Frequently Asked Questions About the Transportation Improvement Program

FAQ's


What is the TIP?
The Transportation Improvement Program or TIP is both a funding process and a funding document. Federal regulations, along with regional policies and practices, establish the process by which transportation projects are selected, modified, and implemented. The TIP serves as a short-term planning document that lists approximately four years of funded transportation projects designed to carryout the recommendations of the long-range metropolitan plan. More formally, the TIP is a staged, multi-year listing of transportation projects within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area with committed funding from federal, state, and local sources.  A new TIP is developed every two years in accordance with the metropolitan planning requirements set forth in the Statewide and Metropolitan Planning Final Rule (23 CFP Part 450, 49 CFP Part 613).

It is important to note: the TIP is the last place that federal and state administrators can review a project before construction or implementation is initiated. For this reason, the TIP can be thought of as a clearinghouse of sorts. It is at this point in the project development process that a project is reviewed to ensure that it conforms to the metropolitan transportation plan, the air quality regulations, environmental clearance documents, and the original intent of policy makers (including the funding and scope of a project). Therefore, individual project managers must ensure that these elements are consistent prior to the desired construction/implementation date.

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Who produces the TIP?
The TIP is developed through a cooperative effort of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), local governments, and transportation authorities.

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What is an MPO?
An MPO is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for a designated area.  The MPO is charged with the planning and implementation of the regional transportation system; accordingly, the TIP falls under the purview of the MPO.  NCTCOG and the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) serve as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Dallas-Fort Worth Area.

The major responsibilities of the MPO and its committees include the development of a transportation plan that spans approximately 25 years, the funding of projects that realize the goals of that plan through the TIP, and ensuring the plan and its associated projects meet air quality improvement goals. When programming (i.e., selecting and funding) transportation projects in the TIP, the MPO ensures that plan recommendations are achieved and air quality rules are respected.

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What is the STTC?
The Surface Transportation Technical Committee, or STTC, is a subcommittee of the RTC that reviews policy, program, and project proposals for technical merit, and makes recommendations to the RTC. Members of this committee include senior transportation staff from local governments, TxDOT, and other transportation agencies. Along with many other responsibilities, this committee aids in the development and application of evaluation criteria used to select transportation projects for recommendation to the RTC.  STTC provides a recommendation for RTC approval of the TIP document.

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What is the RTC?
The RTC is the Regional Transportation Council, the transportation policy board for the MPO. This policy body consists of elected officials from local governments, TxDOT District Engineers, transit authority board members, a representative of the North Texas Tollway Authority, and three citizen representatives. The RTC provides policy guidance and overall coordination of multi-modal planning and programming within the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The RTC provides final approval of the TIP document.

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What types of projects are funded by the Metropolitan Planning Organization and what are their funding sources?

As the MPO for the region, NCTCOG and the Regional Transportation Council are responsible for programming projects in the following federal funding categories:


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STBG funds are designed to fund projects that contribute to improved surface/ground mobility in the transportation system.  This funding category is designed to fund mobility improvements within the transportation system. 

Examples of eligible projects include:

  • interchange projects
  • roadway widenings
  • construction of new arterials
  • bottleneck removal projects
  • construction of high occupancy vehicle lanes
  • installation of intelligent transportation system infrastructure

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CMAQ funds are intended for projects that contribute to improved air quality.  All CMAQ-funded projects must have a demonstrable air quality benefit.

Examples of projects include:

  • intersection and signal system improvements
  • park-and-ride lots
  • high occupancy vehicle lanes
  • vanpool and rideshare programs
  • incident detection and response programs
  • bicycle and pedestrian facilities
  • conversion of transit buses and other public vehicles to alternative fuels/clean vehicles
  • transit system improvements


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Metropolitan Area Corridor funds (selected in conjunction with the TxDOT Dallas, Fort Worth, and Paris Districts) serve to fund mobility projects on major State Highway System corridors located in large metropolitan areas, such as Dallas-Fort Worth.

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Regional Toll Revenue funds were an innovative funding source that was initially secured through an agreement between the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) and the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) that in exchange for the opportunity to construct, operate, and maintain the 26-mile SH 121 toll road (Sam Rayburn Tollway) for 52 years, NTTA would pay the region a $3.2 billion concession fee. The RTC used these funds to expedite about 200 transportation projects. Additionally, the region added $200 million to the RTR program in July 2010, when NTTA agreed to build and maintain State Highway 161 in western Dallas County, an extension of the President George Bush Turnpike (PGBT) from SH 183 to Interstate Highway 20.

