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 three C’s of transportation planning). 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 local and state government to make decisions about transportation planning in urbanized areas and to meet planning requirements established by federal authorizing legislation for transportation funding.

The Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln MPO (GCLMPO)

The Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln Metropolitan Planning Organization (formerly the Gaston Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) was established in 2013 following the release of new Urbanized Area delineations, based on 2010 US Census data. The Metropolitan Planning Area (MPA) expanded at that time based on input and a request from Cleveland and Lincoln counties to be represented by one transportation planning organization. Based on the consolidation of these two counties into the Gaston County-based MPO, the GCLMPO grew from 12 member jurisdictions to 17. The MPO now includes the municipalities of Belmont, Bessemer City, Boiling Springs, Cherryville, Cramerton, Dallas, Gastonia, Kings Mountain, Lincolnton, Lowell, Mount Holly, Ranlo, Shelby, and Stanley and the counties of Gaston, Cleveland, and Lincoln. There are several smaller municipalities within the MPO area that are not voting members of the MPO, but may have a representative serve as non-voting members.

The GCLMPO total population is 414,272 based on the 2020 Census. The three county MPO area includes seventeen (17) member governments and a total of thirty-four (34) jurisdictions.

What are the Major Functions of an MPO?

MPOs conduct transportation planning in cooperation with the state and federal government. Cooperatively, the MPO works with the North Carolina DOT to develop transportation plans, travel models, thoroughfare plans, transit plans, and bicycle and pedestrian plans. Also, the MPO works with the state on funding issues for transportation improvements, on project planning issues, and on issues such as environmental impacts and air quality. The MPO also works with local governments to coordinate land use and transportation planning.

How are MPOs Established?

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

How Many MPOs are there in North Carolina??

The GCLMPO is one of 19 urban areas in North Carolina, which participate in the 3-C transportation planning process. Others include French Broad River, Graham Grand Strand, Burlington, Cabarrus-Rowan, Capital Area, Charlotte Regional, Greater Hickory,  Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Greenville, High Point, Jacksonville, New Bern, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem.

More information can be found here!

What is the Lead Planning Agency?

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 MPO Board and the Technical Coordination Committee (TCC).  In addition, Staff provides technical expertise to all of the member MPO jurisdictions.

Who Makes Decisions for the MPO?

All decisions of the MPO are made by the MPO Board with recommendations from the Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC). The membership and voting structures of these committees are established through a Memorandum of Understanding between all of the participating governments.

MPO Board – The policy-making body made up of elected officials from each of the member governments, and the Board of Transportation.
TCC – Staff level committee that provides recommendations to the Board regarding transportation decisions.

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 county arterials or city 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 state DOT is responsible for activities outside metropolitan areas. The MPO and state DOT also work together. For example, a state DOT official may sit on the MPO Board.