The River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), a transportation planning organization that covers 65 miles along Florida’s East Coast, was recognized with an Outstanding Planning Award from the Florida Planning and Zoning Association (FZPA) Surfcoast Chapter.

This award, which emphasizes innovative, state-of-the-art planning methods, was given for River to Sea TPO’s Connected and Automated Vehicles Readiness Plan. The River to Sea TPO is one of the first transportation agencies to create this type of plan, paving the way for other MPOs and TPOs who are facing questions around the future of self-driving cars and other emerging technologies in transportation.

Transportation planning organizations like River to Sea TPO are required to regularly produce long-range transportation plans identifying investment, policy, and planning needs as they look 20+ years into the future. One challenge with this type of plan is that technology can change drastically in 20+ years. It appears likely that cars with automated driving systems and new personal mobility solutions will impact our transportation systems within that time frame, but it is not yet clear what systems will be sustainable in the marketplace, and TPOs need to allocate funding today.

To support their long-range transportation planning efforts, the River to Sea TPO engaged Kittelson to develop a Connected and Automated Vehicles Readiness Plan. Kittelson and the TPO conducted a self-assessment, which included looking at regional transportation plans and the state of infrastructure in Volusia and Flagler Counties and identifying gaps and barriers to readiness for emerging technologies. We then collaborated to create an action plan, which was the official “technology transition plan” component of the project, marrying the River to Sea TPO’s needs with short- and long-term strategies. The plan addresses data needs, staff resources and training, regulations and policy, infrastructure and equipment, enforcement, equity, accessibility, and financial prioritization.

“River to Sea TPO is one of the first transportation planning agencies in the country to proactively implement the recommendations from National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 924, a guidebook published in 2019 about planning for emerging technologies in transportation,” said Abby Morgan, Senior Engineer at Kittelson. “It’s encouraging to see a TPO take such proactive and thorough measures to set themselves up for the transportation of tomorrow.”

Having their resource needs put into writing clarifies which infrastructure investments need to be made, what policies need to be looked at, and where staff training is needed. The River to Sea TPO now has a plan for gradually updating their existing policies and infrastructure. The study also provides the framework that positions the River to Sea TPO to develop a robust system for monitoring data over time so they can adapt as technology in transportation continues to unfold.

Congrats to River to Sea TPO on this recognition and the forward thinking behind it! You can read more about what went into the plan, including takeaways for other MPOs and TPOs looking to plan for emerging technologies, here on our blog. For more on Connect2045, River to Sea TPO’s long-range transportation plan that accounts for emerging technologies, you can check out this video produced by the TPO.