Logo: Charting Progress to 2040.

The Boston Region’s Next Long-Range Transportation Plan

Scenario Planning Results

March 2015

Image of the Zakim Bridge.


For its next Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), Charting Progress to 2040, the Boston Region MPO is examining how allocating available dollars to various strategies would best address the region’s transportation needs, while advancing the MPO’s vision, goals and objectives. Themes of the MPO’s goals are:

  1. Safety
  2. System Preservation
  3. Capacity Management/Mobility
  4. Clean Air/Clean Communities
  5. Transportation Equity
  6. Economic Vitality

To support the plan’s development, MPO staff is conducting scenario planning to help the MPO and the public weigh the benefits and tradeoffs of different investment strategies.


The MPO is considering two different approaches to addressing mobility needs during the next 25 years, focusing on a specific policy question related to a proposed objective within its Capacity Management and Mobility goal:

“Should the MPO give priority in a congestion reduction program to major arterials and express highways throughout the region which serve transit and/or existing population and places of employment?”

This policy would shape the MPO’s approach to future transportation investments. One approach could be to program primarily high-cost roadway projects, while another option could concentrate on lower-cost, often multimodal types of investments. The purpose of this scenario planning is to help clarify the degree to which each of these approaches would help the MPO progress toward its goal of improving mobility, along with its other stated goals.


To shed light on the policy question cited above, the MPO established one base-case scenario and three alternatives. Each scenario reflects a different hypothetical investment approach that the MPO may follow over the next 25 years. These scenarios have several elements in common:

The MPO has gathered a large amount of information about the Boston region’s transportation needs, both through analysis conducted by MPO staff and others, and via outreach to municipalities and groups in the region. MPO staff identified the following scenarios with these needs in mind. Although the scenarios focus on congestion management and mobility, each takes a different approach in addressing this goal.

White diamond.2040 No-Build Scenario (Base Case): No improvements to the existing transportation network other than those that are currently under construction, advertised for construction, or included in the first year of the Federal Fiscal Years 2015−18 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) of the Boston Region MPO and TIPs of adjacent MPOs.

Brown diamond.Current-LRTP Scenario: Reflects the MPO’s current spending patterns. Includes all of the projects listed in the Boston Region MPO’s LRTP that are not yet funded, plus additional projects and programs (not listed in the LRTP). Assumes that unallocated funding from the current LRTP would be programmed over the next 25 years in the same proportions as the MPO has programmed its funding during the previous 10 years.

Blue diamond.Operations and Management (O&M) Scenario: A congestion management approach focusing on lower-cost O&M improvements, such as intersection improvements and Complete Streets solutions, to improve mobility on the roadway network. Emphasizes capacity management through low-cost investments.

Orange diamond.High-Capital Investment (High-Cap) Congestion Management Scenario: Includes a large percentage of high-cost capital infrastructure improvements, such as interchange upgrades and major bottleneck reconstructions. Includes a small percentage of lower-cost projects that do not add capacity to the region’s transportation system.


For the alternative scenarios, MPO staff allocated the $2 billion in available funding across five hypothetical programs. The programs (described on the following pages) would address in a thematic way one or more categories of identified transportation needs. The portion of funds allocated to a program depends upon each scenario’s purpose and key characteristics.


Funding Distribution

Bar charts showing the funding distribution between programs.


Projects in Scenarios

Bar charts showing funding distributions for projects in different scenarios.




The five hypothetical programs included in the scenarios are described on the right. The descriptions provide information about how MPO staff estimated costs for types of projects that the program would fund. As shown on the previous page, each scenario allocates different portions of the $2 billion in LRTP funding to each program.

To gauge the scenarios’ performance, staff selected a number of indicators that correspond to the MPO’s goals. To measure programs and projects that could that have a regional impact, add capacity to the system, or change an attribute of the system—for example, change the amount of delay or capacity, add an alternative travel option, and so forth—staff utilized The MPO’s regional travel demand model set. Staff used off-model sketch-planning techniques to generate performance data for other projects, particularly those that are lower in cost and have smaller footprints


Visual Key of MPO Goals: Saefty, System Preservation, Capacity Management and Congestion Reduction, Clean Air and Clean Communities, Transportation Equity, and Economic Vitality.


Image of an intersection.


MPO Goals: Safety, System Preservation, Capacity Management and Congestion Reduction, and Clean Air and Clean Communities.

