US Department of Transportation

FHWA PlanWorks: Better Planning, Better Projects

Improved TIP Evaluation Criteria and Workflows

Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District

Project Snapshot
  • SRPEDD reviewed the entire Programming Decision Guide. We documented our review in a database available at our web page — http://bit.ly/SRPEDD-SHRP2 .
  • Through their use of PlanWorks, SRPEDD improved our institutional decision–making by:
    • Creating TIP Evaluation Criteria that are broader in scope while also being easier to use;
    • Adopting an improved and standardized project scoring system;
    • Implementing a new Project Readiness database;
    • Assembling a new catalogue of Funding Diversity;
    • Creating a networked, in–house GIS map organized by each TIP Evaluation Criteria question; and
    • Developing a user guide that builds on SRPEDD's SHRP2 Round 4 EconWorks project.

Executive Summary

Key Challenge: The Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District  ( SRPEDD ), as staff to the Southeastern Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning organization (SMMPO), screens and prioritizes Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) projects. At the beginning of SRPEDD's PlanWorks project, the SMMPO's TIP Evaluation Criteria (the methodology the agency uses to review projects) were in need of modernization.

Key Outcomes: The Programming portion of the PlanWorks Decision Guide and FHWA guidance greatly improved SRPEDD's work processes. Thanks to PlanWorks, SRPEDD is now positioned to more thoroughly review projects and to do so with less staff time. PlanWorks–related improvements include, but are not limited to: (a) TIP Evaluation Criteria that are broader in scope while also being easier to use; (b) an improved and standardized project scoring system that clearly demonstrates priorities; (c) a new Project Readiness database that allows the MPO to track detailed information about upcoming projects; (d) a new catalogue of Funding Diversity that allows the MPO to advocate for different sources of project funding early in the project development process; (e) a networked, in–house GIS map organized by each TIP Evaluation Criteria question that allows the user to rapidly respond to each prompt; and (f) a user guide that builds on SRPEDD's SHRP2 Round 4 EconWorks project to enable easier evaluation of user benefits and wider economic benefits.

Agency's Challenge

Using the Programming portion of the PlanWorks Decision Guide allowed SRPEDD to build organizational capacity and to improve institutional decision making (e.g. TIP Evaluation Criteria). This was a natural continuation of work SRPEDD undertook under a previous SHRP2 Round 4 EconWorks award. SRPEDD used EconWorks to add a much needed quantitative perspective to the TIP Project Evaluation Criteria. Similarly, SRPEDD used the resources of its Round 7 PlanWorks project and valuable FHWA guidance to continue to build expertise and broaden its perspective on civic engagement, programming, and project evaluation. SRPEDD undertook these projects because they recognized that, as the staff for a mid–sized Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), it is particularly important to keep pace and respond as State and Federal transportation funding becomes increasingly performance–based and data–driven. The standardized Programming portion of the PlanWorks Decision Guide provided much needed perspective on best practices within the MPO's primary role of helping to program SRPEDD's TIP. Moving forward, the MPO's knowledge of the suite of PlanWorks resources will also help with the creation of the 2020 Long Range Regional Transportation Plan, future corridor planning efforts, collaboration with stakeholders such as the Joint Transportation Planning Group (JTPG) and community members, and other related MPO tasks.

Product Implementation

Decision Guide
Review of Guidance: SRPEDD completed a thorough review of the PlanWorks Programming Decision Guide and its features. SRPEDD paid particular attention to PRO–1 through PRO–9's Policy Questions. SRPEDD documented its review using a database entitled SRPEDD–PlanWorks–Database, which is available from its project web page — http://bit.ly/SRPEDD-SHRP2 .

Implementation Summary

Decision Guide: Each of the 100 Policy Questions included in key decisions PRO–1 through PRO–9.

Based on SRPEDD's review and PlanWorks guidance, they identified several next steps, as documented in a database, accompanying memo, and semi–annual report to FHWA. Over the remaining months of the work program, SRPEDD implemented the proposed changes (described in the above Executive Summary and Project Snapshot) and made them available to our constituents and the MPO.

The database includes detailed responses to each of PlanWork's 100 Policy Questions. Where applicable, it also includes responses to several follow–up questions designed to provide insight into SRPEDD's thinking and its existing TIP Evaluation Criteria.

SRPEDD Deliverables: Based on SRPEDD's review and PlanWorks guidance, the agency identified several next steps, as documented in the database, an accompanying memo, and a semi–annual report to FHWA. Other SRPEDD deliverables consist of the changes to the TIP Evaluation Criteria and new initiatives described in the above Executive Summary and Project Snapshot. Over the remaining months of the work program, SRPEDD implemented the proposed changes and made them available to their constituents via the project web page and to the MPO at a presentation on November 21, 2017.

Stakeholder Collaboration

As staff of the Southeastern Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization (SMMPO), SRPEDD is charged with the programming of Federal Highway and Federal Transit funding through the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). SRPEDD undertakes this work in direct response to their Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and in consultation with federal, state, and local officials, adjacent MPOs, the state of Rhode Island, transit authorities, and the public. Our Joint Transportation Planning Group (JTPG) and municipal DPW and Planning Department partners also provide frequent and meaningful input on our work.

Key Outcomes

  • SRPEDD will present the updated TIP Evaluation Criteria and Scoring System to the JTPG and MPO for adoption in FFY19.
  • Staff will maintain the Project Readiness database on an ongoing basis. This will allow SRPEDD to have the most current project information in one centralized location. It will also allow SRPEDD to track changes and updates over the life of projects through regular archiving and data management.
  • SRPEDD will also manage and maintain the project web page, GIS map, and Funding Diversity Guide.
  • SRPEDD will keep the EconWorks user guide available for economic benefit analysis.

Figure 1. Screenshot of customized GIS Map organized by each TIP Evaluation Criteria question (Source: SRPEDD).

customized GIS Map
Integration of other SHRP2 products and FHWA initiatives

In 2014, a SHRP2 Round 4 EconWorks award enabled SRPEDD to add a much needed quantitative perspective to the TIP Project Evaluation Criteria. This same methodology document was also the focus of their Round 7 PlanWorks award. In addition to the PlanWorks–related improvements noted here, their in–house analysis can account for both standard traveler benefits and Wider Economic Benefits when evaluating the benefits and costs of key projects in their portfolio. EconWorks also allowed SPREDD to (1) build significant capacity in both their Transportation Planning and Comprehensive Planning Departments, to (2) collaborate with fellow EconWorks award recipients in CTDOT and RI Statewide Planning, and to (3) present their EconWorks W.E.B. projects to national peers at the 2016 American Planning Association (APA) National Conference in Phoenix, AZ.

Lessons Learned

SHRP2 has provided SRPEDD with two opportunities to improve their work, to expand in–house capacity, and to review and adopt FHWA best practices. These projects — both PlanWorks and EconWorks — provided resources and funding that enabled staff to update SRPEDD'.

Next Steps

  • Secure formal adoption of updated TIP Evaluation Criteria and Scoring from the SMMPO.
  • Manage and maintain other PlanWorks–related deliverables, such as the GIS map (see Figure 1 below), Funding Diversity Guide, and Project Readiness Database.
  • Expand TIP Evaluation to Future Element projects, should staff time and funding allow.
  • Evaluate economic benefits of projects when needed and should a competitive funding environment arise.

For More Information

Contacts

Grant J. King, AICP
Principal Comprehensive Planner/Information Specialist
Comprehensive Planning
(508)824–1367
gking@srpedd.org
Reena Mathews
Transportation Specialist
Federal Highway Administration
(202)366–2076
reena.mathews@dot.gov