Effective Long Range Transportation Planning

By Matt Riddell

Whenever one of my Tribal clients asks me what they can do to improve their Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), I always respond with the same question, “Do you have an LRTP that you actually use, or do you just have one for the file.” Unfortunately, the response is often “one for the file.” While Tribes usually update their LRTP every five years, in the past it has usually been done to merely satisfy Tribal Transportation Program (TTP) requirements. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one that actually drives (pun intended) transportation spending decisions and one that was always current? The effects of the “file” plan can be costly. Not only are Tribal dollars expended every five years to update the LRTP, often transportation dollars are not as effectively utilized due to lack of adequate long-term planning.

Recently, I have been incorporating a more innovative approach towards assisting my Tribal clients with their LRTPs. This approach revolves around developing an LRTP that is used for all transportation spending decisions and is always kept current, therefore there will be no future need for updating. Below provides a brief explanation of the process we use:

Basic LRTP Scoping Items 

  • Establish the Tribe’s overall 20-year goals
  • Evaluation of current transportation system
  • Definition of the transportation needs – where are the gaps?
  • Outlining the transportation priorities
  • Develop a funding plan to meet the goals
  • Put together a strategic plan (LRTP)

LRTP Team 

The group of people who assist in development of the LRTP make up the project team. When I work with Tribes, this is typically led by the head of their transportation department while I serve as a facilitator and technical advisor. The core decisions, however are made by other Tribal representatives. Experience has shown this to be vital to obtaining “buy-in” from Tribal leaders, thus leading to a plan that will have active support in being followed. These other Tribal representatives typically come from a multitude of Tribal areas including (but not limited to) Elected Tribal leadership, Tribal department heads, Tribal boards and the general public.

Making it Effective

If an LRTP is to be implemented over a 20-year period and maintain Tribal support throughout the time period, the document must be effective. Based on experience, I’ve identified five core elements to an effective LRTP.

  1. Input, input and input! As noted above, gathering as much input as possible will insure your LRTP will stand the test of time.

  2. Flexibility. Over the course of a 20-year period, tribal priorities and direction will change. You want a document that can easily be modified (systematically) to reflect these changes.
  3. Implementation Steps. No plan will actually be used unless specific steps are outlined regarding the procedures for transportation decisions.
  4. Current and relevant data. Utilizing current data is a given, but finding the data that is relevant represents the key. An enormous amount of transportation data exists and the project team will be charged to find the most relevant data to provide valuable input.
  5. Workshops. No one likes to just sit in a meeting. . .in fact most people cringe at the thought. Utilizing workshop formats increases participation levels and keeps the attention of those involved.

Workshop Ideas 

As mentioned above, workshops represent an excellent format towards getting participation from all who need to be involved. The following include the workshops we typically utilize and what questions are posed to the group:

Policy Goals and Objectives Workshop 

  • What transportation modes should be considered?
  • What type of investment options should be contemplated?
  • Who will be making the policy decisions?
  • Which projects should involve local agencies?
  • How should you define procedures for revising the policies? Progress vs. Outcome?

Existing Transportation System Workshop 

  • What are the geographic limits of the Tribe’s service area?
  • Does the current TTP system have adverse social or environmental impacts?
  • How can you enhance the socioeconomic well-being of the Tribal members?
  • Other than the Tribe’s TTP inventory, what other data should be used?

Transportation Needs Workshop 

  • What are the gaps and problems in the existing transportation network?
  • What are some alternative methods of correcting the deficiencies?
  • How can costs be allocated towards closing these gaps over a 20-year period?
  • How can you rate the proposed measures and define the pros/cons?

Funding Plan Workshop 

  • What type of costs are associated with the transportation improvements?

  • Where do the Tribe’s various annual transportation funds come from and how much is anticipated to be available?
  • Are there additional transportation funding sources available to the Tribe?
  • Should the Tribe look into financing options for future projects and what should the policies be?
  • What guidelines should govern the management of the Tribe’s transportation funds?

