Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Programming for Operations: MPO Examples of Prioritizing and Funding Transportation Systems Management & Operations Strategies

Puget Sound Regional Council (Seattle, Washington)

Agency Overview

FAQs about PSRC

MPO Population: 3.7 million
TSMO Dedicated Funding: No
Percent of TIP to Operations Projects: 1%
TSMO included in UPWP: Yes

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) serves as the MPO for over three million residents of the central Puget Sound, Washington region. The use of TMSO strategies is prevalent in the region, and PSRC actively supports TSMO through its regional planning process. The region is carrying out operations projects in several areas, including active traffic management, congestion pricing, traffic signalization, incident management programs, and travel demand management. Operations projects in the region can be funded through several channels. First, operations projects can compete against other types of projects through the either the countywide or the regional track of the Project Selection Process for PSRC Funds. Alternatively, agencies can use local funding to support operations efforts, as well as other Federal and State funding sources. The process for acquiring funding for operations varies based on the sponsor, its goals and interest in collaboration, and TIP selection track and scoring. The following sections describe PSRC and how TSMO projects become funded in the region.

Members of PSRC include King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties and several cities and towns, ports, tribes, transit agencies, and the State. PSRC's key policy document, VISION 2040, adopted in April 2008, lays out a strategy for regional growth in which population and employment growth will be distributed across regionally designated centers. These centers will serve as hubs for transportation and services to support the growing population.45 This centers–focused vision drives the Transportation 2040 regional transportation plan and the policy underlying the TIP project selection process. Operations projects are integrated into the TIP, including upgraded signalization and development of ITS infrastructure along corridors (e.g., monitoring, fiber optic improvements).

MPO Staff Support for Operations

PSRC provides several staff members to support the operations mission amidst other responsibilities. These staff members' positions are funded from within the annual Budget and Work Program. The PSRC 2014 Budget and Work Program46 includes planning support for "Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Strategies, Architecture and Regional Operations" and the staffing of the RTOC. The work program also calls for staff to promote and implement the Regional ITS Implementation Plan and to maintain agency involvement with ITS Washington and ITS America. There are also planning funds allocated to consultant support for the ITS architecture and ITS planning.

Funding of Operations Projects

Transportation 2040, the regional transportation plan based on the VISION 2040 strategy, guides transportation investment decisions in four major categories: preservation, maintenance and operations; safety and security; efficiency; and strategic capacity. Operations and ITS are budgeted at approximately $1.4 billion of the entire $189 billion budget for 2010–2040.47 Transportation 2040 plans for an "aggressive" TSMO program of advanced technology on arterials and freeways, including better signal coordination, active traffic management, new and expanded traveler information services, and transit–specific technologies to ensure on–time performance and provide customers with more complete, up–to–date travel information.48

PSRC has not established a separate funding pool for operations, so operations projects compete against all others in the Project Selection Process for PSRC Funds. Primary Federal sources used to fund operations projects in PSRC's TIP include HSIP, STP, and CMAQ Improvement Program. There is frequently a State or local match for these funds. Large operations–related projects such as HOV or HOT lanes are often funded through a combination of STP, CMAQ, TIGER, and State funds. Safety funds are often used for signal improvements (i.e., HSIP). Some local jurisdictions have used freight or security funds (e.g., Homeland Security) to support operations related to military bases and ports.

In 2007, PSRC and its member organizations began the joint development of an RCTO and a Regional ITS Implementation Plan (RITSIP). The RCTO was intended to define a coordinated approach for regional signal operations, whereas the RITSIP was intended to identify 25 key arterial multi–jurisdictional corridors and the recommended ITS physical improvements for each corridor, including signal improvements.49 ITS corridor projects were included in the plan, but during the call for projects for 2010–2013, the projects were not selected in the regional competition. One project for a single county was successful in the countywide competition.

Local agencies are finding success in obtaining funding for operations projects by using local funding programs. For example, the City of Belleville implemented adaptive signal control using a local funding program and continues to obtain additional funds for operations projects in the City. Local operations or ITS projects appear to be more successful in obtaining funding in the PSRC TIP through the countywide competitions than the regional competition. Project sponsors for ITS projects have also found it difficult to obtain CMAQ funding when competing against transit projects and have found more success applying for STP funds given the different project scoring criteria for those funding programs.

Project Selection Process for the TIP

Operations project sponsors may apply for Federal transportation funds from PSRC's programming process through either a regional competition or through one of the countywide competitions. Each of the four counties in the PSRC region manages a competition for a limited number of project submittals to PSRC. The total estimated amount of both STP and CMAQ funds available to PSRC is divided between the regional and countywide competitions based on a regionally adopted funding split, which is currently 50/50 (after any set–asides are removed).50 The intent of this split process is to recognize local differences among the region's counties while also strengthening regional growth management.51

In the countywide process, the four countywide forums are responsible for coordinating the competitions and recommending projects to the Transportation Policy Board (TPB) to receive the countywide portions of the FHWA funds. This process is similar to the regional process; however, each forum is responsible for developing and maintaining its own project selection process.

In the regional project selection track, PSRC issues a call for projects and the PSRC Regional Project Evaluation Committee (RPEC) is responsible for recommending projects to receive the regional Federal transportation funds to the TPB. The number of projects in the regional competition is currently limited to 36 (6 each from Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish countywide forums; 12 from the King countywide forum; and 2 each from Washington State DOT, Sound Transit, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency). PSRC scores the projects according to the criteria in the following table. RPEC reviews the projects and the results of the PSRC scoring and submits a prioritized list of funding recommendations to the TPB for further review and discussion (with no formal allocations). The TPB then forwards their funding recommendations to PSRC's Executive Board for final action.

