What’s the TIP?

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By Dave Van Hattum, Advocacy Director

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Updated each year, the metro region’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is a summary of all surface transportation projects for which the region expects to draw down federal transportation funds in the following four years. The current TIP lists projects planned between 2017 and 2020, including for roads, bridges, public transit, bicycling, walking, and air quality. There are approximately 450 projects in the current TIP, totaling approximately $3.9 billion.

Clipping from a bike ped table in TIP
A clip from a table showing bike & pedestrian projects

The TIP is required by the Federal Highway Administration and is completed by the Metropolitan Council. The Council is seeking public comment on the draft TIP by August 3. There also are opportunities for public testimony at a Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) meeting on August 17 and a future meeting of the Metropolitan Council.

Why pay attention to the TIP?

It’s a preview of construction projects to come and, if it was easier to understand, could be a way to tell if the region is meeting its goals. All of the projects in the TIP have been previously advanced by some decision-making body – MnDOT, Metropolitan Council, Metro Transit, the Counties Transit Improvement Board, or by the Met Council’s Transportation Advisory Board (TAB). The projects are at various stages of public engagement depending on the expected completion date. So, there may be opportunities to weigh in on specific projects.* But, for the TIP overall, here are points for consideration for making a comment:

Tell the Met Council to make the TIP easier to understand. Transportation agencies around the country are making their data and reports more user friendly. The Met Council should do this too. For example, they could include summary information on trends relative to the last TIP, such as the share of spending for each mode and how much is being spent on road maintenance versus road expansion. The TIP also should be much clearer about project categories, so that a non-engineer could understand and comment on the list of projects. The tables in the current TIP use 7 categories for project type and 14 MnDOT categories for individual projects.

Tell the Met Council you support the planned funding for transit, bicycle, and pedestrian infrastructure. The current TIP shows about 40 percent of funding to roads, 58 percent to transit projects, and 2 percent to bike and pedestrian projects. Transit has a large share in this TIP because it includes major projects, such as the Green Line LRT extension and the Orange Line BRT. They reflect our region’s focus on building out the transit system—an effort where we’re playing catch up with other cities. Let the Met Council know you support these investments. (Note that over a longer horizon—out to 2040—the share of expected spending on roads is $53 billion versus $31 billion for transit, according to Transportation Planning Facts, a Met Council hand out.)

Tell the Met Council that the TIP should better reflect the goals in Thrive MSP. A number of projects in the TIP (about 17 percent) are decided upon by the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) through the Regional Solicitation for federal funds. Most of these funds are flexible—they can be allocated to any mode. The Met Council made a commitment that it would work with the TAB to advance goals in Thrive MSP (the region’s long-range plan) for equity and sustainability. But, we know from following the TAB that it is continuing to make funding decisions based on historical averages. What does that mean? Over the last 10 years or so, the Regional Solicitation funding was split 58 percent to roads, 27 percent to transit, and 15 percent to bike/ped. The TAB has set policy to shoot for that split of funding by mode in future project selections from the Regional Solicitation. In other words, there has been no shift in priority of funding to transit, bicycling, and walking, which would be a pro-equity and pro-sustainability policy change. Transit and active transportation advocates should tell the Met Council to follow through on its commitments to work with TAB to prioritize transit, bicycling and walking projects that address sustainability and equity.

Your comments on the TIP can serve as a reminder to transportation planners that people are paying attention and would like transportation spending to be more transparent.

[/cmsms_text][/cmsms_column][/cmsms_row][cmsms_row data_width=”boxed” data_padding_left=”3″ data_padding_right=”3″ data_color=”default” data_bg_color=”#ffffff” data_bg_position=”top center” data_bg_repeat=”no-repeat” data_bg_attachment=”scroll” data_bg_size=”cover” data_bg_parallax_ratio=”0.5″ data_color_overlay=”#000000″ data_overlay_opacity=”50″ data_padding_top=”0″ data_padding_bottom=”50″][cmsms_column data_width=”1/1″][cmsms_image align=”center” caption=”Twin Cities Metropolitan Area ” link=”http://www.tlcminnesota.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/TIP-MPOarea2015.jpg” animation_delay=”0″]8153|http://www.tlcminnesota.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/TIP-MPOarea2015-820×490.jpg|masonry-thumb[/cmsms_image][/cmsms_column][/cmsms_row][cmsms_row data_width=”boxed” data_padding_left=”3″ data_padding_right=”3″ data_color=”default” data_bg_color=”#ffffff” data_bg_position=”top center” data_bg_repeat=”no-repeat” data_bg_attachment=”scroll” data_bg_size=”cover” data_bg_parallax_ratio=”0.5″ data_color_overlay=”#000000″ data_overlay_opacity=”50″ data_padding_top=”0″ data_padding_bottom=”50″][cmsms_column data_width=”1/1″][cmsms_text animation_delay=”0″]*One such project to watch is the planned I-94 MnPASS Lane project between downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul (see I-94 corridor improvements in the TIP pg. A-29 and, on pg. B-7, a note about this as a longer range project). A decision will be coming about whether this MnPASS lane will come through adding a new lane or using an existing lane. The TIP serves as a heads-up to let MnDOT know that in this highly urban setting and with LRT less than a half-mile away, the MnPASS lane should be completed without adding new roadway lanes. Without strong public comment, MnDOT and others might decide to add a lane, as they did recently on I-35E north. To follow this project, sign up for project updates on the MnDOT I-94 project page.[/cmsms_text][/cmsms_column][/cmsms_row]

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