Frequently Asked Questions About the Transportation Improvement Program

What is the TIP?

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 three years of funded transportation projects designed to carryout the recommendations of the long-range metropolitan plan. More formally, the TIP is a staged, multi-year listing of transportation projects with committed funding from federal, State, and local sources within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area.  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 the last place 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 should make sure that these elements of a project are consistent prior to the desired construction/implementation date.

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Who produces the TIP?

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. NCTCOG and the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) serve as the Metropolitan Planning Organization or MPO for the Dallas-Fort Worth 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. The RTC (mentioned above) is 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 (STTC) is a subcommittee of the RTC that reviews policy, program, and project proposals for technical merit, and recommends action to the RTC. Members of this committee include senior transportation staff from local governments, TxDOT, and other transportation agencies. Along with multiple other responsibilities, this committee aids in the development and application of evaluation criteria to select transportation projects, and it guides the refinement of projects for recommendation to the RTC.  STTC provides a recommendation for RTC approval of the TIP document.

The major responsibilities of the MPO and its committees include the development of a transportation plan that spans approximately 25 years, the subsequent funding of projects that realize the goals of that plan through the TIP, and ensuring that 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.

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What types of projects are funded by the Metropolitan Planning Organization and what are their funding sources?

As the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the region, NCTCOG and the Regional Transportation Council are responsible for programming projects in the following federal funding categories: Surface Transportation Program-Metropolitan Mobility (STP-MM), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), Urbanized Area Formula Program (UAFP), Texas Mobility Funds (TMF) & Metropolitan Area Corridor funds (in conjunction with the TxDOT Dallas, Fort Worth, and Paris Districts), RTC/Local funds, and Regional Toll Revenue funds.

STP-MM funds are designed to fund surface transportation projects (as opposed to aviation or waterway projects) that improve the transportation system. The types of projects typically funded with STP-MM funds include interchange projects, roadway widenings, construction of new arterials, bottleneck removal projects, construction of high occupancy vehicle lanes, and installation of intelligent transportation system infrastructure. This funding category is designed to fund mobility improvements within the transportation system.

CMAQ funds, on the other hand, serve to fund projects that contribute to improved air quality. Examples of projects funded under the CMAQ program, 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, and transit system improvements. For all CMAQ-funded projects, the MPO must demonstrate that the project creates an air quality improvement or emissions benefit.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area regularly receives federal funding through six (6) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) programs for transit projects. The MPO selects projects for funding under the following four (4) programs: Section 5307 - Urbanized Area Formula Program; Section 5310 – Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program; Section 5337 – State of Good Repair Grants; and Section 5339 – Grants for Bus and Bus Facilities.

Section 5307 Program funds are available to public transit providers for eligible project costs that include capital, planning, administrative, and (limited) operating costs. Additionally, 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, and transit stations.

The MPO funds projects under the Section 5310 Program 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 are vehicle acquisition, purchase of service, operating assistance to cover services offered beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and mobility management.

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 (7) 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, and preventive maintenance.

Capital costs are the only eligible project costs under the Section 5339 Program. Examples of eligible projects include project administration, the acquisition of vehicles and related equipment (i.e., radios, fare boxes, and shop and garage equipment) and the construction or rehabilitation of bus-related facilities such as bus malls, transportation centers, and bus maintenance and administrative facilities.

In addition to MPO selected transit projects, TxDOT selects and funds transit projects under the Section 5311 – Formula Grant for Rural Areas Program and under the Section 5310 Program for the rural portions of the Metropolitan Area. Section 5309 - Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants is discretionary, and administered by FTA.

Texas Mobility Funds (TMF) & Metropolitan Area Corridor funds (in conjunction with the TxDOT Dallas, Fort Worth, and Paris Districts) serve to fund mobility (added capacity) projects on major State Highway System corridors located in Metropolitan (TMA) MPOs.

RTC/Local funds were an innovative funding source secured through exchange of federal funds for local funds on specific projects.

Lastly, Regional Toll Revenue funds were another innovative funding source that was initially secured through an agreement between the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) and the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) 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.

Within the State of Texas, transportation system improvements are funded under ten other funding categories, which include:

  • Preventive Maintenance and Rehabilitation
  • Urban Area Corridor Projects
  • Non-Traditionally Funded Transportation Projects
  • Statewide Connectivity Corridor Projects
  • Bridges
  • Safety
  • Transportation Enhancements/Transportation Alternatives
  • Supplemental Transportation Projects
  • District Discretionary
  • Strategic Priority

TxDOT is responsible for selecting projects for these funding programs. While the two local TxDOT Districts in the region (the Dallas and Fort Worth 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.

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How are projects selected for the TIP?

