Comments posted: In March 2010, the Department of Transport continues to disagree with our legal analysis, but no further justification for its disagreement over what was presented in our report. The Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) is an effort by the U.S. Department of Transportation and authorities in four metropolitan areas across the country that are testing several technologies to reduce congestion in urban areas. The miami metro areas, Florida, Minneapolis, Minnesota, San Francisco, California and Seattle, Washington are participants. Technologies used include rapid bus traffic (BRT), hot lanes (High-Occupancy Toll Lane) and other congestion rates, dynamic warning signs and other reports for track management. While the GAO did not assess the merits of the UPA project, it expressed support for integrated approaches to reducing congestion. With a few exceptions, the department did a good job of communicating the criteria it would use to select urban partners and the amount of resources available, but it did not clearly communicate the relative priority of the criteria or extended the same contact to all applicants. The department made it clear that 10 of the 11 selection criteria – such as the political and technical feasibility of the projects – that it had decided earlier which cities should be chosen as planning partners, but it did not specify which criteria were the most important, with the exception of 4T. In addition, over time, the Department provided information indicating that approximately $852 million was available for these projects, less than the actual $1.02 billion, but sufficient to give applicants an approximate idea of the size of the program. Clear communication of the selection criteria, their relative priority and the resources available allows applicants to make informed choices when preparing their applications. GAO also discovered that the department told two semi-finalists that they were appointed urban partners, how to review their applications in order to make them more competitive, but this did not do so for the other semi-finalists. Both were eventually chosen as municipal partners.
However, in the absence of governmental or departmental guidelines, the assessment of the adequacy of this aid is not clear. As part of its powers, the Department has acted to distribute approximately $848 million of its 2007 budget to five UPA cities through 10 grant programs. In general, these funds have been allocated to thousands of jurisdictions through the Congressional Investigation (Earmarks); However, the department`s resources for 2007 were not subject to such guidelines. In addition, the department was empowered to consider congestion prices as a priority selection factor when allocating funds, since the underlying statutes expressly authorize or give the department the power to do so. However, the GAO found that the department probably did not meet the legal requirements of the Transportation, Community and System Preservation program because it did not require applicants to comply with the five legal factors in order to obtain a «priority consideration,» which may not be due to the result of the selection. The department has developed a framework to ensure that the conditions for awarding the UPA are met and that the results of the initiative are evaluated. The department monitors compliance with the conditions of allocation by municipal partners, such as obtaining .B congestion pricing authorities, and has already acted when conditions are not met, for example by removing funding from New York City, when it has not been able to obtain a traffic pricing authority from the state. In addition, the department plans to evaluate and guide the strategies of urban planning partners to reduce congestion. The evaluation of To See the whole product, including the size of the Battelle Memorial Institute, is in the early stages.
In December 2006, the federal Department of Transportation sent requests to cities that are willing to participate.