Description: Modernizes existing signals or adds signals to improve safety and mobility. Improvements could also consist of turning lanes, shortened crossing distances for pedestrians, and striping and lighting for bicyclists. Improvements to sidewalks and curb cuts also will enhance accessibility for pedestrians. Updated signal operations will reduce delay and improve transit reliability.

Sample intersections for this program, which were used to estimate project benefits, were drawn from the TIP Universe of Projects, locations identified in past MPO studies, and the LRTP Needs Assessment. These projects were prioritized—first through determining if they are high-crash locations to address the MPO’s safety goal, and then if they are located in high-priority-development, environmental justice, or Title VI areas.

Estimated cost of intersection improvement projects: Average of $2.8 million per intersection



Image of a Bike Lane.


MPO Goals: Safety, System Preservation, Capacity Management and Congestion Reduction, Transportation Equity, and Economic Vitality.

Description: Modernizes roadways to improve safety and mobility for all users. Improvements could consist of continuous sidewalks and bicycle lanes, cycle tracks, and other bicycle facilities, as well as updated signals at intersections along a corridor. Improvements will reduce delay and improve transit reliability. Expanded transportation options and better access to transit will improve mobility for all and encourage mode shift.

Estimated cost of Complete Streets projects: $6 million per mile



Image of a bicycle/pedestrian path.


MPO Goals: Safety, Capacity Management and Congestion Reduction, Clean Air and Clean Communities, and Transportation Equity.

Description: Expands the bicycle and pedestrian networks to improve safe access to transit, school, employment centers, and shopping destinations. Could include constructing new, off-road bicycle or multi-use paths, improving bicycle and pedestrian crossings, or building new sidewalks.

Sample bicycle and pedestrian projects for this program were selected using evaluated TIP projects, the MPO’s Bicycle Network Evaluation, and bicycle travel market information from the 2011 Massachusetts Household Survey.

Estimated cost of bicycle and pedestrian projects: Varies (analysis uses available preliminary cost, or average of $2 million per mile)



Image of a shuttle bus.


MPO Goals: Capacity Management and Congestion Reduction, and Clean Air and Clean Communities.

Description: Includes a combination of the following types of projects:



Image of highway congestion.


MPO Goals: Safety, System Preservation, Capacity Management and Congestion Reduction, and Economic Vitality.

Description: Modernizes and/or expands major highways and arterials to reduce congestion and improve safety. Projects could include constructing expressway interchanges to eliminate weaving and reduce the likelihood of rollovers, adding travel lanes on expressways, or adding/removing grade separations on major arterials. The current LRTP also considers transit (Green Line Extension from College Avenue to Mystic Valley Parkway/Route 16) and bridge projects.

Estimated cost per project: Costs were associated with each project based on costs in current or past LRTPs, adjusted to current dollars, or costs from studies that were performed for selected locations, also adjusted to current dollars. Assumes eight interstate bottlenecks and five arterial projects.



The values for the alternative scenarios are shown relative to the values for the No-Build scenario. When scenario symbols are stacked, the scenarios with symbols toward the top of the stack performed better.

Graphic showing the sceanrio results.



The results of these scenarios provide insight on the MPO’s policy question:

“Should the MPO give priority in a congestion reduction program to major arterials and express highways through the region which serve transit and/or existing population and places of employment?”

The scenario planning results show how different sets of projects and programs would address the MPO’s goals, including capacity management and mobility. The MPO can use these results in conjunction with other information, such as the LRTP Needs Assessment and public feedback, to answer the policy question and develop projects and programs for investing federal funds over the next 25 years. The results show that:


Based on the conclusions from scenario planning, staff recommend that the MPO not adopt the objective of giving priority to a congestion reduction program as posed in the policy question above. To complete the set of objectives in the Capacity Management/Mobility goal, staff recommend adopting the following revised objective:

“Emphasize capacity management through low-cost investments; give priority to projects that focus on lower-cost O&M-type improvements such as intersection improvements and Complete Streets solutions.”

The implications of this are that the MPO is moving toward a programmatic approach to allocating funding in the LRTP.


Below are questions the MPO will consider during its next several meetings as they finalize Charting Progress to 2040.

  1. What percentage of funding should be allocated to each program (intersection improvements, complete streets, bicycle and pedestrian connections, community transportation and parking, and major infrastructure)?
  2. Will highway funding be flexed to transit?
  3. Will any funding be left unallocated?




Logo: Charting Progress to 2040.

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