Since its inception following the 1970 Census, the Gaston MPO has had the sole task of planning and monitoring transportation systems in areas defined within the Gaston Urban Area. In 1962 Congress enacted federal law that first established MPOs and initiated a requirement that a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive (3-C) transportation planning process be established for all urban areas over 50,000 in population in order to qualify for federal transportation funds. Since its inception the Gaston Urban Area MPO expanded in 2013 to include all of Gaston County as well as Cleveland and Lincoln Counties to become the Gaston – Cleveland – Lincoln MPO (GCLMPO).
It is entitled Section 134(a) of Title 23 United States Code and reads as follows: “It is in the national interest to encourage and promote the development of transportation systems embracing various modes of transportation in a manner which will efficiently maximize mobility of people and goods within and through urbanized areas and minimize transportation related fuel consumption and air pollution. To accomplish this objective, metropolitan planning organizations, in cooperation with the State, shall develop transportation plans and programs for urbanized areas of the State. Such plans and programs shall provide for the development of transportation facilities (including pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities) which will function as an intermodal transportation system for the State, the metropolitan areas, and the Nation. The process for developing such plans and programs shall provide for consideration of all modes of transportation and shall be continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive to the degree appropriate, based on the complexity of the transportation problems.”
In addition, according to Chapter 136 Article 3A, Section 136-66.2(a) of the North Carolina General Statutes: “Each municipality with the cooperation of the Department of Transportation, shall develop a comprehensive plan for a street system that will serve present and anticipated volumes of vehicular traffic in and around the municipality. The plan shall be based on the best information available including, but not limited to, population growth, economic conditions and prospects, and patterns of land development in and around the municipality and shall provide for the safe and effective use of streets and highways through such means as parking regulations, signal systems, and traffic signs, markings, and other devices. The Department of Transportation may provide financial and technical assistance in the preparation of such plans.”
These urban transportation planning requirements are administered by the MPO in conjunction with the Statewide Planning Branch and the Public Transportation Division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) with the approval of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).
The GCLMPO is one of 17 urban areas in North Carolina, which participate in the 3-C transportation planning process. Others include Asheville, Burlington, Cabarrus-South Rowan, Mecklenburg-Union, Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Greenville, Hickory-Newton-Conover, High Point, Jacksonville, Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, New Bern, and Winston-Salem.
As required by federal law, the GCLMPO implements the 3-C process in our urban area. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the participating local governing bodies as well as NCDOT and FHWA further helps to establish the specific framework by which our MPO operates.
The City of Gastonia is the Lead Planning Agency for the GCLMPO. The City’s Transportation Planning Division serves as the MPO staff. Responsibilities of the staff include conducting planning studies, forecasting travel demand and patterns, and preparing meeting materials for and implementing directives of the Transportation Advisory Committee, Technical Coordination Committee, and the Transportation Steering Committee. In addition, Staff provides technical expertise to all of the member MPO jurisdictions.