TIP Guide

TIP Guide cover A Guide for Municipal Officials,
Special Interest Groups, and Citizens

What is the DVRPC?
What is the TIP?
What the TIP is Not
Regional Consensus
How Does the TIP Relate to the Long Range Plan?
How Does the TIP Relate to the Clean Air Act?
How is the TIP Funded?
Who are the Players?
How Does a Project Get on the TIP?
What Happens to a Project Once It's on the TIP?
Why is Municipal and Interest Group Involvement Important?
In What Ways Can the Public Participate?
For More Information


This pamphlet explains how municipalities and interest groups can get involved in the region's transportation project development process. The major milestone in this process occurs when a project obtains a position in the Delaware Valley's regional Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP. A project cannot receive federal funds unless it is in the TIP. For this reason, the TIP will be our focus - what it is, why we have one, and how it works. But before explaining the TIP process, a word about the general transportation planning framework in the region - beginning with an explanation of who we are, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

What is the DVRPC?

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, or DVRPC for short, was created by the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Legislatures in 1965. We are the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Philadelphia--Camden--Trenton Metropolitan Area. Our mission is to plan for the orderly growth and development of the Delaware Valley Region. DVRPC serves Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties in Pennsylvania, and Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Mercer Counties in New Jersey. Its service area covers about 4000 square miles and encompasses 353 individual municipalities. Though involved in all aspects of the region's growth and development, the largest part of DVRPC's agenda concerns the efficient transportation of people and goods.

The Commission is governed by an 18 member board. Members include elected officials, from the four major cities and eight suburban counties in the region, and three representatives from each state. The state representatives include the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Transportation, appointees of both governors, and the Pennsylvania Governor's Policy Office and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. About 85 professional and support staff provide technical assistance to the Board.

What is the TIP?

The TIP is the agreed upon list of specific priority projects. The TIP lists all projects for which federal funds are anticipated, along with non-federally funded projects that are regionally significant. The TIP represents the transportation improvement priorities of the region and is required by federal law, the most recent of which is the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The list is multi-modal; in addition to the more traditional highway and public transit projects, it includes bicycle, pedestrian, and freight related projects as well.

The TIP shows estimated costs and schedule by project phase. The TIP not only lists the specific projects, but also documents the anticipated schedule and cost for each project phase (preliminary engineering, final design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction). Inclusion of a project phase in the TIP means that it is seriously expected to be implemented during the TIP time period.

The TIP covers four years in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In Pennsylvania, the TIP is updated every other year. In New Jersey, it is updated annually.

The TIP may be changed after it is adopted. Under the provisions of federal law and regulation, the approved TIP can be modified or amended in various ways in order to add new projects, delete projects, advance projects into the first year, and accommodate cost and phase of work changes or major scope changes to a project.

The TIP is financially constrained. The list of projects in the TIP must be financially constrained to the amount of funds that are expected to be available. In order to add projects to the TIP, others must be deferred to maintain this financial constraint. As a result, the TIP is not a "wish list"; competition between projects for a spot on the TIP clearly exists.

The TIP is authorization to seek funding. A project's presence in the TIP represents a critical step in the authorization of funding to a project. It does NOT, however, represent a commitment of funds, an obligation to fund, or a grant of funds.

What the TIP is Not

The TIP is NOT a final schedule of project implementation. The time frame shown in the TIP is the "best estimate" at the time of TIP development, which is six to nine months prior to the beginning of the first fiscal year of the TIP period. Projects quite often cannot maintain that schedule and get reprogrammed to later years.

The TIP is NOT a guarantee of project implementation. Unforseen problems may arise, such as engineering obstacles, environmental permit conflicts, changes in priorities, and additional financial constraints. These problems can slow a project, cause it to be postponed, or even dropped from further consideration.

Regional Consensus

The production of the TIP is the culmination of the transportation planning process and represents a consensus among state and regional officials as to what near term improvements to pursue. Consensus is crucial because the federal and state governments want assurances that all interested parties have participated in developing the priorities before committing significant sums of money. A project's inclusion in the TIP signifies regional agreement on the priority of the project and establishes eligibility for federal funding.

How Does the TIP Relate to the Long Range Plan?

Regionally significant projects must be drawn from the region's long range plan and all projects in the TIP must help implement the goals of the plan. The long range plan, required by federal law, is the document which helps direct transportation and land use decisions over a minimum 20 year horizon. The TIP represents the translation of recommendations from DVRPC's long-range transportation plan into a short-term program of improvements.

How Does the TIP Relate to the Clean Air Act?

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 require that all transportation plans, programs and projects conform to the purpose of state implementation plans (SIP) to attain air quality standards. A TIP is said to conform if it is drawn from a plan which meets the standards as determined by an emissions analysis. That is, if the regionally significant projects contained in a TIP are a subset of the regionally significant projects in the conforming transportation plan, the TIP conforms without the need for a separate emissions analysis.

How is the TIP Funded?

The major funding sources for the projects in the TIP are administered through the US Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration. In addition, funds are made available by the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania to match federal funding (in varying ratios), and to provide 100 percent financing for selected projects. Local counties, municipalities and private developers or toll authorities, as well as transit operators may also participate in providing matching funds for federal aid. New funding sources and innovative funding techniques are constantly being sought.

Who are the Players?

