I. Organizational Structure


23 U.S.C. and Section 8 of the Federal Transit Act ... require that a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) be designated for each urbanized area and that the metropolitan area has a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning process that results in plans and programs that consider all transportation modes and supports metropolitan community development and social goals.   

23 CFR Section 450.300


Text Box: T0

he Capital District Transportation Committee Policy Committee (CDTC) is the designated MPO for the “Albany, New York urbanized area”.[1]  The CDTC study area includes all of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga Counties (except for the Town of Moreau[2]); this represents a total land area over of 2,100 sq. mi.  The total population in the study area is 794,293, which includes the urbanized population of the Albany urbanized area (558,947) and the Saratoga Springs urbanized area (50,071).   CDTC maintains a Central Staff of 13 full time individuals; the 2004-2005 central staff budget is approximately $1.7 million.


The CDTC had its origins in the Capital District Transportation Study (CDTS), set up in 1965 through agreements involving New York State, the four Capital District counties and the 78 municipalities in those counties.  On January 24, 1974, Governor Wilson designated the CDTS Policy Committee as the MPO for the Capital District in accordance with section 112 of the 1973 Federal-Aid Highway Act.  Shortly thereafter, the official name of the MPO was changed to the Capital District Transportation Committee.


        According to 2000 Census urbanized area population, CDTC is the fourth-largest MPO in New York State.    The Capital Region – so named because Albany is the Capital of New York State - is growing in population, most rapidly in Saratoga County.  In fact, based on the 2000 Census, the Saratoga Springs is now recognized as a separate urbanized area.  This Census designation allowed the establishment of a separate MPO for Saratoga Springs if so desired by the local officials.  After consultation with CDTC members, the local officials in Saratoga Springs chose to remain under the planning umbrella of CDTC. 



The CDTC Planning Area Boundaries

Figure 1:  Albany Tulip Festival, Commemoration of Albany’s Dutch Heritage

            CDTC’s Metropolitan Planning Area Boundary (MPA) is the primary focus of CDTC’s study efforts.  The MAB is one of four boundaries with which the MPO must deal in the transportation planning process.  

1)     Census Urbanized Area (UZA).  The smallest of the boundaries is the UZA.  After each decennial Census, the Bureau of the Census establishes a Census Boundary for each urbanized area and provides maps showing what communities (or parts thereof) compose the urbanized population.  The UZA sets the urbanized area’s population for apportionment of FHWA’s STP-attributable and FTA’s Section 5307 funds.  After the UZA is available, the MPO may adjust this boundary outwards for its own purposes.

2)     FHWA Urban Area Boundary (UAB) is the next boundary. Using the Census UZA as a starting point, the MPO may smooth and adjust the UZA outwards to better reflect area’s transportation needs. Adjustments are routinely necessary because the Census’ UZA boundaries solely reflect population density and thus do not usually include some significant facilities (e.g., airports or parks).  For an MPO to adjust the UZA boundary outward, there must be agreement among “the responsible State and local officials in cooperation with each other.”[3]  This adjusted boundary (UAB) serves many purposes. It is the official “urban/rural” boundary for FHWA purposes; it is important for highway functional classification, roadway design standards, FHWA eligibility for improvements, Emergency Relief funding eligibility, and outdoor advertising control[4]. The adjusted boundary is subject to approval by the Secretary of Transportation.


Following the release of the 2000 Census UZA, CDTC reviewed and made appropriate adjustments thereto to form its UAB.  The NYSDOT submitted the revised UAB to FHWA and FTA on December 29, 2003, and the boundary was subsequently approved on January 26, 2004.  A separate UAB was also approved for Saratoga Springs.

3)     Metropolitan Planning Area Boundary (MPA) – this is the geographical area in which the MPO’s transportation planning process is carried out. The MPA is to encompass the UAB plus any area that the MPO anticipates to become urbanized in 20 years.[5]  The MPO and the Governor must agree on the MPA.[6]  In December 2003, the CDTC reaffirmed that its planning area boundary (MPA) remained unchanged - all of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga Counties, excluding the Town of Moreau (note: CDTC’s planning and programming jurisdiction covers the entire MPA).




