What is an MPO?

A metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is a transportation policy-making organization made up of representatives from local government and transportation authorities. In 1962, the United States Congress passed legislation that required the formation of an MPO for any Urbanized Area (UZA) with a population greater than 50,000. Congress created MPOs in order to ensure that existing and future expenditures for transportation projects and programs are based on a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive (“3-C”) planning process. Federal funding for transportation projects and programs are channeled through this planning process. Statewide and metropolitan transportation planning processes are governed by Federal law (23 USC 134 and 135). As of 2005, there are 385 MPOs in the U.S.

Why Congress created MPOs 

In creating the requirements for MPOs and a metropolitan planning process, Congress identified several key reasons MPOs are essential:  

  • Transportation investment means allocating scarce federal and other transportation funding resources appropriately;
  • Planning needs to reflect the region’s shared vision for its future;
  • Adequate transportation planning requires a comprehensive examination of the region’s future and investment alternatives; and
  • An MPO is needed to facilitate collaboration of governments, interested parties and residents in the planning process.

In other words, the federal government wishes to see federal transportation funds spent in a manner that has a basis in metropolitan region-wide plans developed through inter-governmental collaboration, rational analysis and consensus-based decision-making.

Presently JUMPO, like most MPOs, has no authority to raise revenues (e.g., levy taxes) on its own; rather, they are designed to allow local officials to collaboratively decide how available federal and non-federal transportation funds should be spent in urbanized areas. The funding for the operations of the MPO agency itself comes from a combination of federal transportation funds and required matching funds from state and local governments.