Why Do We Need a Metropolitan Transportation Plan?

A metropolitan transportation plan is a critical step for an effective and efficient transportation system. Transportation projects are expensive, complex and effect thousands of people and goods as they move from place to place. It is critical that proposed projects meet critical local needs, are evaluated on established criteria, and are implemented thoughtfully. The implementation of any transportation project, such as widening a road, adding lanes to a highway, building sidewalks, or creating a greenway, requires time, planning, and funding. Determining the need of a project is only the first step.

What is an MPO?

Metropolitan Planning Organizations are part of a federal process to conduct local transportation planning in urbanized areas. The federal government requires urbanized areas to establish a planning process that is comprehensive, continuing and cooperative. The MPO process is required in urbanized areas over 50,000 in population in order to receive federal funding for transportation. The MPO process is a partnership between the local, state and federal governments to make decisions about transportation planning/projects in urbanized areas and to meet planning requirements established by federal authorizing legislation for transportation funding.

How many MPOs are there in North Carolina?

The WMPO is one of 19 urban areas in North Carolina, which participate in the 3-C transportation planning process. Others include Asheville French Broad River (Asheville), Burlington, Cabarrus-Rowan, Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Fayetteville, Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Greenville, Hickory-Newton-Conover, High Point, Jacksonville, New Bern, Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem. The Grand Strand MPO (Myrtle Beach, SC) extends into North Carolina.

What is a Transportation Management Area (TMA)?

A Transportation Management Area (TMA) is an area designated by the Secretary of Transportation, having an urbanized area population of over 200,000, or upon special request from the Governor and the MPO designated for the area. An area designated as a TMA enjoys certain benefits and incurs additional requirements beyond those of smaller urbanized areas. An MPO in a TMA has a stronger voice in setting priorities for implementing projects and are responsible for additional planning products. Transportation plans and programs within a TMA must be based on a continuing and comprehensive transportation planning process carried out by the MPO in cooperation with the State and transportation operators.

How are MPOs established?

MPOs are established in every urbanized area in the country with a population over 50,000. Urbanized areas are defined every ten years by the U.S. Census. In North Carolina, MPOs are determined by agreement between the Governor and the MPO. MPOs are established by a Memorandum of Understanding which is signed by all participating local governments and by the State of North Carolina.

What are the relationships among the MPO, the state DOT, and other agencies involved in transportation planning and project implementation?

Transportation planning must be cooperative because no single agency has responsibility for the entire transportation system. For example, some roads that are part of the Interstate Highway System (IHS) are subject to certain standards and are usually maintained by a state DOT. Others are city or town streets which are designed, operated, and maintained by counties or local municipalities. Transit systems are often built, operated, and maintained by a separate entity. In metropolitan areas, the MPO is responsible for actively seeking the participation of all relevant agencies and stakeholders in the planning process; similarly, the Rural Planning Organization (RPO) is responsible for activities outside metropolitan areas.