- Annual Listing of Obligated Projects
- Bicycle/Pedestrian Plans
- Congestion Management
- Functional Classification
- Human Services Coordinated Transportation Plan
- Intelligent Transportation Systems
- Long Range Transportation Plan
- Planning Data
- Public Participation
- Legislative-Required Planning Factors
- Transportation Improvement Program
- Transportation Modeling
- Unified Planning Work Program
Annual Listing of Obligated Projects
Federal legislation requires MPOs to publish an annual listing of projects for which federal funds were made available (or obligated) during the preceding year. This listing of projects must be made available no later than 90 calendar days following the end of the program year. Click on the link below to view the most recent list.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning
The TRiP2045 Long-Range Transportation Plan references bicycle and pedestrian plans adopted by the HATS/MPO. These plans include existing and proposed projects throughout the MPO study area and are published as elements of the LRTP under separate documentation. Member jurisdictions maintain greenway and sidewalk plans, and the MPO adopted its first Bikeway Plan in 2021. For additional information concerning bicycle and pedestrian planning, refer to the LRTP, as well as the Plans and Reports page.
Congestion Management Process
The HATS/MPO has been designated as a Transportation Management Area (TMA) by the Federal Highway Administration. The TMA designation is given to those urbanized areas with a population of over 200,000, as defined by the US Census Bureau. 23 CFR 450.320 requires that the transportation planning process in all TMAs address congestion management through a process that provides for safe and effective management and operation of the multimodal transportation system. The congestion management process dictates that identified transportation facilities (new and existing) eligible for federal funding be analyzed first through the use of travel demand reduction and operational management strategies, prior to being constructed or widened.
The HATS/MPO has a congestion management process in place. It has been incorporated into the Long-Range Transportation Plan.
The HATS/MPO works in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to ensure that the Functional Classification map is maintained and updated as necessary.
The Functional Classification map highlights seven kinds of roadway types or classes. The roadway types highlighted (from greatest to lowest classification) are: interstates, other urban freeways and expressways, principal arterials, minor arterials, urban collectors, major rural collectors, and minor rural collectors. Roads with higher classifications serve the mobility needs of a greater number of people, and typically carry more traffic. Roads with lower classifications tend to provide access more to individual properties than serve the mobility needs of a greater number of people. For example, I-565 (an interstate) serves a more regional population than Drake Avenue (an urban collector).
The importance of the Functional Classification map to the HATS/MPO’s activities is that federal funds can only be spent on roads functionally classified as collector or higher on the federal aid system. This means that local neighborhood roads do not or will not qualify for any federal funds for improvements.
Human Services Coordinated Transportation Plan
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) initially required a locally developed Human Services Coordinated Transportation Plan that identifies the transportation needs of individuals with disabilities, older adults, and people with low incomes; and provides strategies for meeting those local needs, and prioritizes transportation services for funding and implementation. The Human Services Coordinated Transportation Plan was a requirement for local transit funding per the 49 U.S.C. 5316 (Job Access and Reverse Commute Grant) and 5317 (New Freedom Grant) Federal Transit Administration grant programs, that have since expired. These expired programs have been consolidated under other FTA grant programs, and continue through the FAST Act legislation. The previous grant programs and their new funding sources are as follows:
The Job Access and Reverse Commute activities are eligible for funding under FTA’s Urbanized Area Formula Grants (Section 5307) and the Formula Grants for Rural Areas (Section 5311) programs.
The New Freedom grant program activities are eligible under the Enhanced Mobility of Seniors & Individuals with Disabilities – Section 5310: Formula funding to States for the purpose of assisting private nonprofit groups in meeting transportation needs of the elderly and persons with disabilities.
The Human Services Coordinated Transportation Plan is intended to serve as the guidance for the development of a competitive selection process for potential grantees of these programs. There is not a requirement for the local Metropolitan Planning Organization to develop the plan; however, grantees desiring funding must be consistent with the MPO’s plans and the approved projects must be incorporated into the Transportation Improvement Program. Locally, the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments develops and maintains the Human Services Transportation Plan, and the Alabama Department of Transportation manages the actual grant programs to include the grant selection process. Qualifying agencies that will be awarded these particular grants must demonstrate their ability to further develop human services transportation in the area by continuing to support existing transit programs while encouraging growth in the scope, accessibility, and coordination of transit services.
Intelligent Transportation Systems
The US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, defines Intelligent Transportation Systems as follows:
“Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) improve transportation safety and mobility and enhance productivity through the use of advanced communications technologies. ITS encompasses a broad range of wireless and wire line communications-based information and electronics technologies. When integrated into the transportation system’s infrastructure and in vehicles themselves, these technologies relieve congestion, improve safety, and enhance American productivity.”
ITS can be effectively applied to Huntsville’s growing transportation infrastructure of highways, streets, and bridges as well as to a growing number of vehicles, including cars, buses, trucks, and trains. These information and communications technologies can also be used to better manage and improve how transportation service providers such as the State of Alabama, local governments, transit agencies, and trucking companies offer their services to the public.