Public Involvement 

After the draft LRTP has been developed, we typically hold public involvement meetings to not only get concurrence, but to get valuable feedback regarding transportation information the project team may not have known. We also use online surveys such as Survey Monkey to get feedback from folks who may not be able to attend the meetings. When the public feels educated about the process and know they are being listened to, “buy-in” becomes a much smoother process.

Project Path 

Below is a simple illustration of how we proceed through this development process with Tribes.


My hope is this is something you can utilize towards improving your transportation system. Get that old document out of the file and develop something you will use!!!


Roadway Access Spacing

By Matt Riddell

With many of the Native American communities I have worked with, finding the best approach to roadway access management assists my clients by increasing safety while decreasing future costs. For starters, let’s take a quick look at what access management means, with respect to Tribal TTP Roadways:

Basic Definition – Access management encompasses a set of procedures that Tribes can use to control access to their roadways, which includes several techniques that are designed to increase the capacity of these roads, manage congestion and reduce crashes. The access management plan involves seeking an appropriate balance between safety and mobility within a roadway facility with the access needs of adjacent land uses.

Often, it becomes easy to overlook incorporating an access management plan into Tribal TTP transportation planning endeavors, because the results do not grab public attention unless things begin to go wrong. The following are some of the resulting pitfalls to poor access management:

Increase in crashes and crash rates;
Poor capacity;
Increased delays;
Reduces roadway efficiency;
Unwanted cut-thru traffic; and
Less desirable driving experience (less customers want to make the trip)

Luckily we have some tools and techniques to avoid these potential pitfalls. I will be adding several posts over the next couple of months addressing access management ideas. Today we will take a look at Access Spacing and how careful planning in this area can assist your Tribal TTP roadway network.

The number and types of conflict points (i.e., the number of locations where the travel paths of two different vehicles may cross) at the intersection of a driveway and a public road influence the safety of motorists. Whenever possible, minimizing the number of conflict points created with existing and future entrances is important since more conflict points increase the risk of a crash occurring.


Undesirable Intersection Spacing (FHWA image)


Desirable Intersection Spacing (FHWA image)

While it appears fairly obvious that decreasing the number of access points will reduce congestion along a roadway, safety also plays a key role. As seen in the following figure from FHWA, increasing the distance between intersections and driveways also reduces the incidence of crashes.

(FHWA image)

Because driveways and intersections are in fact inevitable on most roadways care must be given to their placement. A good practice is to avoid locating these access points on opposite sides of the roadway that creates an overlap for left turn movements.

(FHWA image)

While there are numerous additional access spacing topics to be covered, these represent the design issues I have faced more often in assisting Tribal communities with their roadway networks.

Make sure to check back here on the blog for the next access management entries, which will include discussions on Turning Lanes, Roundabouts and Dedicated Parking Lanes.

Roadway Maintenance

By Matt Riddell

Throughout my years of experience working with Native American communities, I have found that implementing an effective Roadway Maintenance Program saves the Tribe/Nation tremendous dollars by extending the life of their existing roadways. Sometimes, roadway maintenance as a designation can be misinterpreted, so let’s start off with a basic definition: Ensure the roadway is preserved in its original desired condition.

In an effort to simplify the explanation, we’ll break roadway maintenance down into three categories:

  1. Routine
  2. Periodic
  3. Urgent

Routine Maintenance

Routine Maintenance encompasses regular, “preventative” small-scale operations to ensure safety and circumvent premature roadway deterioration. Here are a few examples:

 Edge Clearing and Grass Cutting. Maintaining the roadway clear-zone improves roadway safety and enhances the long-term stability of the roadway edge.3

Ditch and Culvert Cleaning. Keeping Roadway Ditches clear of debris ensures positive drainage and helps to maintain the roadway subgrade stability. Culvert cleaning prevents potential flood damage and additional long-term maintenance problems.


Crack and Joint Sealing. Filling or sealing pavement cracks to prevent water from entering the base and sub-base will extend the pavement life.5

 Pothole Patching and Repairs. Potholes not repaired, or patched poorly, can lead to complete road deterioration. When completing these operations, always use linear edges to avoid further pavement cracking and yielding.


