Tribal Transportation Planning Module Series
Module 5: Project Prioritization


August 19, 2013

Presented by

Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program
Federal Highway Administration/Federal Transit Administration

Transportation Decisionmaking:
Information Tools for Tribal Governments

Jared Fijalkowski: Good afternoon. On behalf of the Federal Highway Administration, I would like to welcome everyone to the last of five Tribal Transportation Planning Module Series Webinars. Today’s webinar will focus on Project Prioritization.
My name is Jared Fijalkowski – I’m with the U.S. DOT’s Volpe Center, and I will be moderating today’s webinar.
Before we begin, I would just like to point out a few features of our webinar room:
On the bottom-left is a chat box that you can use to submit questions to our presenters throughout the webinar. We will answer questions at the end of the presentation, but feel free enter your questions as they come to you.
If you are having any technical difficulties, please use the chat box to send a private chat message to me, Jared Fijalkowski.
Also, we will make materials available for download at the conclusion of today’s webinar, including the presentation itself.
I wanted to mention that we are recording this webinar, so that your colleagues who are unable to join us may listen at a later date.
Before we begin, we have a few poll questions for you to answer. These are going to help us better understand our audience today. The first question is "What is your affiliation?" and the second question is "How many people are participating at your computer today?"
I will give you a couple of seconds to answer those. Great, thank you very much. Let’s move back to the presentation layout.
We will have two presenters today. The first is Theresa Hutchins of Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Office of Planning. The second is Jaime Torres of FHWA’s Tribal Transportation Program.
Now I would like to turn it over to Theresa…

Slide 2 – Presentation Overview

Theresa Hutchins: Thanks, Jared! Good morning everyone, or afternoon depending on where you’re located. Welcome to this training series on transportation decisionmaking information tools for tribal governments. This is the final installment of a training series brought to you by the Federal Highway Administration, and is only informational. As Jared mentioned, the topic today is Project Prioritization. As we move through the presentation today please ask questions as you have them, we don’t want to miss out on any questions that you have, so type them into the chat pod at the bottom of the screen.
Our presentation today will explain what we mean when we talk about project prioritization. We will walk through each step of the prioritization process. We have a guest speaker today, Jonah Begay, who works for the Navajo Nation and will share his experience devolving and implementing a project prioritization process. At the end of our discussion we will summarize what you learned and share additional resources to help you on your transportation planning efforts.

Slide 3 – The Module Training Series

The Tribal Transportation Planning Training Module Series was created by the Federal Highway Administration to help you your knowledge about tribal transportation planning. The Series was designed to cover multiple aspects of planning. Modules discuss common practices and sample methods for use by tribal planners. Tribes are sovereign entities, and are not required to use the methods discussed in the training modules.
A total of eleven modules are available, including the one we are discussing here. These modules do not currently do not reflect the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), so that is something to be aware of. To download the modules, visit the web address shown on the screen. In addition to the module, information on this website includes other resources that you might want to check out here:

Slide 4 – Training Modules for Tribal Transportation Decisionmaking

The Project Prioritization module is just one in the training series, as I mentioned, and is depicted on the graphic above. Modules are connected and build upon each other, and are divided into four areas: Planning, Tribal Intergovernmental Relations, Programming, and Other Elements.
Project prioritization is part of the programming group, but is closely aligned with five other modules as well, including: Developing a Long-Range Transportation Plan, Developing the Transportation Improvement Program, Funding Resources, Financial Planning, and Partnering and Leveraging. I encourage you to take a look at these other modules as well to strengthen your understanding of how these pieces fit together.

I. Introduction

Let’s begin with an introduction to the concepts involved in project prioritization. At this point, Jamie, I’ll turn the presentation over to you to walk us through this process.
Jamie Torres: Good morning. Today I will be presenting project prioritization and going step-by-step on how to prioritize projects.

Slide 7 – What is Project Prioritization?

In prioritizing projects, you will be ranking transportation projects in order of importance and matching them to available funds. Not only is project prioritization important because certain funding streams require prioritized project lists, but also because it is useful for improving your ability to strategically plan and express the tribe’s transportation needs. Having a current and credible list of prioritized transportation projects will make your communication with the FHWA, BIA, and State DOTs more effective. Better communication results in increased opportunity for funding and partnership.

II. How to Prioritize

Now let’s move on and discuss how to prioritize projects step-by-step.

Slide 9 – How Do I Prioritize?

There are five basic steps to project prioritization. We will be discussing these one by one.

