Long-Range Transportation Plan FAQs
What is the Long-Range Transportation Plan and why does the region need it?
The Long-Range Transportation Plan for Southeast Michigan, otherwise knows as the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), is the "blueprint" for transportation in the seven-county Southeast Michigan region. It serves as a guide for developing a transportation system that is accessible, safe, and reliable and contributes to a higher quality of life for the region's citizens. The RTP reflects the current state of the region, identifies future transportation needs, and plans responsibly for the entire region. The RTP is also a federal requirement and must be in place before federal transportation dollars can flow to the region. SEMCOG is required to review the RTP every three years. The 2025 RTP is the current plan for the region. The 2030 RTP is currently being developed and is proposed for adoption in November 2004.
Why is SEMCOG responsible for developing the RTP?
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), the current federal legislation controlling transportation programs, states that the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is required to develop regional transportation plans in cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies. Since SEMCOG is the MPO for Southeast Michigan, it is responsible for developing and overseeing implementation of the RTP.
What are the regional transportation goals and objectives?
Goal 1: Enhance accessibility and mobility for all people.
• Reduce time spent traveling.
• Increase access to public transportation, consistent with the regional transit plan.
• Increase coordinated development and use of nonmotorized facilities.
• Increase the connectivity of transportation service across the region, and provide multimodal access to major land uses.
Goal 2: Enhance accessibility and mobility for freight while maintaining community integrity.
• Improve freight movement.
• Improve intermodal operations and facilities.
Goal 3: Strategically improve the transportation infrastructure to enhance community and economic vitality.
• Preserve the existing transportation system, prioritizing highway maintenance before highway expansion.
• Focus transportation investment in areas with high concentrations of people and jobs.
• Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the transportation system.
• Increase public involvement and ensure equal access to participation in transportation decision making.
• Preserve transportation rights of way.
Goal 4: Promote a safe and secure transportation system.
• Reduce traffic crashes, particularly between modes.
• Increase transit safety and security for riders and employees.
• Improve identification and clearance of roadway incidents.
• Develop pedestrian-friendly communities and roadways.
• Encourage local communities to define safety needs and strategies.
Goal 5: Protect the environment, both natural and built.
• Minimize air and water pollution.
• Reduce per capita energy consumption.
• Minimize disruption of or damage to environmental resources (both natural and built).
• Ensure balance among all populations in the impacts of the transportation system.
• Link transportation decisions with land use decisions.
How is the RTP developed and what does it include?
Development of the RTP requires a two-pronged approach, addressing both qualitative and quantitative issues. Qualitatively, SEMCOG partners with local elected officials and state and regional transportation agencies to seek input from the public, special interest groups, and business and industry representatives, and incorporates that information into the decision-making process. Quantitatively, SEMCOG develops and maintains the data and technical tools required to identify needs, analyze alternatives, and evaluate the impact of transportation improvements on the region. The end result is a list of policies, initiatives, and projects representing a long-range vision for the region.
Does the RTP address freight issues?
The RTP does address freight issues, including truck, aviation, rail, and marine facilities in addition to the needs associated with international border crossings.
How does the RTP relate to the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)?
The TIP is the implementing schedule for projects included in the RTP. The TIP, unlike the RTP, is a short-range program (three years) and a new TIP, based on the current RTP, is developed every two years.
What is a Federal-aid Committee (FAC) and what role does it play in RTP development?
Each county in Southeast Michigan, except St. Clair and Washtenaw Counties, has a Federal-aid Committee, charged with managing federal transportation spending at the county level. Committee members include transit officials, county-highway engineers, city engineers, and city, county, township and village officials. The City of Detroit also has its own Federal-aid Committee.
What is a transportation study and what role does it play in RTP development?
A transportation study is an organization established by state law allowing counties with smaller populations to carry out comprehensive transportation planning. For purposes of the RTP, transportation studies have the same functions as Federal-aid Committees. The SEMCOG region contains two transportation studies - the St. Clair County Transportation Study (SCCOTS) and Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS). Both organizations prepare their own long-range transportation plans that are integrated into the RTP.
Who reviews and approves the RTP?
Before the RTP can be implemented and federal transportation funds spent, it is subject to a review and approval process at the local, regional, and federal levels. The RTP is released for public comment. SEMCOG's Transportation Advisory Council (TAC) reviews the RTP and recommends SEMCOG Executive Committee approval. The Executive Committee reviews the RTP and recommends SEMCOG General Assembly (GA) adoption. Once the GA adopts the RTP it is submitted to Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for review. MDOT then transmits the RTP to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to review and issue a finding of conformity with federal regulations.
Once the RTP is adopted can it be amended?
To keep the RTP up-to-date and responsive to regional needs it must be flexible. Amendments to the RTP are possible up to three times a year and must be adopted by SEMCOG's General Assembly (GA). Amendments are subject to the same scrutiny as the original RTP.
How much will it cost to maintain and operate the region's transportation system?
It will cost approximately $39 billion between now and 2030 to maintain current conditions. This funding level allows for basic maintenance - operating the existing transit system, fixing existing roads and bridges, plowing snow, improving safety, retiming traffic signals, maintaining pedestrian/bicycle trails, etc.
How much do we need to fix all identified needs?
According to SEMCOG estimates, it will take nearly $70 billion to address all identified transportation needs - alleviating congestion, fixing every bridge, correcting safety problems, repaving every road, developing a more comprehensive nonmotorized system, and implementing the regional transit plan. This includes the $39 billion needed to maintain and operate the existing road and transit systems through 2030.
Can we afford it to fix all identified needs?
No. While it will take nearly $70 billion to address all transportation needs, SEMCOG forecasts the region will receive only $40 billion in transportation funds. The total shortfall over 26 years is $30 billion.
How much would I have to pay to help alleviate the shortfall?
The total $30 billion shortfall equates to about $300 per year for every licensed driver in the region. The current state gas tax used to fund transportation improvements is 19 cents per gallon. If drivers bore the entire shortfall through a regional transportation tax on gasoline, they would pay an additional 29 to 60 cents per gallon. If they bore just the road portion of the shortfall, which is $25 billion, drivers would pay an additional tax in the range of 24 to 50 cents per gallon. (This is based on driving between 12,000 and 25,000 miles annually.) The additional tax required of drivers would be lower if commercial vehicles shared a portion of the burden. The $5 billion transit shortfall would cost each weekday transit rider an additional $4 per ride. Fares do not provide sufficient funding now and are difficult to increase while maintaining ridership, so additional sources of revenue for transit would be needed to meet this burden. SEMCOG's Transportation Improvement Program Development Committee (TIPDC) is charged with looking at the shortfall and various revenue options.