On August 25, 2011, the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation held the RPO America Peer Symposium (link to the summary post for all the proceedings, above) in Washington, DC. This event was sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and was held in conjunction with the 2011 National Rural Transportation Peer Learning Conference, an annual meeting organized by the NADO Research Foundation and Development District Association of Appalachia. The Symposium brought together transportation professionals from across the nation and addressed how rural and small metro regions and their partners have improved the planning and implementation process of vital transportation projects by strengthening communications and collaboration across state, regional, and local agencies.
One noteworthy presentation was given by Jim Saylor, Transportation Planning Director for the SEDA-Council of Governments in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. SEDA-COG represents an eleven-county area in north-central Pennsylvania, but the regional transportation planning organization only covers eight of those, so collaboration with area MPOs is necessary in order to fully address transportation in the region’s integrated planning. The core of SEDA-COG’s planning strategies is to integrate land use, transportation and economic development and address needs in all three areas at once. This concept is known as LUTED, the acronym used to describe the state-supported regional planning process.
Ten years had passed since the last Long-Range Transportation Update (LRTP) had undertaken by SEDA-COG, so a new report needed to be researched and compiled as the region undertook the LUTED integrated planning process. Saylor noted, “The core principle behind LUTED is synergy; the idea that if you’re looking at these three elements together, you’re going to accomplish a lot more than you will by focusing on any one of them separately.”
The statewide LUTED planning initiative culminated in drawing up regional action strategies for ten regions across Pennsylvania. Three transportation goals were emphasized in this initiative:
- Prepare the LRTP for each region with a focus on enhancing and protecting its communities as well as its natural and historic resources
- Create vibrant, attractive, safe, and walkable communities
- Support efficient land uses and sustain quality transportation infrastructure
LUTED planning occurs via a revised project selection process; transportation projects scored better in this process if they incorporated aspects of land use or economic development improvements, or both. SEDA-COG transportation planners used GIS mapping to expedite ranking of projects with multiple layers that show how elements come together, and partnered with other SEDA-COG departments and other offices and added an asset management component. LUTED became the more efficient alternative to conducting separate plans for different program areas. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) issued guidance on how counties can combine preparation of land use and transportation portions of their comprehensive plans. SEDA-COG has helped its member counties understand and use this guidance and (in the case of two counties) has provided limited funding to help make this integrated planning a reality.
Ongoing challenges for LUTED include:
- No direct funding stream exists at the state level to support the continuation of LUTED
- Large service area size
- The sudden influx of people, equipment and traffic from Marcellus shale gas drilling in just the last four years
Other groups in north-central Pennsylvania are also undertaking LUTED-like projects, including several corridor studies. However, the interoperability of LUTED plans across Pennsylvania has not been tested yet and will depend on PennDOT and other state departments’ valuing and promoting this type of integrated planning.
More information, visit:
- NADO Research Foundation (2010), Integrating Land Use, Transportation and Economic Development in Pennsylvania
- PennDOT Publication 688: “Integrating Transportation and Land Use in Comprehensive Plans: A Handbook for Pennsylvania Municipalities” (PDF): ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/PubsForms/Publications/PUB%20688.pdf
This case study was researched and written by NADO Research Foundation Graduate Fellow Jonathan Tarr and Associate Director Carrie Kissel and is supported by the Federal Highway Administration under contract number DTFH61-10-C-00050 through the NADO Research Foundation (www.RuralTransportation.org). Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FHWA or the NADO Research Foundation.