The following table provides an overview of the regional scoring system for the award of Federal STP and CMAQ funds. Potential projects (regardless of whether they are operations–related or not) are scored based on the degree to which they support the regional centers perspective outlined in VISION 2040.

In the countywide process, the four countywide forums are responsible for coordinating the competitions and recommending projects to the Transportation Policy Board (TPB) to receive the countywide portions of the FHWA funds.52 This process is similar to the regional process; however, each forum is responsible for developing and maintaining its own project selection process.53

In the regional project selection track, PSRC issues a call for projects and the PSRC Regional Project Evaluation Committee (RPEC) is responsible for recommending projects to receive the regional Federal transportation funds to the TPB. The number of projects in the regional competition is currently limited to 36 (6 each from Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish countywide forums; 12 from the King countywide forum; and 2 each from Washington State DOT, Sound Transit, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency). PSRC scores the projects according to the criteria in the following table. RPEC reviews the projects and the results of the PSRC scoring and submits a prioritized list of funding recommendations to the TPB for further review and discussion (with no formal allocations). The TPB then forwards their funding recommendations to PSRC's Executive Board for final action.54

The following table provides an overview of the regional scoring system for the award of Federal STP and CMAQ funds. Potential projects (regardless of whether they are operations–related or not) are scored based on the degree to which they support the regional centers perspective outlined in VISION 2040.

Table 8. 2012 Regional Project Evaluation Criteria For PSRC's FHWA Funds (STP & CMAQ).55
Evaluation Factor STP Points CMAQ Points Criteria
Regional Growth Center Development 20 30 A high rating requires a project to support employment and population in the center.
Project's Benefit to the Regional Growth Center 20 15 A high rating requires a project to remedy a problem and benefit a large number and variety of users.
Circulation Within a Regional Growth Center 20 15 A high rating requires improved access to circulation in the center, benefiting a variety of users, or involves innovative design.
Development and Users Benefit 40 30 A high rating requires a project to describe its benefit or support to the development of the manufacturing or industrial center and job expansion.
Mobility and Accessibility Benefit 30 20 A high rating requires an investment that benefits a variety of users for multimodal travel and results in a reduction in travel time, along with an improvement in safety.
Benefit to Regional Growth and Manufacturing/Industrial Center 40 30 A high rating requires expansion to capacity adjacent to dense areas and serving many user groups.
System Continuity/Long-Term Benefit and Sustainability 30 20 A high rating requires a project to address corridor gaps and travel demand and consider environmental impacts.
Air Quality and Climate Change 20 40 A high rating requires substantial emissions reduction benefits occurring by 2020.
Project Readiness 10 10 A high rating requires a project to demonstrate that prerequisites for obligation have been met at the time of the application.
Other Considerations 0 0 Any additional project elements that are innovative (e.g., design elements, cost savings measures),

At this time, PSRC does not have a formal process to conduct a cost–benefit analysis related to operations projects, although they have used a sketch planning tool (Intelligent Transportation System Deployment Analysis System (IDAS)) for project evaluation in the past.

Selected operations projects are presented in the TIP amidst all other selected projects. They include funding detail along with descriptive information (e.g., project number, jurisdiction, functional class), phase (e.g., design, construction), and a brief narrative describing the location and goals of the project. An example of an operations project in the TIP is an ITS project in King County along Avondale Road. The project will upgrade, interconnect and synchronize signals along Avondale Road and includes a fiber connection throughout the corridor and cameras at major intersections and high accident locations. This project will include installation of volume count systems at key signalized intersections, as well as data collection stations at mid–block locations. The estimated total cost is $2.2 million and the current phase is funded at $53,723 by CMAQ and State/local funds.56

For More Information

Contact Stephanie Rossi
Email: srossi@psrc.org
TIP Link http://www.psrc.org/transportation/tip/
UPWP http://www.psrc.org/assets/9326/BudgetFY2014–15.pdf

45 Puget Sound Regional Council, VISIONS 2040 Executive Summary Brochure. Available at: http://www.psrc.org/assets/1775/V2040execsumm.pdf. Return to note 45.

46 Puget Sound Regional Council, Fiscal Years 2014 – 2015 Biennial Budget and Work Program, April 2013. Return to note 46.

47 Puget Sound Regional Council, Transportation 2040, May 2010. Available at: http://www.psrc.org/transportation/t2040/t2040–pubs/final–draft–transportation–2040/. Return to note 47.

48 Puget Sound Regional Council, Transportation 2040 Executive Summary. Available at: http://www.psrc.org/transportation/t2040/t2040-pubs/final-draft-transportation-2040/. Return to note 48.

49 Puget Sound Regional Council, Transportation 2040, May 2010. Available at: http://www.psrc.org/transportation/t2040/t2040-pubs/final-draft-transportation-2040/. Return to note 49.

50 Puget Sound Regional Council, 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan Appendix B Project Selection Process, February 2012. Available at: http://www.psrc.org/transportation/tip/current/1316tip. Return to note 50.

51 Ibid. Return to note 51.

52 Ibid. Return to note 52.

53 Ibid. Return to note 53.

54 Ibid. Return to note 54.

55 Ibid. Return to note 55.

56 Puget Sound Regional Council, 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan Detailed Project Listings Process, October 2012. Available at: http://www.psrc.org/transportation/tip/current/1316tip. Return to note 56.

You may need the Adobe® Reader® to view the PDFs on this page.

Office of Operations