT Highway District offices.

Who are the MPO members?

The MPO is made up of 13 voting members including four state agencies, one regional agency, the City of Boston, three other cities and three towns. The first seven members listed have permanent membership on the MPO, while the three cities and three towns have an established term of office and are subject to election by the 101 member communities of the MPO. The permanent members of the MPO are the City of Boston, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), and the MBTA Advisory Board. Currently, the elected members of the MPO are the cities of Somerville, Newton, and Braintree and the towns of Bedford, Framingham and Hopkinton.

Who can I contact to discuss TIP issues?

The TIP Project Manager is Hayes Morrison of the MPO staff at 617-973-7129.

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