Unified Planning Work Program

A regional approach to transportation planning

The Metropolitan Council serves as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the region and facilitates the cooperative, continuing and comprehensive transportation planning process for the region. As part of this process, the Met Council annually prepares the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP). The program outlines and documents the planned transportation-related planning activities in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area for the upcoming year. Throughout the year, the planning activities are implemented and at times the program may be amended to include new activities.

The work program promotes a unified, regional approach to transportation planning to achieve regional goals and objectives. The UPWP also documents federal, state, and local transportation planning expenditures for the year. This spending includes staff time dedicated to each planning work activity area as well as funds for consultant transportation planning studies.

The work program includes:

  • A summary of all transportation planning work the Council will lead or be involved in over the next year.
  • A schedule for the completion of projects and other major tasks.
  • The proposed budget for each planning work activity area.

The Unified Planning Work Program serves as the Metropolitan Council’s application for US Department of Transportation planning funds.

2023 activity summary

The Unified Planning Work Program is organized around six work activity areas. Each area has several activities and proposed studies that will help accomplish the work.

1. Planning and Programming Process

The region’s transportation planning and programming process includes the Transportation Improvement Plan, which describes all regional federally funded transportation projects, and the Regional Solicitation, which allocates federal transportation funds to locally initiated regional projects. This task provides planning and administrative support for this work and for the Transportation Advisory Board, its subcommittees, and other committees involved in regional transportation planning process.

In 2023, the Met Council will begin a three-year study to evaluate the entire Regional Solicitation program and process for selecting projects. This work is done about once every 10 years as part of the updates to the Metropolitan Development Guide and Transportation Policy Plan. This ensures that the region’s current transportation goals and objectives are incorporated into Regional Solicitation project selection .

Work will also continue with consultants selected in 2022 to improve outreach and engagement activities with diverse and inclusive stakeholder related to the ongoing regional transportation planning studies.

2. Modal System Planning

Transportation modes are the different systems that move people or goods within and throughout the region. The Council coordinates and plans for highways, transit, bicycles, pedestrians, freight, and aviation. In 2023, the Council and its transportation partners will conduct the following studies:

  • Begin a new consultant study, the Metropolitan Highway System Harms, Impacts, and Mitigation Priorities Study, to identify impacts and mitigation measures for harms caused by the construction and operation of the regional highway system
  • Continue the Regional Safety Action Plan work that began in 2022
  • Continue a Regional Freight Distribution Study that began in 2022
  • Continue the Principal Arterial Intersection Mobility Study, Phase 2 that began in 2022
  • Continue the Functional Classification Process Update study that began in 2022

3. Long-Range System Planning

The Transportation Policy Plan is the region’s long-range transportation plan. It includes land-use planning activities that align with the region’s development goals; equity priorities that apply to the transportation planning process; and air quality planning activities. In 2022, the Council will conduct the following studies:

  • Begin a new consultant study, Electric Vehicle Public Charging Needs Analysis, to identify needs and gaps in the regional electric charging network
  • Continue work that began in 2022 on an assessment of the Transportation Policy Plan’s overall vision, goals, and objectives in preparation for the 2050 Transportation Policy Plan update
  • Continue work that began in 2022 on the study Regional Transportation and Climate Change Multimodal Measures, which will lead to measures for the greenhouse gas impacts of types of transportation projects
  • Continue the Transportation Attitudes and Needs Assessment that began in 2022 examining public attitudes towards transportation and transportation planning issues
  • Continue work on the Regional Travel Demand Management Study that began in 2022 

4. Travel Model Development and Forecasting

These activities provide data and inputs into the Regional Travel Demand Model. The Council uses the Regional Travel Demand Model to estimate future travel behavior and the level of demand placed on future transit and highway systems. This tool is instrumental in prioritizing and planning future transportation network improvements.

These research activities, surveys, data purchases, and software upgrades are necessary to maintain and ensure the accuracy of the Regional Travel Demand Model.

5. Short-Range Planning and Performance Monitoring

This work includes adopting and reporting regional transportation performance measures and targets, as well as supporting the Congestion Management Process (CMP). The process is a regional, cooperative activity that helps identify the causes of congestion and develops strategies to help mitigate it. In 2023, the Met Council will begin a new study to assess the guidance outlined in the CMP Corridor Analysis Handbook completed in 2022. The study will pilot a number of corridor analyses to demonstrate and refine how the handbook applies to corridors within various land use and geographic contexts. The Council will also continue to develop a system performance dashboard to display and communicate transportation system performance indicators.