So, I have gone on for quite a while about what we look for in the local programs world in the TIP. Your next question is “…well, how does a project get put into the TIP?”. The short answer is that I am not exactly sure.
What I do know is that the project must be in the MPO Long Range plan. Ok, so how does it get there? I don’t know for a fact, but here is what I suspect. This, I think is where politics comes into play. Almost all MPO’s have several communities associated with them, each with different populations, and I would think that would be a factor.
Another factor I know for sure, is if one community is getting projects completed faster than the others, they will be in a position to ask for more projects. It may be rude to clean your plate in a rush when eating at Mom’s house, but it is rewarded when you get a lot of federal funding quickly obligated then ask for more.
I want to again stress that the MPO/TIP experts at TDOT are Angie Midget and Deborah Flemming. And many of these questions can be answered by your local MPO coordinator and their staff’s.
Also, if you are a citizen concerned about transportation issues in your community then you really need to start looking through the TIP. If you don’t quite understand what you are looking at you can give Angie and Deborah’s office a call, you can give my office a call, or call the staff at the MPO. We would be happy to help someone with a genuine interest. We work for you (your tax dollars remember?) and we are here to help.
You as a concerned thoughtful citizen showing up at a MPO meeting and talking (these are all public meetings, with time set aside for the public to speak) can influence the situation. ESPECIALLY if you ask about a project several years before it reaches the construction phase. This is where the TIP is helpful, it shows the future. If you get up and talk, ask how you can be involved.
Now this is about the second or third time that I have advocated for ordinary non-transportation folks to show up at these public meetings (city council, MPO, county board, ect.). Call me crazy but this is ALL of our tax dollars in play. Plus, I have seen too many public meeting where the only people there are consultants, or public servants. I have also seen public meetings where the local government is practically begging people to show up.
The only meetings involving road projects that I have seen on the news are the ones where at the last minute people get upset about something. My question is where were they 5 years ago when the project was first seriously put on the table. Democracy only works if you get involved.
Ok, enough of the soap box. How do projects get into the TIP? They first get into the MPO’s Long Range Plan. How do they get into the Long Range Plan? They are submitted by the municipality, and then evaluated and ranked. Beyond that I am out of my depth. I hope this helps to explain a little bit more about the process.