Approximately 20 agencies directly participate in the TIP development process. They include member governments, operating agencies, and state and federal agencies. Municipalities within the region participate through their respective county governments. Other groups, the business community, and the general public become involved through the DVRPC public participation process in addition to their involvement at the municipal and county level. The multiplicity of jurisdictions and agencies in the region necessitates a high degree of coordination during the TIP development process by the DVRPC.

How Does a Project Get on the TIP?

Securing a spot on the TIP is not a simple task. Sometimes years of pre-implementation research and public input precedes a project's inclusion on the TIP. Although there are several ways in which a project can get on the TIP, the most typical course is described here. First, a particular transportation need is identified. In many cases, municipal planners and engineers generate lists of potential improvements based on their needs analyses and citizen complaints and inquiries. The local proposals are in turn reviewed at the county or major city level in consultation with the state Departments of Transportation, before formal submittal to DVRPC. If the member county or city agrees that a particular idea has merit, it may decide to act as the project sponsor and work toward refining the initial idea and developing clear project specifications. Project proposals are also generated at the county and state level in much the same way.

Once each county and operating agency has developed their own list of projects and priorities, they are brought to DVRPC where the Regional Transportation Committee (RTC) reviews them. The RTC seeks to insure that the highest priorities of the region are being addressed within the limits of available resources and to assure consistency among projects and with the region's goals. The RTC, composed of state, county, and city planners, transit operators, citizen representatives, and transportation related interest groups, makes recommendations to the DVRPC Board.

Finally, the DVRPC Board provides the forum through which the elected officials of the region's counties and major cities and representatives of the states and operating agencies determine each year's TIP projects. After considering the recommendations of the RTC and the comments received from the public, the Board determines the final list of projects to be included in the TIP and adopts it as its selection of projects to be advanced.

What Happens to a Project Once It's on the TIP?

Once a project is on the TIP, a considerable amount of work still remains to be done to bring it to completion. The designated lead agency is responsible for ensuring that their project moves forward -- the lead agency in most cases is the state DOT or transit operator, and in some cases, a county or city.

Highway projects typically proceed in phases (preliminary engineering, final design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction). Each phase is included in the TIP showing funding and anticipated schedule. Transit projects are programmed in the TIP according to the annual grant application cycle under which the funds will be sought. Ideally, a project will advance according to its programmed schedule. In reality, however, projects are often delayed due to unforseen obstacles such as environmental issues and community concerns. Tracking each project's progress is important so that delays can be identified and remedied as soon as possible and so that resources can be reallocated as necessary.

Once federal funds have been made available for a project's final construction phase, it will no longer appear in future TIP documents -- even though the project may not yet be constructed or completed.




January - April

Update existing TIP projects and schedules
Review financial guidance from states
Submit new candidate TIP projects
Conduct preliminary project selection
Prepare draft TIP for public comment

May - June

Conduct draft TIP public comment period and meetings

June - July

DVRPC adoption of final TIP


Federal approval of Statewide TIP

October 1

Federal fiscal year begins

Oct. - Sept.

Adopt amendments and modifications


Why is Municipal and Interest Group Involvement Important?

DVRPC believes that a collaborative process between all levels of government, the public, and the business community will ensure that the best transportation improvement program is produced. This type of process is one in which state, county, and local governments and transportation providers become partners in the planning and programming process and interest groups and community leaders have a voice. For this reason, planning efforts for the region's capital improvements exhibit a "bottom-up" approach within the context of a regional plan that gives a "top-down" perspective.

In What Ways Can the Public Participate?

Public participation occurs during all stages of a project's development. Letters of concern to municipal and county officials and transit company managers is one of the most effective starting points. As local investigations begin, public input may be provided at formal meetings or informal sessions with local and county planning boards and staff. Citizens are also asked to participate in special task forces to review transportation improvement concepts at the corridor, county, and regional level. Finally, once a project is on the TIP and it enters the preliminary engineering phase, the detailed environmental review process affords yet another opportunity for the public to offer input.

The public and other interest groups also have the opportunity to comment on the draft TIP before it is officially adopted by the DVRPC Board. DVRPC conducts a 30 day public comment period and holds several "open house" meetings to allow the public an opportunity to pose questions about the process and projects to state, county, transit, and DVRPC staff. Copies of the draft TIP are distributed to dozens of libraries and the TIP documents are able to be viewed via DVRPC's home page on the Internet at www.dvrpc.org.

For More Information

The following telephone numbers are provided for your use in obtaining additional information.

Bucks County Planning Commission 215-345-3400
Chester County Planning Commission 610-344-6285
Delaware County Planning Department 610-891-5200
Montgomery County Planning Commission 610-278-3722
Philadelphia City Planning Commission 215-683-4615
New Jersey:
Burlington County Office of Land Development 856-642-3800
Camden County Division of Planning 856-566-2979
City of Camden Department of Utilities 856-757-7680
Gloucester County Planning Department 856-863-6661
Mercer County Planning Department 609-989-6545
City of Trenton Department of Housing
and Community Development
SEPTA Capital Planning Department
NJ TRANSIT Office of Government and Community Relations 973-491-8098
Delaware River Port Authority Corporate Communications 856-968-2249
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation 610-205-6700
New Jersey Department of Transportation 609-530-2000
Main Number 215-592-1800
Public Affairs Office 215-238-2875
Planning Division 215-238-2867
Technical Services Division 215-238-2872
Publications / Sales 215-238-2828
DVRPC on the Internet www.dvrpc.org