For Texas Department of Transportation (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 more strategically, at the discretion of the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) or at the discretion of its individual District Offices. For Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)-selected projects, on the other hand, local governments generally submit project proposals during a Regional Transportation Council (RTC) funding initiative. Funding initiatives are the method through which the RTC allocates federal transportation dollars to local governments and transportation agencies for specific programs and projects.

As federal funds are made available through transportation funding bills, the MPO staff must decide how much of this funding should be programmed through the next funding initiative and how much should be held back in a cost overrun/future needs pool. Simultaneously, the MPO staff works with the RTC to determine the desired nature and timeline of the next funding initiative.

Since the enactment of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and its renewal through the latest transportation funding bill, Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act,  the RTC has issued several funding initiatives. The two main types of funding initiatives mentioned above are competitive calls for projects and strategic project selection programs, which make up the two ends of the project selection spectrum--from more technical to more subjective and 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. Overall, transportation professionals tend to be most comfortable with this project selection method, because projects are measured and compared against one another in a scientific and technically-defensible manner.

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 category being requested, is an efficient and equitable way to rank projects.

At the other end of the spectrum, a strategic funding initiative 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 their individual merits and their impact on the regional transportation system. Then, the set of recommended projects is evaluated to ensure an equal distribution of selected 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), and Partnership Program 3--the joint TxDOT/RTC Freeway Interchange/Bottleneck program.

Of course, the RTC has led other types of funding initiatives that fall somewhere 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 funding initiatives were similar to the "calls for projects" outlined above, in that they involved evaluation criteria, however, the evaluation methodology they 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 screens 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. Moreover, 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.

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What happens when a TIP project changes?

From time to time, TIP projects must be modified due to comments from the public, design issues, cost constraints, new federal or state laws, 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, and deleted through modification to the TIP.

NCTCOG staff processes TIP modifications in accordance with the TIP Modification Policy approved by the Regional Transportation Council.  There are two types of TIP modifications defined by the policy:

  1. Revisions Requiring RTC Action to:
    • Change a project scope
    • Delete a project
    • Add a project
    • Authorize a cost increase of more than $400K
  2. Administrative Amendments are administratively processed by NCTCOG staff when:
    • A project has a cost increase less than $400K
    • Projects that do not add roadway capacity
      • Landscaping
      • Preventive maintenance
      • Environmental mitigation projects are added to the TIP
      • Minor changes to intersection and signal projects
      • Other changes that do not impact RTC-selected funding, e.g.,
        • Phase changes
        • Updates to the TxDOT project tracking system

When a TIP modification is processed, it must sometimes be forwarded to TxDOT for inclusion in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program or STIP.  It is important to note that the rules are different for the TIP and the STIP changes.  The STIP is only modified when:

  1. A project or project phase is added or deleted,
  2. The scope or limits of an existing project changes, or
  3. 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 can assist implementing agencies in determining how modifications to their TIP 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 one to two 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 2017 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 2017.  This means that these discussions should have begun several months earlier to ensure that all issues are resolved by the February 2017 timeframe.  Once the issues are resolved, TxDOT and NCTCOG programming staff will process needed project modifications for local, State, and federal approval.

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What is the difference between the TIP and STIP?

The Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) includes the TIP documents for the 25 Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Texas, plus all the rural transportation projects that are not included in 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 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 Dallas-Fort Worth 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.

A second statewide transportation funding document is the Unified Transportation Program (UTP), which 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 additional 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.

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Is there a limit to the amount of funding in the TIP?

Yes. The TIP is limited to the amount of federal funding allocated to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As required by the current federal transportation funding bill, 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. Thus, it is important that the highest ranked and most cost-effective projects are selected for inclusion in the TIP.

Chapter VIII of the TIP details the financial status of the TIP. Project funding is generally divided by TxDOT District and funding category. As new projects are added to the TIP or existing project costs rise, new funds must be identified to cover increased funding needs. The Transportation Improvement Program contains several billion dollars needed to design and construct both highway and transit projects. 

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Can I get a copy of the TIP?

The full TIP document is available from NCTCOG as a printed document (3-ring binder) and as an electronic file on the internet. It is a 900+ page document that includes information about the public involvement process, project selection and prioritization, progress on current projects, air quality regulations, and several supporting appendices, in addition to the approved project listings. To more easily find information in the TIP, you can search the document online by using project codes, Control-Section-Job (CSJ) numbers, or other project-specific keywords.

In addition, specific project information is available on an interactive project search engine online.  This web page allows users to obtain detailed information about funded transportation projects, including the project location, committed funding levels, and the responsible agency. The search tool can be accessed online at

Contact the NCTCOG Regional Information Center for more information about paper copies.  You may contact Janet Smith (817/695-9140) in the Regional Information Center to purchase these items.

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Who can I contact with questions about transportation funding?

Please feel free to contact a member of the TIP Team with any questions about the contents of the TIP, processes associated with the TIP, and other transportation funding questions. 

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