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CAMPO approves TxDOT’s Unified Transportation Program

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 by Harrison Young

On Monday, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Policy Board unanimously approved the resubmission of some previously deferred projects into the Texas Department of Transportation’s Unified Transportation Program.

Several projects were added back to the list after TxDOT delayed them to prioritize a major redevelopment of Interstate 35 through Austin.

“It was a very unhappy process to remove many local projects that had already been approved for funding in order to fund I-35,” Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea said. “I am pleased to see … that some of the projects are being put back in the funding stream.”

Shea raised concerns about UTP’s budgetary projections after state Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that the state budget will see a multibillion-dollar shortfall going into the new legislative session that began yesterday.

Austin District Engineer Tucker Ferguson said TxDOT analysts foresee no problems with current budget projections despite Hegar’s forecast. Ferguson added that the 10-year prediction is only slightly lower than last year’s, coming in at around $72 billion versus 2020’s $75 billion.

The UTP guides all statewide transportation projects that are to begin development in the next 10 years. It is required by state law and must be approved by the Texas Transportation Commission every year before Aug. 31.

“It’s not a budget, it’s not a commitment of money,” Ferguson said. “It’s a 10-year planning document based on what we anticipate will be available over the next 10 years.”

The UTP is based on other long-range plans from TxDOT, such as the Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan that measures to 2035, and the Texas Transportation Plan that measures to 2050. It aims to connect them to the final stage of releasing individual projects for construction.

Before being added to the UTP, projects are given authority to start planning. If selected from this stage, they are added to the UTP and given authority to begin engineering and environmental studies. From there, the project is allowed to proceed into final stages of planning before construction.

Next in the process is the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, which denotes projects that are ready to begin construction in the next four years.

After this step, projects are finally ready to be let for construction, which can take up to two years.

The UTP is split into 12 categories that deal with specific types of work. Monday’s meeting covered projects in Category 2, titled Metro and Urban Corridors. All UTP projects can be viewed on TxDOT’s Project Tracker.

Projects in other categories will be added in the summer after more detailed work is done, according to Heather Ashley-Nguyen, TxDOT’s advance project development director.

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