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RTC/Local funds were another innovative funding source secured through exchange of federal funds for local funds on specific projects.

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Section 5307 funds are designated for public transit providers to cover eligible project costs including: capital, planning, administrative, and limited operating costs.  Two percent of funds are set aside annually to award competitively to transit projects that support low-income individuals.  
Examples of transit projects funded under this program include:

  • vehicle acquisition
  • capital cost of contracting
  • transit planning studies
  • operating assistance
  • park-and-ride facilities
  • transit stations


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Section 5310 program funds are utilized by fulfilling existing commitments to local providers, and then awarding any remaining funds competitively. Eligible project costs include capital, planning, administration, and limited operating costs.
Examples of transit projects funded under this program include:

  • vehicle acquisition
  • purchase of service
  • operating assistance to cover services offered beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • mobility management


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Section 5337 program funds are only available to agencies that have operated rail fixed guideway and high intensity motor bus systems for at least seven years. The funds are used to maintain, rehabilitate or replace system equipment and vehicles to maintain safe, reliable, and efficient public transit services.

Examples of projects include:

  • vehicle replacement or overhaul
  • facility rehabilitation
  • preventive maintenance


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Section 5339 program funds are only eligible for capital costs.
Examples of eligible projects include:

  • project administration
  • the acquisition of vehicles and related equipment
    • e.g.: radios, fare boxes, and shop and garage equipment
  • construction or rehabilitation of bus-related facilities
    • e.g.: bus malls, transportation centers, and bus maintenance and administrative facilities


In addition to MPO selected transit projects, TxDOT selects and funds transit projects under the Section 5311 – Formula Grant for Rural Areas Program and under the Section 5310 Program for the rural portions of the Metropolitan Area. Section 5309 - Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants is discretionary, and administered by FTA.

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What other funding categories are included in the TIP?
Within the State of Texas, transportation system improvements are funded under ten other funding categories, which include:

  • Preventive Maintenance and Rehabilitation
  • Urban Area Corridor Projects
  • Non-Traditionally Funded Transportation Projects
  • Statewide Connectivity Corridor Projects
  • Bridges
  • Safety
  • Transportation Enhancements/Transportation Alternatives
  • Supplemental Transportation Projects
  • District Discretionary
  • Strategic Priority


TxDOT is responsible for selecting projects for these funding programs. While the three local TxDOT Districts in the region (the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Paris Districts) are responsible for selecting projects with various funding sources at the district level, the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC), which serves as the policy-making body for TxDOT, then selects all other projects on a statewide competitive basis. The projects selected under each of these funding categories are listed in the TIP.

As federal funds are made available through transportation funding bills, the MPO staff must decide how much of this funding should be programmed through the next funding initiative and how much will be needed in a cost overrun/future needs pool.

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How are projects selected for the TIP?

For TxDOT-selected projects, local governments and transportation agencies may submit projects directly for consideration by TxDOT. A set of projects is then selected either through a competitive call for projects or strategically, at the discretion of the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC), or its individual District Offices.

For MPO-selected projects, local governments generally submit project proposals during a Regional Transportation Council (RTC) funding initiative, the RTC's funding allocation method.

The two main types of funding initiatives are: 1) competitive calls for projects, and 2) strategic project selection programs.  They represent the two ends of the project selection spectrum--from technical to subjective/political.

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Calls for Projects
A call for projects is a competitive, technically-based project selection process. When a call for projects is announced, NCTCOG staff works with the STTC and the RTC to establish a set of evaluation criteria and the evaluation methodology by which all project proposals will be judged. Once submitted, project applications are screened to ensure that they are eligible for available funding categories. Then, they are scored against the evaluation criteria. 

NCTCOG first developed project selection and evaluation criteria for the 1992 Call for Projects. Similar evaluation methods have been used in the 1994 and 1999 Calls for Projects. Selection criteria generally address cost-effectiveness (both current and future), air quality benefits, local commitment, congestion reduction, and the level of multi-modal and social mobility benefits afforded by a project. A comprehensive project rating system with diverse rating criteria, linked to the type of funding category being requested, is considered to be an efficient and equitable way to rank projects.

