Transportation Planning

The United States depends on a safe and efficient transportation system to strengthen communities, provide access to jobs, services, and centers of trade, and, retain and enhance our economic competitiveness in the global marketplace. The transportation planning process is a forum through which transportation decisions are made to address these issues. The States, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and Federal Land Management Agencies are required to conduct continuing, comprehensive and collaborative intermodal transportation planning that facilitates the efficient, economic movement of people and goods in all areas.

Title 23 U.S.C. §204 requires Federal Lands Highway (FLH), in consultation with the Federal Land Management Agencies (FLMAs), to develop planning procedures that are consistent with metropolitan and statewide planning processes (23 U.S.C. §134 and §135). 

Planning Team Activities Briefing

Regional Long Range Transportation Plans

Regional Long Range Transportation Plans are an essential element of an agency’s transportation planning because they are the foundation of the Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) that are administered at the agency’s regional level through a cooperative effort between FLH and the FLMA.  The LRTP is a vision statement that reflects the application of national programmatic transportation goals to planning and project prioritization at the FLMA regional level.  Requirements for long-range planning are:

  • Minimum 20-year plan
  • Updated at least every four years
  • Includes a financial plan that demonstrates how the transportation plan can be implemented, indicates all public and private resources that are reasonably expected to be available to carry out the plan, and recommends any additional financing strategies for needed projects and programs.
  • Public participation

Unit Transportation Plans

The Unit Plans address goals and objectives that are established in the FLMA’s NTP & RLRTPs.   Transportation planning is critically important at the unit level. The FLMA has flexibility to determine the best means of addressing this need.  Options include:

  • New comprehensive management plan (General Management Plan, Comprehensive Conservation Plan, Forest Plan) with an integrated transportation element;
  • Addendum or update to a comprehensive management plan with an integrated transportation element; or
  • Comprehensive transportation study that includes an assessment of needs

Transportation Improvement Programs

The Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) are an essential component of the transportation planning process.  They are developed cooperatively between FLH and the FLMA, and provide the FLMA’s prioritized list of transportation improvements for a four-year period.  FLH has responsibility for approval of the TIP.  TIP requirements include:

  • Administered by FLH
  • Covers a four-year period
  • Updated at least every four years
  • Individually identifies regionally significant projects
  • Public participation
  • Submitted by FLH to appropriate States and metropolitan areas on behalf of the FLMA.

The projects included in the TIPs are consistent with FLMA regional or Tri-agency, and Long Range Transportation Plans.

Congestion Management System

The Congestion Management System is required by SAFETEA-LU and by implementing regulations enacted in 2004 (23 C.F.R. §§ 970-973).  Congestion Management System has a goal-oriented focus, identify deficiencies, and can be used in the development and analysis of performance measures.  In addition, the CMS is a tool that will facilitate more effective management decisions.  The CMS will be used in long-range planning, program development, and project evaluation and selection.


The transportation planning template is intended to provide the FLMAs with the maximum amount of flexibility in the application of these procedures to their transportation planning program, while satisfying the legislative requirement for the procedures.  This template is a tool to assist the FLMAs in adapting the essential components of the metropolitan and statewide planning processes to a transportation planning process for their agencies.  In each case, the template can be adapted to fit the organizational and program management structures of the respective FLMAs.

View the Surface Transportation Planning Guidebook