Bucket Fun

In the project pages of each Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO’s) Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) you have many individual projects listed. These are usually bigger high profile projects that will take sometimes many years before they will be ready to move into Construction.

There are also project pages that list general types of projects, such as resurfacing, traffic signals, streetscape and greenway projects.  These project pages are referred to as the “bucket” projects.

Here is what I mean. In the Memphis MPO for instance they have several million dollars in a resurfacing “bucket”. Now, more than one project will be completed out of this one bucket. Out of this bucket the City of Memphis will be allowed so much funding, and so will the rest of the Memphis MPO communities such as Germantown and Collierville. Basically each community gets it’s own smaller bucket to use for that one type of work, in this case resurfacing.

Now, this is not an insignificant amount of work that is done of of these buckets. If you live in or near the City of Memphis and Shelby County this spring you are going to see somewhere over 17 million dollars of resurfacing street repair going on. That is a lot of street repair, and that will be a lot of people put to work doing it.

The reason that projects like traffic signals and resurfacing are grouped together in “buckets” is to help simplify the process. In order for an individual project to be put into the TIP it is a big deal (see previous post). A simple resurfacing project on a couple of streets (in the grand scheme of things) shouldn’t be that big a deal. Thus the use of buckets.

Now here is where things get tricky (don’t they always?): The project that you are doing must strictly fall within the scope of the bucket, otherwise you can’t fund it out of there. Let me give you an example of a problem that came up this week.

A community submitted an intersection improvement project that would draw its funding from the signal systems bucket. The project would be installing a new traffic signal, poles, controllers, as well as ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) curb ramp cuts, sidewalk improvements, and some widening to add turn lanes. The problem is this: The bucket says something like “traffic signals and signal systems”. This means that with the current language in the bucket only the signal can be funded, all the rest would not be eligible for funding (at least from this bucket).

So we have a couple of options. Move forward with the project only funding the signals, change the project to only be hanging the signals, pick another project that is just signals, or amend the bucket to say something like “intersection improvements” (which can mean a lot of things), or amend the project as it’s own stand alone project in the TIP.

Needless to say there were some folks who were not happy about this. Fortunately they did not kill the messenger (me). The same kind of thing would be the case for the resurfacing bucket. You could not fund a road widening project from it. You just need to be sure that the bucket matches what you want to do on your project.

I hope this helps clarify things a little.

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About arran375

I work for Askew, Hargraves, Harcourt and Associates, Inc. here in Nashville, Tennessee. The short version of what I do is that we help local governments spend the Federal funds they get from TDOT on road, and bridge projects.
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