Federal regulations require that all jurisdictions seeking federal funds for implementing components of an ITS, to develop and establish a plan which conforms with the National ITS Architecture and Standards. ALDOT’s North Region TSMO Plan includes ITS components that will be implemented on State-maintained roads in the Huntsville MPO area.
Long Range Transportation Plan
The long range transportation plan, also known as the metropolitan transportation plan, addresses a planning horizon of at least 20 years, per federal law. The HATS/MPO’s long range transportation plan covers a planning period of 25 years, and is updated every 5 years. The plan includes both long-range and short-range strategies or actions that lead to the development of an integrated multimodal transportation system that facilitates the safe and efficient movement of people and goods, by addressing current and future transportation demand. The HATS/MPO prepares the long range transportation plan in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Transportation.
The development of the long range transportation plan (or metropolitan transportation plan), is based upon the latest estimates and assumptions for population, land use, travel, employment, congestion, and economic activity. Proposed roadway improvements are derived from inputting the aforementioned data into a model that indicates which roadways may experience traffic congestion in the future, and which roadways require improving. The plan also addresses the following:
(1) The anticipated transportation demands of persons and goods in the metropolitan planning area during the planning period of the long range transportation plan
(2) Existing and proposed transportation facilities including major roadways, transit, multi-modal and intermodal facilities, pedestrian walkways and bicycle facilities, and intermodal connectors that function in tandem as an integrated metropolitan planning system
(3) Operational and management strategies to improve the performance of current transportation facilities to alleviate traffic congestion and to maximize the safety and mobility of people and goods
(4) Consideration of the results of the congestion management process
(5) Assessment of capital investment and other strategies to preserve the current and projected future metropolitan transportation infrastructure, and provide for multi-modal capacity increases based upon regional priorities and needs
(6) Description of all proposed improvements to the extent that cost estimates may be derived from those descriptions
(7) Discussion of types of environmental mitigation activities and areas to carry out these activities; with the discussion being focused on policies, programs, or strategies rather than at the project level
(8) Pedestrian walkway and bicycle transportation facilities in accordance with 23 USC 217(g)
(9) Transportation and transit enhancement activities as appropriate
(10) A financial plan that demonstrates how the adopted long range transportation plan can be implemented
Planning data is the backbone of almost every planning process, especially for transportation planning. The HATS/MPO staff rely upon raw data from various sources in order to make projections about what may occur in the future such as population, employment, and other specific socio-economic characteristics. The key component of the long range transportation plan is US Census data. The planning staff analyzes various data sets on a continuous basis, and as additional data comes available from the US Census Bureau. The staff also collects its own data. This planning work is carried out by the demographics section of the City of Huntsville’s Planning Division. While the task of data collection and monitoring is used primarily for the development of the long range transportation plan, the HATS/MPO has also produced a Journey to Work analysis for the MPO area.
Public participation or public involvement has always been a priority for the local HATS/MPO. The HATS/MPO has amended its Public Participation Plan several times (most recently in 2018) to keep up with new methods of involving the public, and in order to comply with the amended 23 CFR 450.316.
The legislation specifically calls for consultation with (and documentation of) agencies and officials responsible for other planning activities in the area that may be affected by the HATS/MPO transportation planning activities. Additionally, the HATS/MPO must consult with and record involvement by State and local agencies involved in potential environmental mitigation activities as related to its transportation plans. The amended legislation is also explicit in its requirement for visualization techniques to be employed, as well as making public information available in electronically accessible formats and means such, as the world wide web.
There are various ways that the public can be involved in the transportation planning process. To find out more, visit our Get Involved page.
Legislative-Required Planning Factors
The most recent transportation legislation: the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), made several changes in the transportation planning process. The most notable change is in the transportation planning factors, which dictate to MPOs how the transportation planning process will consider and implement projects, strategies, and services. The FAST Act took the previous eight MAP-21 legislative requirements, and added two more planning factors.
The amended Code of Federal Regulations, Volume 1, Part 450, Section 306 [23CFR450.306] and amended US Code, Title VI, Section 134(h) [23 USC 134(h)] states that the consideration of the planning factors shall be reflected, as appropriate, in the metropolitan planning process. These factors, as amended, are as follows:
(1)Support the economic vitality of the metropolitan area, especially by enabling global competitiveness, productivity, and efficiency
(2) Increase the safety of the transportation system for motorized and non-motorized users
(3) Increase the security of the transportation system for motorized and non-motorized users
(4) Increase accessibility and mobility of people and freight
(5) Protect and enhance the environment, promote energy conservation, improve the quality of life, and promote consistency between transportation improvements and State and local planned growth and economic development patterns
(6) Enhance the integration and connectivity of the transportation system, across and between modes, for people and freight
(7) Promote efficient system management and operation
(8) Emphasize the preservation of the existing transportation system
(9) Improve the resiliency and reliability of the transportation system
and reduce or mitigate stormwater impacts of surface transportation
(10) Enhance travel and tourism
Transit services in the urbanized area are provided by Madison County and the City of Huntsville. Madison County operates demand response transit through its TRAM program. There are no service restrictions to the county’s service such as age or income; however, riders must reside in the rural areas of Madison County. The City of Huntsville Parking and Public Transit Division operates a variety of services targeted to specific community transportation needs.