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Strategic Funding
Another project-selection method is a strategic funding initiative, which is a more subjective method of selecting and funding transportation projects. Through this type of initiative, NCTCOG staff works cooperatively with STTC, RTC, and our regional partners to select projects that further regional priorities. Projects are evaluated based on individual merits and impact on the regional transportation system. Then, the recommended set of projects is evaluated to ensure an equitable distribution of projects throughout the region. The RTC has issued several such funding initiatives, including the 2002 Strategic Programming Initiative, Partnership Program 1, Partnership Program 2 (Transit Strategic Funding Program), Partnership Program 3, a joint TxDOT/RTC Freeway Interchange/Bottleneck program, the 2017-2018 CMAQ/STBG Programs, and the COVID Infrastructure Program. 

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Other Selection Processes
The RTC has led other types of funding initiatives that fall in the middle of the project selection spectrum. Examples of these funding programs include the 2001 Park-and-Ride Call for Projects and the 2001 Land Use/Transportation Joint Venture Program Call For Projects. These two initiatives were similar to the "calls for projects", in that they involved evaluation criteria, however, the evaluation methodology employed was more rational, than technical. In both cases, a set of evaluation criteria were created, then projects were screened or filtered through the criteria. The projects that made it through all the criteria or screenings were recommended for funding. Therefore, this methodology is more analytical than a strategic funding initiative, but less rigorous than a traditional call for projects.

As the MPO has evolved and matured, the funding initiatives used to evaluate project applications have changed as well.  Different types of funding initiatives are used for different programs and federal funding categories, as appropriate. As regional needs and desires change, so do the project selection and funding methodologies employed by the Regional Transportation Council.

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What happens when a TIP project changes?

From time to time, TIP projects must be modified due to design issues, cost constraints, new federal or state laws, comments from the public, or any number of other reasons. The most common project changes include scope changes (i.e., work to be performed), cost increases, changes in the implementing agency (i.e., the agency responsible for constructing or implementing a project), and changes in federal funding year. Projects are altered, added, ordeleted through modification(s) to the TIP.

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How are TIP Modifications handled?
NCTCOG staff processes TIP modifications in accordance with the TIP Modification Policy approved by the Regional Transportation Council.  There are multiple types of TIP modifications defined by the policy, which are generally divided in to two main categories:

  1. Revisions Requiring RTC Action
    • Change a project scope
    • Delete a project
    • Add a project
    • Authorize a cost increase of more than $400K
  2. Administrative Amendments
    • Cost increase of less than $400K
    • Projects that do not add roadway capacity
      • Landscaping
      • Preventive maintenance
      • Environmental mitigation projects are added to the TIP
      • Minor changes to intersection and signal projects
      • Other changes that do not impact RTC-selected funding, e.g.,
        • Phase changes
        • Updates to the TxDOT project tracking system


TIP modifications must sometimes be forwarded to TxDOT for inclusion in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).  It is important to note that the rules are different for the TIP and the STIP changes.  The STIP is generally only modified when:

  1. A project or project phase is added or deleted,
  2. The scope or limits of an existing project changes, or
  3. There is a 50 percent or greater cost increase on a project with a total project cost of greater than $1.5 million.


Therefore, a project may require a TIP modification and a STIP Revision or just a TIP modification. NCTCOG staff determines how modifications to their projects should be processed.

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How long does it take to modify a project?
During the planning and engineering phase of a project, if the project scope changes in such a way that it differs from that which is included in the TIP and STIP, the project manager should contact NCTCOG staff as soon as possible.  TIP modifications can be approved within one to two months, but it takes approximately six months to process and receive approval for STIP Revisions.

It is important to note that TIP/STIP action should be identified approximately six to nine months before a desired or anticipated let date, so that modifications can be drafted and processed for consideration by the STTC and the RTC.  Discussion about potential project changes should be initiated early to ensure that the project modification can be processed by the desired date.  For example, if a project is scheduled to let in August 2023 and TIP action is required to meet that let date, then the project manager should work with TxDOT and/or NCTCOG staff to provide all information needed to process a modification by February 2023.  This means that these discussions should have begun several months earlier to ensure that all issues are resolved by the February 2023 timeframe.  Once the issues are resolved, TxDOT and NCTCOG programming staff will process needed project modifications for local, State, and federal approval.

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What is the difference between the TIP and STIP?

The Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) includes the TIP documents for the 25 Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Texas, plus all the rural transportation projects that are not included in metropolitan TIP documents. Projects must be consistent with the state and metropolitan long-range plans, and in non-attainment areas su