Slide 10 – Step 1: Identify Projects

Step 1 is identifying the projects. In doing this you will decide what is important to the tribe. Begin your search by looking for important projects in the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), the Tribal Transportation Improvement Plan (TTIP), the Tribal Priority List (TPL), and other important planning documents. Consider the projects and programs identified as necessary to support the tribe’s transportation needs in the LRTP. Within the TTIP and/or TPL, consider the status of each project listed, remove any completed projects, and update or add to the list to reflect which projects are most and least important.
Once you have explored the projects outlined in your LRTP, your TTIP, or your TPL, and other planning documents, next you conduct field work & collect data. Go to the identified project locations and document the seriousness and extent of the deficiency or need. Consult with Federal, State, regional, and local sources to verify the reported deficiency/need. Collect all relevant information about each deficient or needy location.
After collecting data about the projects and their locations, assemble your findings into a Project Data Book. The Project Data Book should contain information about each project and organize them by functional category. Potential categories include: "deficient roads" or "transportation safety." The Project Data Book should be the go-to resource for information; it should at least include notes, photographs, and descriptions on each project.

Slide 11 – Step 1: Identify Projects

When the information collected in Step 1 is all assembled into the Project Data Book, collect preliminary cost and funding information. Contact the BIA, State DOT, and others such as the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) and regional planning organization (RPO) to request assistance for estimating the cost to improve each project in the list. You can also ask about funding eligibility, application requirements, when funding will be available, and the potential for partnership. See the Financial Planning module for more information on determining funding eligibility.

Slide 12 – Sample Project Summary Sheet

Slide 13 – Step 2: Seek Public Input

Step 2 will be to seek public input. Once all of the information about identified projects has been collected and added to the project summary sheet, it is time to inform the community of your intention to prioritize. As a first step, you can organize meetings and invite community members and key officials from agencies such as the tribal planning commission, housing authority, commercial enterprises, police force, and tribal council. Inform the public about the meetings by using tools such as radio, newsletters, or flyers to advertise meetings. During the meetings, you should provide participants with handouts and visual materials. All meeting handouts should be simple and easy to understand. Make sure to leave the majority of the meeting open to public opinions and preferences about which projects are most important to them and why, and ask if there are other projects that they believe should be on the list.

Slide 14 – Step 3: Develop Criteria and Performance Based Evaluation Measures

Step 3 is developing criteria and performance based evaluation measures. Now that you have the list of priority projects, you can develop criteria and performance based evaluation measures. To gather input from community members, you need a tool that will help you:

  1. List the projects in priority order
  2. Support the vision, policies, and objectives of the LRTP
  3. Reflect the opinions and values expressed by the community

Step 3 will help you accomplish these goals.
To develop criteria and evaluation measures, you will likely need to seek technical assistance. Creating a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will help avoid working in a vacuum. The TAC will be an informal working group of no more than 10 members that may include tribal officials as well as representatives from outside agencies: the tribe’s director of public works; transit director/police chief; representatives from the FHWA Division Office, State DOT, the BIA, and the MPO or RPO. All members of the TAC should be knowledgeable about the tribe’s needs and transportation planning process. The Committee’s primary function will be to assist in identifying criteria for prioritizing.

Slide 15 – Step 3: Develop Criteria and Performance Based Evaluation Measures (continued)

These criteria reflect community preferences and needs, and are usually used to determine a rank for each project in the list. Because the needs of one community vary significantly from the needs and preferences of another, there are no generic criteria that can be applied to project prioritization. To begin developing criteria, the best strategy is to use the policies in the LRTP and other relevant documents, such as land use and economic development plans, as a starting point.
Then use a mix of values:
Quantitative Values, such as "improve safety," are easiest to measure. You can use traffic accident data and/or unsafe conditions described by the community to rank the project. Qualitative Values, such as "supported by the community," or "contribute to quality of reservation life," are subjective, so you will have to rely on the knowledge gained in Step 2: Seeking Public Input. Transportation planning values are Federal requirements, such as "discussed in the LRTP"or "funding eligibility."

Slide 16 – Step 3: Develop Criteria and Performance Based Evaluation Measures (continued)

At this point in the project prioritization process, you can apply a numerical scale to determine the degree to which each project meets the criteria. To be sure that whatever system you are using to rate projects is not subject to unintended interpretations, put the rating system in writing using a table, such as the one shown here.

Slide 17 – Step 3: Develop Criteria and Performance Based Evaluation Measures (continued)

Each TAC or advisory group member can assign a rating to each project by rating each criterion for each project. To create an un-weighted sum, rate each criterion using your designated rating system and sum the results for each criterion to come up with a total numerical rank for the project.

