A Planner's Perspective: PVPC Staff Guest Column

06 Jan 2015

Twenty Years and the RTP

By Gary Roux, PVPC Principal Planner/Traffic Manager

Recently, I celebrated my 20th anniversary as an employee of PVPC. Over this span, I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of interesting projects. If I were asked to pick my favorite project, it would be very difficult to choose just one; however, if you were to ask me to identify my most challenging project, without a doubt it would be the development of the Regional Transportation Plan, or RTP. You see, the RTP is never truly “finished” in the traditional sense. As a result, it can at times become my own personal white whale. PVPC has completed six updates to the RTP since 1993, and this year we began work on the seventh.

In short, the RTP is a federal requirement that outlines the direction of transportation planning over a minimum of 20 years. The RTP is currently updated every four years and provides the foundation for transportation improvement projects funded through the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and planning studies funded through the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP). If a project is not included in the RTP, it cannot be advanced through the UPWP or TIP. In the Pioneer Valley region, major improvement projects such as the widening of the Route 9 Calvin Coolidge Bridge between Northampton and Hadley, the Great River Bridge in Westfield, the Holyoke Transportation Center, miles of bike paths, the ongoing construction at Union Station in Springfield, and the return of passenger rail service to the Knowledge Corridor Line all advanced through a conforming RTP.

It’s actually all about conformity. In order to advance transportation improvement projects, it must be first demonstrated that sufficient financial resources exist to fund the project. This is done in consultation with federal and state officials, but also requires input at the local level as well. A robust public participation plan is an important component of the development of the RTP, as is the demonstration of equity across all transportation modes. The RTP must also demonstrate that national transportation goals to enhance safety, reduce congestion, and protect the environment are addressed through the implementation of the plan.

The current update to the RTP will focus on incorporating the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) legislation into the plan. MAP-21 was signed into law in July, 2012 to create a performance-based surface transportation program. As part of this RTP, we will be developing a number of regional performance measures to track our progress in meeting a series of transportation related targets. Performance-based planning is not a new concept. We have been tracking the performance of our regional transportation system for many years through our regional traffic counting program, pavement management system, Top 100 High Crash Intersection lists, and PVTA ridership surveys. MAP-21 just takes this work to the next level by requiring targets to assist in the advancement of the goals of the RTP. One example of a potential regional target could be to increase the percentage of roadways that fall into the “good or excellent” category by five percent by 2020. PVPC’s Transportation Section has focused on the development of a new set of criteria to rank potential new transportation improvement projects that advance the goals of the RTP and assist in meeting future regional performance measures.

Ultimately, the RTP is the region’s blueprint to maintaining a safe and efficient transportation system for all modes of travel. Integration of the national goals and emphasis areas ensures access to federal transportation dollars to assist in the implementation of the plan. We have a large and diverse region, and planning to meet its transportation needs can be quite challenging.

Over the next few months, PVPC will begin unveiling draft versions of the RTP for public review and comment.  This process began in October and November of 2014 through the development of several focus groups to assist in the development of regional needs and strategies. It is anticipated that a short video will be ready early in 2015 to give a brief overview of the RTP, while the draft document is currently scheduled to be released sometime in May. All of this information will be available through the PVPC website. Your comments will be important to help develop a regional transportation plan that continues to meet the transportation needs of the Pioneer Valley region.

Continuing, Comprehensive, and Cooperative Planning Process

Average Annual Daily Traffic

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

Average Daily Traffic

American Farmland Trust

Alternative Fuel Vehicles

American Heritage Rivers Initiative

American International College

Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Approval Not Required

American Planning Association

Aquifer Protection District

Air Quality Index

Air Quality Index

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (of 2009)

Automatic Traffic Recorder

Average Vehicle Ridership

Barnes Aquifer Protection Advisory Committee

Business Improvement District

Bicycle Level of Service

Best Management Practice

Bridge Management System

Board of Appeals (or Adjustment)

Board of Health

Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990

Commercial Area Revitalization District

Community Action Statement

Central Business District

Cape Cod Commission

Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield

Community Development

Community Development Action Grant

Community Development Block Grant

Centers for Disease Control

Community Development Corporation

Community Development Fund

Community Development Plan

Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation

Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

Community Enterprise Economic Development

Citizen Housing and Planning Association

Community Housing Development Organizations

Capital Improvement Inventory System

Capital Improvements Plan (or Program)

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program

Congestion Management Process

Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission

Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area

Compressed Natural Gas

Carbon Monoxide

Council of Governments

Commonwealth Procurement Access and Solicitation System

Community Preservation Act

Citizen Planner Training Collaborative

Capitol Region Council of Governments

Community Service Block Grant

Combined Sewer Overflow

Department of Conservation and Recreation

Department of Environmental Protection

Division of Employment and Training

Department of Housing and Community Development

Direct Local Technical Assistance

Department of Energy Resources

Department of Revenue

Department of Transportation

Department of Public Works

Developments of Regional Impact

Executive Order

Production of affordable housing across a broad range of incomes 

Economic Assistance Coordinating Council

Economic Development Administration

Economic Development Council

Economic Development District

Economic Development Data and Information System

Economic Development and Industrial Corporation

Environmental Impact Report

Environmental Impact Statement

Environmental Justice

Environmental Notification Form

Economic Opportunity Area

Executive Office of Administration and Finance

Executive Office of Economic Affairs

Executive Office of Elder Affairs

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development

Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental Site Assessment

Economic Target Area

Federal Aid

Functional Classification (of roadways)

Federal Housing Administration

Federal Highway Administration - An agency of the United States Department of Transportation that provides financial and technical support to each state for constructing, improving, and preserving America’s highway system.

