Update to transportation funding program key to accessing state, federal funding

A core function of the work we do at Pima Association of Governments (PAG) is short-range and long-range planning as the federally designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for the region.

To designate funding for our transportation planning efforts, PAG develops and manages a transportation improvement program, or TIP.

The Downtown Links roadway project to connect Barraza-Aviation Parkway with Interstate-10 frontage road.

“Because we are planning for regional transportation projects funded by not only local and regional funds, but also state and federal sources, the projects cannot proceed unless we account for them in the TIP document, said Jamie Brown, PAG’s strategic planning, program and policy director. “For example, for projects receiving federal funding, federal agencies require a copy of the TIP page showing the approved funding before they can authorize the project.”

Although updates to the TIP are required every four years, MPOs such as PAG can update it more frequently, especially if they are in larger urban areas with many projects. PAG, which typically updates the TIP every two years, coordinates revisions with member jurisdictions. Members include the cities of South Tucson and Tucson, the towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita, Pima County, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O’odham Nation and the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The TIP is similar to a capital improvement plan, listing expenditures for planned or anticipated transportation projects, programs and regional priorities for all transportation modes. This includes national, state and local roadways, and transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities that regional jurisdictions intend to build.

While the planning and development of the TIP may seem to be a bureaucratic exercise, the process fulfills some important functions that provide real public benefit.

First and foremost, the transportation projects listed on the TIP will become eligible to access the limited pool of federal, state, and regional funding.

The Regional Transportation Authority, which also must identify projects and funding in the TIP, can help leverage federal and state resources by serving as match funding to enhance or expand transportation improvements in the region. RTA funding for its 20-year plan comes from a voter-approved half-cent excise or sales tax collected within Pima County. This funding also can be applied to projects that are not eligible for federal dollars. The combined funding helps to fuel the regional economy and quality of life.

“These may be individual projects in the TIP, but combined they address regional infrastructure needs and serve the region as a whole,” Brown said.

More than a standard government capital improvement plan, however, the TIP has additional requirements. Projects included in the TIP must be evaluated for potential impacts, including traffic congestion, air quality and other regional impacts.

Brown said the TIP development process also serves an additional and important regional function: Coordination.

Because the jurisdictions all participate in the planning and development, the TIP process facilitates the coordination of efforts. In doing so, a jurisdiction can anticipate any impacts a neighboring jurisdiction’s project will have in their communities and, in some cases, will jointly manage a project.

TIP projects also must be consistent with PAG’s Regional Mobility and Accessibility Plan, a federally required long-range regional transportation plan. Federal regulations require the RMAP to be updated at least every four years in order to secure millions of dollars in federal funding annually for regional transportation projects.

“All projects funded in the region, including RTA projects, must be identified in the 5-year TIP and RMAP, which identifies all anticipated funding in the region over the 30-year long-range plan.”

Once assembled, a draft TIP must undergo stakeholder review and receive a period of public comment before the Regional Council approves the plan.

“Allowing time for public review and gathering feedback is an important part of the TIP development process,” Brown said. “The projects budgeted in the funding program will enhance our region’s economic vitality through roadway corridor, transit, intersection, traffic signalization, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, among others.”

PAG and member jurisdictions currently are in the process of developing the TIP update for fiscal years 2025-2029. The sequence of TIP development includes:

  • Project list development and committee review – late 2023 and early 2024
  • Technical analyses
  • Title VI analysis (federal requirements)
  • Open houses – March 2024
  • Public comment period – April 2024
  • Regional Council review and possible approval – May 2024