Slide 18 – Step 3: Develop Criteria and Performance Based Evaluation Measures (continued)

Treating each criterion equally, however, may not fully reflect community values. If some of the criteria are of higher importance to the community, you can weight their values as is done above. For example, because this sample community values improved safety, enhanced environment, and funding availability more highly than the rest, they are weighted by a factor of 2. As a result of the weighted values, the project may rank differently in the list of prioritized projects.

Slide 19 – Step 4: Report Findings and Seek Consensus

Step 4 is to report findings and seek consensus. If the public expresses a desire for project prioritization to be adjusted, more public meetings may be necessary to ensure that your changes reflect community preferences.

Slide 20 – Step 5: Put it All Together

Step 5 is the final step and is where you put it all together. During this final step, you will put together all of the materials and data you have collected in steps 1 through 4. The final prioritized project list will make up the Tribal Priority List, the TTIP, or both. After you have submitted the list to Tribal Council and asked them for a tribal resolution endorsing it, request that the list be sent to funding agencies for inclusion in their TIPs. Agencies that provide funding include the FHWA, BIA, MPO, State DOT, and other agencies with a stated interest.

Slide 21 – Step 5: Put it All Together (continued)

For more information, you can view the Financial Planning module. This concludes my part of the presentation and I will leave you with Jonah Begay, who will share with you the process they follow at the Navajo Nation and what he’s been involved with.

III. Prioritization at the Navajo Division of Transportation

Slide 1 – Prioritization

Jonah Begay: Hello everyone. My name is Jonah Begay. I am with the Navajo Division of Transportation, Transportation Planning Department. I will be talking about our system approach to prioritization and road maintenance. We were looking at betterments and the same system we are going to be using for transportation improvement projects. We are moving toward a system that we are going to be using for all road maintenance activities.

Slide 2 – Navajo Nation

I just want to give you an overview of the whole Navajo Nation. We are in three States: Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Arizona the biggest portion of the Navajo Nation, then New Mexico, then we have the southern portion of Utah.

Slide 3 – Navajo Nation Public Road System

I developed some pie charts to give you an idea of how many miles of roads and the types of roads in terms of ownership and surface type that we have in the Navajo system. As you can see, we have approximately over 14,000 public roads in our inventory system. Out of that about 1,600 is State-owned, about 1800 are county-owned, and the rest are all BIA and Navajo Nation roads. Out of those 14,330 miles is paved and over 11,000 miles are unpaved and we have a small fraction of gravel roads.

Slide 4 – Road Surface Type by Ownership and Mileage

Road surface type by ownership and mileage. Again BIA, we have 6,200 miles and out of that about 261 miles is paved and 105 are gravel and the vast majority are unimproved dirt and primitive roads. As you can about 72% of the roads in the BIA system is unpaved.

Slide 5 – Navajo Tribal Roads – 5,010 miles

And then our Navajo Nation Tribal Roads we have about 5,000 miles. You can see about 97% of those roads are unpaved.

Slide 6 – County Roads

And then we have some county roads in the inventory system as well. These county roads are actually being maintained by the county but they are the ownership of the tribe.

Slide 7 – Prioritization: Priority Rating and Criteria

I want to jump into prioritization. As I mentioned earlier we are moving toward establishing a system. In the past this system was only used for the TTIP. Now we’re looking to use the same system for road maintenance and the betterment plan. The betterment plan for Navajo is anything that is not road maintenance and is not full construction. So we have a gray area between road maintenance and construction. Road maintenance for us is literally just moving dirt around and keeping the same footprints on the roads: no realignments, no improvements, and no culvert installation. When we go into establishing, or straightening some of these roads for safety reasons, installing culverts, or gravelling roads it goes into a betterment plan. It goes into the same system that I’m going to talk about here. We have a priority rating and criteria. We also have a weight system that we use to measure our priority ratings. We are trying to move into a system where we are doing all the road maintenance and betterment. We are using a lot of the compliance and reclusion out of 25 CFR Part 170 Subpart D for the planning.

Slide 8 – Priority Rating Continued

These are some of the items we look for when we are prioritizing our projects. We look pavement rating. We look at the safety needs and safety ratings. We look at the design standards. We look to see if a project in in the LRTP. Right now the Navajo LRTP update is for 2014. We are also looking at the agency or regional priorities. This regional priority is really community-based planning at the regional level. Then we also look preliminary planning, preconstruction planning status, for example environmental, archaelowed, right-of-way application, design, etc. We also look to see if there’s any special funding for that specific project, to see if there’s any State funding. We also look at the land use plan. We look to see if there’s any housing development, any type of business or school or any type of other economic developments.

