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Consensus-based Project Decisions at the French Broad River MPO

Consensus-based Project Decisions at the French Broad River MPO

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This article is a section in the 2014 NADO Research Foundation report Moving toward Performance-based Transportation Planning in Rural and Small Metropolitan Regions.

In order to ensure that project decisions go through a consensus-based approach, are consistent across plans, and represent the best possible decisionmaking, the French Broad River MPO completed a process to map projects from a variety of plans with different data sets over the last few years. The goal of the project mapping effort was to improve the project prioritization process for developing the region’s TIP, as project sponsors suggested new projects even though other projects that had emerged from a consensus-based planning process did not progress. As the region continues its next plan update cycle that began in 2014, there will be an inventory of projects to draw from that appear in other strategic plans as well as information about projects that had been divided into phases to be delivered in segments, but never finished.

Paul Black, director of the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (a program of the Land-of-Sky Regional Council), recollects:

When we first looked at the goals in our long-range plan and sat down with a subcommittee of our MPO to determine what kind of performance metrics would to use to achieve the goals, we only had a couple of ideas. As a result, we decided to reverse engineer the process of picking criteria. The committee members intuitively know what projects are important to the region, so we had to deconstruct why a project is important, for instance its crash rate or its impact on congestion. When we tried to match up our long-range plan goals to the projects we were moving forward, we realized there was a disconnect: the region’s number one goal is system preservation, but the long-range plan emphasizes improvements because the North Carolina DOT Division’s generally handles preservation.  


Avoid starting from scratch by using information about the importance of projects already agreed upon by leaders and the public.


Existing plans and state and local policies (such as North Carolina’s Complete Streets policy) provide ideas for selecting measures that connect to requirements or to regional priority issues.

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