What is a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)?
The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962 created the federal requirement for urban transportation planning largely in response to the construction of the Interstate Highway System and the planning of routes through and around urban areas. This Act required states to use a portion of federal construction funds for the planning of transportation projects in urbanized areas of 50,000 or more in population based on a continuing, comprehensive, urban transportation planning process undertaken cooperatively by the states and local governments, better known as the “3C” (continuing, comprehensive and cooperative) planning process.
The formation of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) came with the Federal Highway Act of 1973. This Act was, in part, a response to concerns over environmental and social issues in transportation planning, and established MPOs as the policy bodies for metropolitan transportation planning. The Federal Highway Act of 1973 was followed by four other acts of Congress that shaped the role of MPOs today: the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), and Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). Congress recently passed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which continues funding for surface transportation programs, including transportation planning for MPOs.
The outcome of each successive Act set forth the national policy that MPOs are to carry out the “3C” multimodal transportation planning process, including the development of a metropolitan transportation plan and a transportation improvement program (TIP), that encourages and promotes the safe and efficient development, management, and operation of surface transportation systems to serve the mobility needs of people and freight; including accessible pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities. These planning documents should also foster economic growth and development, while maximizing efficiencies and mitigating adverse environmental impacts. MPOs should strive to continually develop and improve the overall metropolitan transportation planning process.