Slide 9 – Project Rating

Each project shall be rated based on the planning and engineering criteria above by assigning points to each engineering criteria above. The items that we inte previous slide and in this slide are given points depending on their status and I will show the points for how we rate these systems. A project with the highest points will indicate that the project has the most transportation needs or provides the most benefits and is the most ready for construction and thus should be given the highest priority. Weight and points shall be assigned as follows:
Now for a lot of road maintenance and betterment and construction, we are moving towards project readiness. In the past there were a lot of projects that were pending due to a lot of these criteria not being met. Projects sitting on TTIPs, road maintenance or betterments.
Each prioritization criteria is given different weight based on its importance in meeting transportation planning goals. A project shall be assigned different weights for each criterion and then multiplied by the prioritization criterion points to arrive at the total point ranking. The weights shall be assigned as follows:
Pavement rating has a weight of 1. Safety needs, ADT, LRTP, agency priority ranking, preconstruction planning (does it have all the compliance it needs), does it have special funding, a weight of 4, and economic development. You can see preconstruction planning has the highest weight in our rating system. Almost all of the time, when we have a project going, we are required to have some compliance done. Even some of the roads that have already been disturbed, we are making sure that the compliance is there, that the archaeologists and environmentalists are there and any regulations we have to follow.

Slide 10 – Points

As far as points, a project shall be given points according to each prioritization criterion as follows:
A project shall be given points according to its pavement condition. 25 CFR Part 170 requires implementation of a pavement management system. The table below shows pavement rating points to be used in reference. An inventory’s wearing surface code is given to each road section of a route. A transportation need of the project can be measured and rated according to the severity of the pavement condition.
A lot of our roads are very old and some have not been maintained properly so we have a point system that determines the rating system. We are also using the inventory based on field observations. You can see a table there with pavement ratings. A rating of poor is worth 5 and down for poor, fair, good, and very good condition. Roads with points of 1 were probably done less than 5 years ago. The majority of roads they have on the Navajo Nation probably have scores of 5 or 4.

Slide 11 - Safety Rating

We also look at safety ratings. A project shall be given points based on a project safety needs. The projects’ safety needs shall be calculated based the number of traffic accidents occurring within the beginning and ending mileposts that are as resulting from existing road conditions. We have a formula there for determine the safety rating. We also collect crash data that we use to calculate the safety ratings. If there is any accident rate of 4 or more it has high safety needs rating and so on down.

Slide 12 – Design Standards/ADT

Then also the design standards and ADT. We also have a point system for the road design standards. For major arterials, if ADT has a 1000 or more it carries a lot of traffic, so that’s considered a high ADT, we also look at that.

Slide 13 – LRTP Planning

And then the LRTP study. As I mentioned earlier 2014 is our next update for the Navajo Nation LRTP. We will be looking at a lot projects that are in our road maintenance, betterment, and construction lists. We will also be look at safety projects, bridges, culvert installation, etc. That’s what we’re looking at to make sure our projects are in the LRTP.

Slide 14 – LRTP Priority

Here’s a table of our LRTP priorities. Five: high priority projects, meaning immediate due to issues raised by local chapters, schools, housing programs, as well as working with the BIA. We focus on school bus routings, housing, routes that carry high traffic (class 1 and 2), class 3 streets with deficiencies or require safety improvements, etc.
We also have moderate projects. Transportation needs that are recommended for action after high priority needs have been med and funded, such as road center streets, class 4 roads (most of our bus routes here are class 4 roadways), scenic byways, park accesses etc. Those are our moderate projects.
Our low priority projects are transportation needs to be implemented last. If the IRR or TPP funds are limited, they should be funded from outside sources. We look for State funding and additional resources for bike routes, sidewalks, other transportation needs. If the project is not on the LRTP they come down as low priority projects.

Slide 15 – Regional Priority Ranking

This is where community involvement, community input, recommendations, and guidelines are provided to the community for them to come up and assist us with what their transpiration needs are at the community level. Based on that we went through a process of filtering out the roads. We filter those roads through the ranking systems and our priority systems. These are some of the priority ranking criteria: school bus routes, housing access areas, class 1, 2, and 3 roadway improvements. And the rest are under "no transportation need": safety improvement needs, economic, community development, class 4 improvements, science byways, bicycle routes, and sidewalks.