4)     Air Quality Nonattainment/Maintenance Area Boundary - In air quality nonattainment/maintenance areas, the MPA (above) must include the entire nonattainment area – unless the Governor and the MPO agree otherwise[7]. In the Capital District, the Governor and the MPO did agree otherwise.  When EPA classified the Capital District region was in nonattainment for ozone in 1992, it identified all six counties in the Albany Metropolitan Statistical Area - the four urban counties (Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady) plus two rural counties (Montgomery and Greene).   There was an extensive discussion whether the CDTC planning boundary should be expanded to include all six nonattainment counties.  Since they were (are) outside the area likely to become urbanized with the CDTC’s 20-year forecast, CDTC and the Governor decided to keep the existing planning boundary (the four urban counties) and let NYSDOT handle the two rural nonattainment counties.  CDTC’s air quality boundary was thus kept at the four counties (except the Town of Moreau).  The CDTC conformity analysis does included the Town of Moreau plus data from the two rural counties.




CDTC Structure and Membership

Figure 3:  CDTC Committee Structure

The CDTC has used the term “Policy Board” rather than “Policy Committee” for a number of years to reduce the amount of confusion over the term “committee”.  The Policy Board is composed of the principal elective officials of general purpose local government, as well as the principal officials of regional and State transportation agencies (see Table 1).   The 25-member Policy Board operates by consensus, emphasizing mutual agreement.  All CDTC voting members have an equal vote (i.e., virtual veto) over any major decision affecting them.   The majority of Policy Board members are non-State, as there are only two State voting members:  the NYSDOT and the NYS Thruway Authority.    The Policy Board members work very well with each other and with the other municipalities, community groups, interest groups and the central staff.  CDTC’s cooperative working relationship is unparalleled among New York MPOs and reflects the true intent of the 3C planning process. 


We noted earlier that CDTC – then named CDTS - was designated as the MPO for the Capital District area in 1974.  Usually as the transportation system matures over the years, MPO policy boards often have not expanded their membership to address new major modes of transportation within the area.  The federal regulations state that the MPO designations and voting memberships that were in existence prior to December 18, 1991, are not required to change unless a new MPO is redesignated.[8] The CDTC, however, commendably expanded its voting membership to include several new intermodal transportation providers: the New York Thruway Authority, the Albany Port District Commission and the Albany County Airport Authority.  The newest voting member is the Town of Colonie. The Policy Board is now made up of 25 voting members; it includes representatives from the four Counties, major cities, towns, New York State, the transit authority and other major transportation providers.  FHWA and FTA are non-voting members of the Policy Board.



Table 1.  Capital District Transportation Committee






Counties (8)


Albany County Executive; Albany County Legislature; Rensselaer County Executive; Rensselaer County Legislature (chair); Schenectady County Board of Representatives (chair); Member-at-large named by Schenectady County Board of Representatives; Saratoga County Board of Supervisors; Member-at-large named by Saratoga County Board of Supervisors


Cities and Towns (9)


City of Albany (Mayor); City of Cohoes (Mayor); City of Troy (Mayor); City of Schenectady (Mayor); City of Mechanicville (Mayor); City of Saratoga Springs (Mayor); City of Watervliet (Mayor); City of Rensselaer (Mayor); Town of Colonie

Other Local




At-large town representative(s) and/or At-large village representative(s).  These are chosen annually.   



Regional Bodies (4)


Capital District Transportation Authority; Capital District Regional Planning Commission; Albany Port District Commission; Albany County Airport Authority


State Agencies (2)


NYS Department of Transportation; NYS Thruway Authority


Federal Agencies (2)




Federal Highway Administration (NY Division);

Federal Transit Administration (Region 2)

All CDTC voting members have an equal vote (i.e., virtual veto) over any major decision affecting them.  CDTC evaluated and rejected the concept of weighted voting, believing that it might be counterproductive to a cooperative process wherein all parties feel free to fully disclose their plans/ programs without the fear of being outvoted for purely parochial interests.  The Policy Board meets four times a year.


