The Secretary shall-- (i) ensure that the metropolitan planning process in each transportation management area is being carried out in accordance with applicable provisions of Federal law; and (ii)... certify, not less often than once every 3 years, that the requirements of this paragraph are met with respect to the transportation management area.” 23 U.S.C. 134(i)(5)(A)


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very urban area in the United States of more than 50,000 persons, as designated by the Bureau of the Census, must have a designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in order to qualify for Federal highway and transit funds.  In addition, federal regulations classify any area with an urbanized population of 200,000 or more persons as a Transportation Management Area (TMA) subject to additional Federal requirements and scrutiny. One of these additional requirements (23 CFR 450.334) is for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to specifically review and evaluate the MPO’s transportation planning process at least every three years, and to certify that the MPO is (or is not) meeting said regulations. 


According to the 2000 Census, the Albany, New York urbanized area has a population of 558,947; therefore, this area continues to be classified as a TMA by the Secretary of Transportation.[1] The Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC) is the designated MPO for the Albany urbanized area and is therefore subject to triennial certification reviews.  



2004 Certification Review

The primary purpose of the Federal Certification Review is to ensure that the MPO process is satisfactorily implementing the planning requirements of 23 U.S.C. 134 and 49 U.S.C. 5303.  The recommendations that result from the review hopefully will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the planning process.  There are also broader benefits to the review.  The Federal reviewers try to identify good or innovative practices to share with other states and metropolitan planning organizations. 


      The previous certification review and site visit of CDTC was conducted in November 2000.  Subsequent to that review, the FHWA and FTA fully certified CDTC as meeting the federal transportation planning requirements, with several examples of “best practice” being cited, as well as several recommendations for consideration.[2] 


The 2004 certification review officially began in February 2004 with the joint FHWA/FTA letter to CDTC that informed the MPO about the upcoming review. (Appendix A) and identified the primary topics of the review.  The review dates were previously coordinated with Mr. John Poorman, CDTC Central Staff director. The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) also received copies of the letter.  The CDTC Central Staff notified the CDTC member agencies and the public (Appendix B).  


Before the on-site visit, the FHWA and FTA conducted an internal desk audit of CDTC material, including the CDTC 2003 self-certification statement, Unified Planning Work Program, Transportation Improvement Program and New Visions transportation plan. 



Site Visit

         On March 23-24, 2004, the Federal Review Team conducted the site visit[3].  The Federal Team consisted of Nina Chung (FTA-Region Two Office), and Joseph Rich, Joan Walters and Richard Beers (FHWA-NY Division Office).


The on-site review occurred at the CDTC offices.  The discussion was primarily with Mr. John Poorman (CDTC staff director) and individual members of the staff.  All CDTC member agencies were welcome to attend; representatives from the Capital District Transportation Authority, NYSDOT Main Office, and NYSDOT Region One Office did participate as they thought appropriate.



Public Input

Each MPO has its own method for conducting its public involvement process.  We were very impressed with CDTC’s approach during the review and during attendance at the regular CDTC public meetings. 


Similar to the 2000 certification review, a public meeting was not specifically scheduled because of the widespread local participation efforts and the lack of public controversy about transportation issues in general, and the CDTC process in particular.  Three of the Federal review team live in the Capital District and are well aware of the transportation-planning climate of the Region.  Therefore, the Review Team/CDTC made a joint decision not to hold a public input meeting unless the public requested it.  The public was apprised of the review via the CDTC mailing list, and the offer to hold a public meeting upon request was advanced.  The opportunity for written comment was also advertised.  


The review team received six comments, one of which did include a request for a public meeting[4].  The thrust of the request was that a meeting would be beneficial in informing the public about what planning efforts were underway in the Capital District.  Because the purpose of review’s public meeting is to get input as to the adequacy of the CDTC process in fulfilling Federal planning regulations, rather than an informational discussion of ongoing planning efforts, the federal team decided not to hold a separate public meeting.  Partly in response to the request, however, we  did recommend that CDTC consider publishing a newsletter and revamping its website.  The individual requesting the meeting was sent a copy of this review and a letter of appreciation.  All comments received were highly complementary of CDTC.


[1]  Federal Register, July 8, 2002, pg. 45117


[2] October 4, 2001


[3]  The Federal agencies were originally scheduling a site visit in the latter part of 2003; however, uncertainties with FTA’s travel budget necessitated a postponement into 2004.


[4]  Mrs. Enos J. Weis, Albany New York