New rules give public more power in transportation planning - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/29/10

New rules give public more power in transportation planning decisions

AUSTIN, TX (KCBD) -

AUSTIN, TX (KCBD) - In a unanimous decision Thursday, the five-member Texas Transportation Commission voted to adopt new rules that, for the first time, enhance the role citizens and communities play in planning the state's transportation system, increasing transparency and accountability in the transportation planning process.

The rules were written by an 11-member body called the Transportation Planning and Project Development Rulemaking Advisory Committee, comprised of members from the Texas Legislature, metropolitan planning organizations, local government, transit organizations, tolling authorities and the Federal Highway Administration, created by the Commission in mid-2009.

"For the first time, the new rules make sure that local decisions are made in each community across the state, rather than handed down by officials in Austin," said Representative Joe Pickett, chairman of the House Transportation Committee and member of the Transportation Planning and Project Development Rulemaking Advisory Committee. "The leaders, planners and citizens of each community understand their needs best - and these changes put more control in their hands."

The heart of the rules change requires TxDOT to codify its planning program rules in such a way that enables TxDOT and empowers MPOs to develop long-range, mid range and short range plans, each with specified, measurable criteria.

Also new to the process is the use of an extended cash forecast, which will provide greater flexibility for TxDOT and MPOs as they react to fluctuating financial resources by advancing or delaying projects, and to ensure that planning documents are appropriately fiscally constrained.

"Under the new rules, MPOs will be better armed with the information they need to craft plans that transparently and accountably address the infrastructure needs in their communities," said Texas State Senator Kirk Watson. "This firmly puts control in the hands of the state's MPOs, and I expect them to do great things for Texas communities with these tools."

 Texas Department of Transportation staff and the advisory committee worked for nearly a year on development of rules to establish a comprehensive transportation planning and project development program that is transparent, well-defined and understandable. Public comment was accepted in the spring, and was incorporated into the adopted rules. The rules will go into effect January 1, 2011.

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