          Under the Policy Board is the CDTC Planning Committee, which is responsible for developing the UPWP and the TIP.  Like the Policy Board, the Planning Committee includes wide representation from the State, Regional, City and local municipalities - usually represented by the technical counterparts of the Policy Board members.  Besides the Planning Committee, CDTC has several subcommittees (e.g., Administrative and Financial Standing Subcommittee) and numerous working groups/task forces (e.g., Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force, Goods Movement Task Force).  Additional work groups are formed for special studies, such as the New Visions 2030 Plan.  Planning Committee meetings are held monthly.



Agreements and Contracts


Federal legislation (23 U.S.C. 134) requires the MPO to work in cooperation with the State and public transportation agencies in carrying out a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive (3C) metropolitan planning process. These agencies are allowed to determine their mutual roles and responsibilities, and they develop procedures governing their cooperative efforts.  These working relationships must be formally established, usually through agreements or memorandum of understanding between the MPO and the State, and between the MPO and the public transit operators.[9] The regulations state that a Prospectus may be used to satisfy the above requirements.[10]


The CDTC's basic document defining the roles and responsibilities of the various parties is its five-year Continuing Operations Plan (Prospectus) 1990-1995, which was adopted in December 1990.  CDTC recognizes that the Prospectus needs refreshing.  CDTC has current versions of all sections of the prospectus but have not formally issued a revised document.  CDTC intends to prepare a new prospectus as soon as the new federal legislation – including any changes in MPO requirements - is issued.  CDTC also wants to see how the Transformation process plays out in regard to NYSDOT’s respective roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis the MPO process.  We do note that CDTC issues a very informative “Reference Guide to the Capital District Transportation Committee”, which details the purpose of the MPO, how it is structured, member agencies, roles and responsibilities, and so on. This Guide is updated annually, the last update being July 2003.  CDTC also has additional documents that describe the MPO responsibilities and working relationships:  NYSDOT/CDTA agreements and the CDTC-CDTA Memorandum of Understanding.

Since CDTC is within an air quality nonattainment area, Federal regulations also require two other agreements/arrangements relating to CDTC nonattainment area.  These arrangements are discussed in Section XII Air Quality.




Figure 4:  CDTC Reference Guide




·        CDTC should update its Prospectus as soon as future NYSDOT interaction with the MPO is better known and new Federal legislation is available.




[1]  This represents a name change by the Census Bureau following the 2000 Census.  The previous name of this urbanized area was the “Albany-Troy-Schenectady, New York urbanized area”.


[2]  Following the 1980 Census, the Glens Falls urbanized area was recognized, the boundary of which included the Town of Moreau.  This portion of Saratoga County is covered by the Adirondack/Glens Falls Transportation Council, the MPO for the Glens Falls urbanized area


[3]  23 U.S.C. 101(a)(37)


[4]  Visible advertising signs adjacent to the Interstate system and highways designated as part of the primary system on 6/1/91, as well as signs beyond 660 feet outside of urban area, are controlled. The section does not allow new sign permits beyond 660 feet of the right of way outside of the urban area. Changing the UAB, whether from growth or census definition, affects the number of billboards allowed along the freeways. If the boundary moves out, then new signs are allowed. If the boundary moves in, then FHWA and the States have the issue of whether to grandfather or remove existing signs. See 23 CFR § 750.704


[5] 23 U.S.C. 134(c)(2) 


[6]  23 U.S.C. 134(c)(1)


[7]  23 CFR 450.308(a)


[8]  23 U.S.C. 134 (b)(4)


[9]  23 CFR 450.310(a) and (b)


[10]  23 CFR 450.314(c)