Slide 16 – Preconstruction Planning

As you saw earlier, preconstruction planning had the highest weight. Any projects we do require environmental compliance, right-of-way acquisition, preliminary engineering. Before any project can be constructed, all preconstruction project planning such as National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) compliance, survey and design work, right-of-way acquisition, etc. must be completed. A project shall be given points based on the status of construction planning requirements. For surveying, we look at how much is completed, then we multiple that by points. We use percentages. Then we also have the homesteads, or home site leases. They are being impacted because they will either be within the right-of-way or close to the rights-of-way. We also look at utilities. We are going to be adding utilities to see if there are any utilities overhead or underground on these projects. We are looking at rights-of-way, does it have the proper right-of-way?

Slide 17 – Available and/or Special Funding

One of the other things is special funding. Some projects are eligible for special or State funding. They are also looking at the project rating list. In order for us to submit an application for State funding we have to have a complete packet submitted to states.
We are also looking at economic development as I mentioned earlier. Where are these growth areas? Where can we spend our money? Is it important to pave a road or can we just chip seal gravel? How can we stretch out dollars? Where are the highest needs to spend our money? These are some of the things that we look at as far as priority ratings.
I believe that’s the end of my presentation as far as criteria, weights, and how we rate our projects and what kind of data we’re collecting. So that completes my presentation.

Jared Fijalkowski: Great, thank you very much Jonah. I will turn it over to Theresa now to complete the rest of the presentation.

IV. Summary and Resources

Theresa Hutchins: Great, thank you Jonah. That was a great example of how the real world can use the prioritization process. Now that we have completed our instruction and heard Jonah’s example of how to apply what we have learned, let’s quickly review to reinforce the tools and resources available to you so you can begin using them on future project prioritization endeavors.

Slide 23 – Project Prioritization Toolbox

Here we have the techniques and strategies you can use to start prioritizing your projects. These include:

  1. Project Data Book: These include your field notes, photographs, research, history and cost estimates, communications, funding commitments for each project you’re going to be prioritizing.
  2. Project Summary Sheet: We also talked about the project summary sheet. This is a snapshot of all projects by category. The table column headings usually cover description, funding eligibility, LRTP status, estimated start and end dates, as well as estimated costs.
  3. Community Preferences: It’s really important to make sure you involve the community and understand what their comments are and interests are, as you start planning projects, and the priority.
  4. Technical Advisory Committee: This should be a group of no more than 10 members from tribal government or outside the agency. This group would help assist you with developing prioritization criteria and then rating the projects.
  5. Criteria for Project Prioritization: This is really important. Again, this is a list of criteria that best reflects the values of the community that you’ve been gathering.
  6. Evaluation Measures for Each Criterion: As Jonah demonstrated in his presentation, it’s important for each one of these criteria that you have a rating system that shows how each of the projects measures up within that criterion. It looks a community values.
  7. List of Prioritized Projects: A list of projects ranked by order of priority.

One optional thing that we talked about was this List of Weighted Prioritized Projects. Jonah had a really good example of how to weight projects, and that’s just another way of showing a list of ranked projects in priority order, but also giving them that weighted value. The final thing we talked about was the Tribal Resolution. It is important to have an official Tribal Council action that endorses the project prioritization list and forwards it with a resolution to the BIA, the FHWA and any other funding agencies you might be working with so they have an understanding of priorities.

Slide 24 – Project Prioritization Checklist

In the module is a checklist that shows all the five steps and tips for the project prioritization process. These tools are designed to remind of the steps and pieces involved in project prioritization, including identifying projects and seeking public input.

Slide 25 – Checklist Part II

The steps under reporting findings and seeking consensus are there as well, and finally putting it all together.

Slide 26 – For Further Reading

On your screen and in your module is a list of designed to support tribal planners. Feel free to explore these resources for further information on tribal transportation and project prioritization.

Question and Answer

At this time we are going to move toward your questions. We’ll go ahead and answer any questions that you have.
Jared Fijalkowski: If anybody wants to ask a question over the phone you can hit *6 over the phone and start talking. We will be able to hear your question. I don’t hear anybody chiming in yet.
I will switch to that evaluation layout at this point. This is the time when you can download the files. On the left-hand side in the middle is the files box. That’s where you can download some files related to this presentation. The first one is the presentation itself. The second is a certificate that says you participated in today’s webinar. The third is the actual module as part of the series that Theresa mentioned earlier. All the information you saw on the screen is available for download.
You’ll also notice there are 10 questions there for you fill out. We’ll use this feedback in developing future webinars. We appreciate your feedback. Unless there are any questions, we will conclude today. Thank you again for your participation and thanks to our speakers, Theresa, Jaime, and Jonah. We’ll leave the screen up for a little bit for you to develop the files. Thanks again for your participation and have a great day.