Federal Highway Administration

Franklin Regional Council of Governments

Federal Transit Administration

Greenhouse Gas

Geographic Information System - A system for capturing, storing, analyzing and managing data and associated attributes which are spatially referenced to the earth.

Geographic Information System

Global Positioning System

Housing Appeal Committee


Holyoke Community College

Housing Development Support Program

Housing Innovation Fund

Home Modification for Individuals with Disabilities Loan

Highway Overlay District

Historic Overlay District

Homeownership Opportunities Program

High Occupancy Vehicle

Housing Preservation Grant

Housing Production Plan

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Invitation for Bid

Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991

Intelligent Transportation Systems

Job Access and Reverse Commute

Jacob's Ladder Scenic Byway

Jacob's Ladder Trail

Joint Transportation Committee

Local Board(s) of Health

Limited English Proficiency

Local Housing Authority

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Low Income Housing Tax Credit

Level of Service

Local Option Transportation Tax

Local Pavement Management System

Light Rail Vehicle

Local Technical Assistance

Massachusetts General Laws

Hazardous waste cleanup regulations

Uniform procurement law for local governments


Planning/comprehensive permits

Smart growth zoning and housing production

Smart growth school cost reimbursement

Subdivision control

Expedited permitting

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century

Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies

Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Massachusetts Geographic Information System

Minority Business Enterprises

Massachusetts Development Finance Agency 

Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act

Massachusetts Geographic Information Council

Massachusetts Historical Commission 

Massachusetts Housing Partnership

Massachusetts Industrial Finance Agency

Municipal Incentive Grant

Massachusetts Municipal Association

Memorandum of Agreement

Massachusetts Office of Business Development

Massachusetts Office on Disability

Memorandum of Understanding

Metropolitan Planning Organization

Metropolitan Planning Organization

Montachusett Regional Planning Commission

Metropolitan Statistical Area

Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices

Martha's Vineyard Commission

Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

National Association of Regional Councils

New England Association of Regional Councils

Non-Federal Aid

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (as amended)

National Highway System

Neighborhood Housing Services program

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Northern Middlesex Council of Governments

Nitrogen Oxide

Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System 

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Transportation Safety Board

Old Colony Planning Council

Overall Condition Index (Pavement)

Open Space and Recreation Plan

Pavement Condition Index

Priority Development Fund

Purchase of Development Rights

Peak Hour Traffic (or Trips)

Payment in Lieu of Taxes

[Metropolitan] Planning Funds

Pavement Management System 

Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area

Pavement Management Users Group

Planner on a Disc

Public Participation Process

Planned Unit Residential Development

Pioneer Valley Regional Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund

Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp.

Rental Development Action Loan

Regional Employment Board

Regional Education and Business Alliance

Regional Economic Models, Inc.

Request For Proposal

Request for Qualifications

Request for Response

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Roadway Inventory Files

Revolving Loan Fund

Regional Planning Agency

Regional Pavement Management System

Regional Transit Authority

Regional Technology Corporation

Regional Transportation Plan

Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users

Small Business Administration

Supplier Diversity Office 

State Implementation Plan (for air quality)

Sustainable Knowledge Corridor

Single Occupancy Vehicle

Special Permit

Special Permit Planning

Site Plan Review

Statewide Planning and Research Funds

Single Room Occupancy

Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District

Springfield Technical Community College

Statewide Transportation Improvement Program

Surface Transportation Program

Targeted Brownfields Assessment

Transportation and Community System Preservation [Pilot Program]

Transportation Demand Management

Transfer of Development Rights

Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century

Tax Increment Financing

Transportation Improvement Program

The Literacy Project

Turning Movement Count

Traditional Neighborhood District

Transit Oriented Design (or Development)

Transportation Research Board

Trip Reduction Ordinance

Transportation Systems Management

Urban Growth Boundary

Urban Land Institute

University of Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute

Unified Planning Work Program

Urban Revitalization Development Grant

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of the Interior

U.S. Forest Service

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

U.S. Geological Survey

U.S. Public Land Survey

Underground Storage Tanks

Vehicle Miles Traveled

Volatile Organic Compound

Vehicle Occupancy Rate

Ware Adult Learning Center

Weatherization Assistance Program

Women-owned Business Enterprises

Wellhead Protection Area

Western New England University

Water Quality Management Plan

Westfield River Watershed Association

Westfield River Wild & Scenic Advisory Committee

Water Supply Protection [District]

Westfield State University

Zoning Board of Adjustment (or Appeals)