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 carry out 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 that the TIP is one of the last places 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.
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.
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 20-25 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.
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.
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.
As the MPO for the region, NCTCOG and the Regional Transportation Council are responsible for programming projects in the following federal funding categories:
Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG)
STBG funds are designed to fund projects that contribute to improved surface/ground mobility in the transportation system. Generally speaking, 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
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ)
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
- Section 5307 - Urbanized Area Formula Program (UAFP)
- Section 5307 provides for the distribution of capita assistance and operating assistance (under specific guidelines) to transit operators in Urbanized Areas.
Category 2 - Metropolitan Area Corridor Funding Category
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. These funds are often referred to as Category 2 funds.
Transportation Alternative Set-Aside
Transportation Alternative Set-Aside funds represent a federal aid program for the planning and construction of on‐road and off‐road trail facilities for pedestrian, bicycle, and other non‐motorized forms of transportation, including sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian and bicycle signals, traffic calming techniques, lighting and other safety‐related infrastructure, and transportation projects to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This program also includes the Safe Routes to Schools Program. Projects are selected through competitive calls for projects at the regional and state levels. Funds are formula-allocated. The RTC selects a portion of Transportation Alternatives funds and TxDOT selects another portion.
Regional Toll Revenue funds
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). The agreement states 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.
RTC/Local funds are another innovative funding source secured through exchange of federal funds for local funds on specific projects.
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding
Section 5307 - Urbanized Area Formula Program (UAFP)
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
Section 5310 - Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program
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
Section 5337 - State of Good Repair Grants
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
Section 5339 - Grants for Bus and Bus Facilities
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)
- bus maintenance and administrative facilities
Within the State of Texas, transportation system improvements are funded under other funding categories, which include:
- Category 1 - Preventive Maintenance and Rehabilitation
- Category 2 - Urban Area Corridor Projects
- Category 3 - Non-Traditionally Funded Transportation Projects
- Category 4 - Statewide Connectivity Corridor Projects
- Category 6 - Bridges
- Category 8 - Safety
- Category 9 - Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside
- Category 10 - Supplemental Transportation Projects
- Category 11 - District Discretionary
- Category 12 - 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.
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 project selection 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.
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 being requested, is considered to be an efficient and equitable way to rank projects.
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.
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.
From time to time, TIP projects must be modified due to design issues, funding 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, or deleted through modification(s) to the TIP.
NCTCOG staff processes TIP modifications in accordance with the TIP Modification Policy approved by the Regional Transportation Council. Several TIP modification types are defined by the policy and are generally divided in to two main categories:
Revisions Requiring RTC Action
- Change a project scope
- Delete a project
- Add a project
- Authorize a cost increase of more than $400K
- Cost increase of less than $400K
- Minor changes to projects that do not add roadway capacity, such as 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:
- A project or project phase is added or deleted,
- The scope or limits of an existing project changes, or
- 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 projects should be processed.
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 approximately three 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.
The Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) includes the TIP documents for all of the Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Texas, plus all the rural transportation projects that are not included in the metropolitan TIP documents. Projects must be consistent with the state and metropolitan long-range plans, and in non-attainment areas such as the Dallas-Fort Worth area, projects must conform to air quality goals and the State Implementation Plan. The STIP can only include projects for which full funding is reasonably anticipated to be available in order to complete the project. As is the case with the TIP, the STIP is a short-term (generally four-year) planning and funding document. The major difference between these two documents is that the TIP details transportation funding decisions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, while the STIP covers the entire State of Texas. The TIP is a stand-alone document at the metropolitan level, but it fits within the STIP at the state level. Although there are some exceptions, projects must generally be included in the TIP and STIP in order to move forward into the construction and implementation stages.
The Unified Transportation Program (UTP) is a second statewide transportation funding document. The UTP is a ten-year financial program that guides transportation project development and construction. The Texas Transportation Commission selects and prioritizes projects in the UTP.
The UTP contains projects beyond those included in the TIP and STIP, because projects are listed in the UTP while they are in the development stages. Once a project is ready to move forward and has received full funding, it is added to the TIP and STIP. Together, the UTP and the STIP function as the basis for project implementation. The main distinction between the two is that the UTP authorizes project development, while the STIP authorizes project construction. The UTP also provides the funding allocations used to financially constrain the TIP and the STIP.
Yes. The TIP contains several billion dollars needed to design and construct both highway and transit projects. The TIP is limited to the amount of funding allocated to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As required by the current federal transportation funding bill, projects in the TIP must not exceed available funding resources; meaning that projects can only be included in the TIP if sufficient funding is identified to cover their project costs. Therefore, it is important that the highest ranked and most cost-effective projects are selected for inclusion in the TIP.
Chapter VIII of the TIP summarizes the financial commitments in the TIP. Project funding is generally divided by TxDOT District and funding category. As new projects are added to the TIP or project costs rise, new funds must be identified to cover the increased funding needs.
The full TIP document is available from NCTCOG as an electronic file on the internet or as a printed document. The more than 400-page document includes information about the public involvement process, project selection and prioritization, progress on current projects, and several supporting appendices, in addition to the approved project listings.
Free PDF copies of the TIP documents are available on the NCTCOG website Transportation Improvement Program Documents page.
Contact the Transportation Project Programming Team, or NCTCOG Regional Information Center for more information about purchasing paper copies. Janet Smith, 817-695-9140.
The TIPINS and RTR Project search engines can be accessed at https://www.nctcog.org/trans/funds/tip/project-search-engines.
Please feel free to contact a member of the Transportation Project Programming (TIP) Team with any questions about the contents of the TIP, processes associated with the TIP, or other transportation funding questions.