1. What is an MPO and what is its purpose? A Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is an organization created and designated to carry out the metropolitan transportation planning process in accordance with federal statute. The purpose of an MPO is to provide a forum for continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive transportation planning in the MPO planning area between all agencies responsible for transportation.
2. Must an MPO be developed? Title 23 USC 134 requires urban areas with populations of 50,000 or more determined by the decennial census to form an MPO, in order to continue receiving federal transportation funding directly, or indirectly through project development and delivery by MDT.
3. What are the benefits of an MPO? The creation of an MPO provides a forum for increased cooperation and coordination, and enhances relationships between MDT and local governments responsible for transportation planning. MPOs receive financial assistance, Metropolitan Planning (PL) funds, to carry out the required planning activities, and Transit funds (5303) to provide funding for transit planning.
4. What are the challenges to being an MPO? MPOs have specific federal requirements for transportation planning that non-MPOs are not subject to. The limited federal financial assistance provided to the MPOs may not be sufficient to cover costs to address the requirements.
5. What happens if a Census-designated urban area with a population greater than 50k chooses not to designate an MPO? Designation of an MPO in an urban area with a population greater than 50k population is required in federal statute. If an urban area that meets this definition elects to not form an MPO, federal transportation funding cannot be received or spent on programs, planning or projects within the Census-delineated urban area. In short, if MDT and the affected area want to continue seeing federal transportation funding spent in the area, an MPO is required. 2 | Page
6. “MPO designation shall be made by agreement between the Governor and units of general-purpose local government that together represent at least 75 percent of the affected population (including the largest incorporated city, based on population, as named by the Bureau of the Census) or in accordance with procedures established by applicable State or local law”. [23 CFR 450.310(b)] What is meant by the “affected population”? Affected population means the people within the urban area boundary drawn by the Census Bureau for the decennial census with 50,000 or more population. What role do the other affected jurisdictions play if they are not designated as the MPO? Regardless of who is designated as the MPO, all affected local governments that are part of the metropolitan planning area have representation on the MPO policy board and participate in all aspects of the federally required planning process.
7. Areas outside of the census urban area are growing rapidly, at what point would the census boundary adjust to the point where those areas/communities would be encompassed in the MPO? The MPO metropolitan planning area is created for the purposes of carrying out the federal planning requirements and encompasses all areas outside of the census urban boundary anticipated to be developed in the 20-year planning horizon. Census urban area boundaries are delineated every decennial census and all jurisdictions within the census urban area boundary, regardless of previous MPO participation, are required to be part of the MPO. Please note if a jurisdiction is included in the MPO planning area boundary, they are bound by all of the requirements that come with being part of an MPO.
8. What is the difference between MPO Designation and MPO Formation? MPO Designation is the process of executing the federal requirements to secure the Governor’s agreement to establish the MPO. This is MDT-led due to the department’s responsibility for federal transportation program implementation and oversight within the state. MPO Formation is the locally-led process, that occurs after the Governor’s designation, to establish the structure and operations of the new MPO with technical assistance and oversight of federal requirements provided by MDT.