Guardrail and Sign Repairs. Maintaining quality guardrail and sign installations improves driver safety and overall roadway functionality.7

Gravel Road Re-grading. Sound gravel maintenance practices prevent adverse impacts to inclement weather and improves the long-term stability of the roadway template.


Periodic Maintenance

On numerous occasions, I have evaluated the surface conditions of roadways for clients, and they cannot understand why the pavement condition had significantly deteriorated well in advance of the design pavement life. Usually, this is due to a lack of periodic maintenance. Periodic Maintenance involves regular, larger-scale tasks to preserve the structural integrity of the roadway. Below are some examples:

Resurfacing and Pavement Overlays. Asphalt overlays and resurfacing helps to strengthen the structural integrity of the roadway and improves driver rideability.resurfacing-pavement-overlays

Pavement Reconstruction. Reconstruction of the entire pavement allows for the repairing of deteriorated subgrade conditions and the long-term extension of the roadway lifespan.


Pavement Reclamation. Reclamation rebuilds worn out asphalt pavements by recycling the existing roadway. The old asphalt and base materials are pulverized, mixed with cement and water, and compacted to produce a strong, durable base for either an asphalt or concrete surface. Full-depth reclamation uses the old asphalt and base material for the new road. There’s no need to haul in aggregate or haul out old material for disposal.


Culvert Replacement. Replacement of structurally deficient and hydraulically substandard culverts both prevents potential flood damage to adjacent property owners and helps to protect the roadway pavement from the results of erosion damage.culvert-replacement

 Urgent Maintenance

When roadways are not given their requisite attention to maintenance, complete failure can arise. This proves to be the most costly form of roadway program management as sufficient planning time is not allowed, thus often the most cost-effective strategies cannot be investigated.

This will be quite a pricey “fix”

 Cost Benefits of Roadway Maintenance

Since Tribal dollars remain so valuable, finding the most economic approach to managing the TTP roadway system remains paramount. Let’s take a quick look at some dollar figures referenced from FHWA:


Take Home Message

While it is convenient to view roadway maintenance as correcting defects, we have seen above this can turn into an expensive approach. The time to plan for maintenance of a roadway is during roadway construction, not once the problems reach the surface (pun intended).

Start the left before you are stuck with the right. . .

Effective Public Involvement

By Matt Riddell

An Effective Public Involvement Plan is essential to providing the most efficient facilities for the users. The objective encompasses incorporating input from the local residents and develop context sensitive measures that satisfy the public’s interest.  Letting the public become “a part of the process” eases “selling” the project to the community.

Why Do Public Involvement?

  1. Required for most federally funded transportation projects
  2. Educates the public on the purpose and need of the project
  3. Getting public “buy-in” early achieves smoother projects and often lower costs
  4. Assists the Project Team in discovering important unknown information
  5. It’s the right thing to do!!!

5 Basic Steps


Create the Plan

  1. Plan Early
  2. Identify Purpose
  3. Assess Project History / Affected Communities
  4. Determine Outreach Approach
  5. Define Specific Action Steps

Identify the Stakeholders

  1. Make a list of potential stakeholders
  2. Involve the stakeholders to learn new information
  3. Meet with the stakeholders based on your plan

Provide Public Outreach

  1. Develop a project outreach database
  2. Utilize simple initial outreach methods
  3. Consider website outreach

Conduct Project-Based Activities

  1. Make it interesting
  2. Develop an appropriate agenda
  3. Be (or find) a good facilitator
  4. Consider a workshop format
  5. Bring creative exhibits that will grab public attention
  6. Wrap it up effectively

Use the Feedback

  1. Be a good listener
  2. Hold a Project Team meeting to review the feedback
  3. Determine the actions for using the feedback


Often, the concerned public cannot adequately ascertain the limits and scope of a project by looking at a 2D set of plans. Therefore, I often provide visuals that allow the public to understand what we are proposing to build. Project renderings, videos and Virtual Reality are all excellent tools with which I have had great success. Below is a rendering example:


It’s the right thing and the best thing to do!!!

⇒People value being heard

⇒Typically, the public becomes a problem when not informed or listened to

⇒The more opportunities you provide to educate/listen, the more success you will have

⇒Think Informed Consent. Informed + Heard often = Consent