The goal of Huntsville’s Public Transit is to provide adequate and efficient community transportation services for the disabled community, senior citizens, commuters, individuals with limited transportation alternatives, and the general public. The City of Huntsville provides these services through several programs. Major emphasis and resources are currently directed to the fixed route Shuttle service and the Handi-Ride paratransit service that serves senior citizens and the disabled community. Community volunteers and human service transportation programs serve other specialized needs. A Rideshare program provides matching services for commuters and encourages carpooling on a local and regional basis. The City of Huntsville also provides transportation brokerage to assist citizens, groups, and agencies to find or help provide transportation for other specialized needs.
Transportation Improvement Program
The HATS/MPO, in conjunction with local transit providers and the State of Alabama, develops the Transportation Improvement Program for the metropolitan planning area. The HATS/MPO’s TIP covers a period of four years, and is updated every four years. The plan is amended as required.
The Transportation Improvement Program is essentially a project management plan that lists all planned transportation improvements, their funding categories and amounts, and the anticipated year that certain phases of a project will begin. Projects are divided into appropriate funding categories, based upon the type of road it is classified or other criteria. Current project/funding categories are as follows: Surface Transportation Attributable Projects, Interstate System Projects, National Highway System, Other Surface Transportation Program Projects, Enhancement Projects, Transit Projects, High Priority and Congressional Earmark Projects, Other Federal and State Aid Projects, Bridge Projects, Appalachian Highway System Projects, and System Maintenance Projects.
In the Huntsville metropolitan planning area, the HATS/MPO has control over the one category of funds/projects for roadway improvements. This category of funds, which requires a local match to its federal appropriations, is formally called: “Surface Transportation Attributable Transportation Projects”. The HATS/MPO also works with the Alabama Department of Transportation Local Transportation Bureau in scheduling anticipated Federal Transit Administration grant funds for its “Transit Projects” administered by the City of Huntsville Parking & Public Transit Division and the Madison County Department of Planning and Economic Development. The Alabama Department of Transportation selects the projects in the other categories as well as each project’s schedule.
At the State level, the Alabama Department of Transportation develops the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which lists all of the transportation improvements to be made within the State utilizing federal and State (and matching local ) funds for a four year period. The projects identified in the STIP that are located within the boundaries of the HATS/MPO are folded into the local Transportation Improvement Program. Essentially, all projects that are listed in the STIP under the jurisdiction of the Huntsville metropolitan planning area are also included in the local HATS/MPO’s TIP.
The TIP must include a financial plan that demonstrates how it can be implemented, and it must be consistent with funding that will reasonably be available during the funding cycle of the TIP. All projects listed in the TIP must be must also appear in the long range transportation plan.
Transportation models attempt to develop reliable mathematical relationships between socio-economic data (such as number of households, household size and income, number of automobiles owned or available, school enrollment, number of people employed and the type of their employment) and the trips individuals make. By manipulating these relationships and comparing predicted trips with known or estimated trip patterns, an accurate method of predicting future travel demand can be developed.
The ability to forecast future levels of travel on Huntsville’s streets is critical to the transportation planning process. The HATS/MPO staff utilizes modeling software, which is endorsed by the State of Alabama, for transportation modeling and forecasting. Transportation modeling enables the HATS/MPO staff to assess what future improvements need to be made to current streets, and substantiates the need to build additional roads if required to support higher traffic volumes.
Unified Planning Work Program
According to 23 CFR 450.308, all metropolitan planning activities performed with federal funds shall be documented in a Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP). The UPWP is prepared by the local metropolitan planning organization in cooperation with the State and local transit providers. The work program defines the planning priorities of the MPO, and identifies the work proposed for the next one to two year period by major activity and tasks (to include the federal planning factors). The UPWP further identifies which organization will perform the work (i.e., State, local MPO, public transit provider, consultant), the timeframe for completing the work, the end results, the proposed funding by activity or task, and a summary of the total amounts and sources of Federal and matching funds.
The monies made available to implement the UPWP are essentially metropolitan planning grant funds. The municipal government of Huntsville underwrites all of the local match money required of this federally/locally funded work program, and provides the staffing for the Huntsville Area Transportation Study/Metropolitan Planning Organization. The UPWP is usually presented in draft form to the HATS Committees and the MPO during June of each year and a final version of the document is adopted by the MPO prior to October of each year.