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

The Gaston Cleveland Lincoln Metropolitan Planning Organization (GCLMPO) is a multi-jurisdictional entity made up of local governments, NCDOT, USDOT, and other providers of transportation services. The GCL MPO currently comprises Gaston, Cleveland and Lincoln Counties and their municipalities.

The current GCLMPO is an expansion of the former Gaston MPO. From its inception following the 1970 Census, the Gaston MPO 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.

What are the Major Functions of an MPO?

MPOs conduct transportation planning in cooperation with state and federal government. Cooperatively, the MPO works with North Carolina DOT to develop transportation plans, travel models, thoroughfare plans, transit plans, 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 17 urban areas in North Carolina, which participate in the 3-C transportation planning process. Others include Asheville, Burlington, Cabarrus-South Rowan, Mecklenburg-Union-Iredell, Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Greenville, Hickory-Newton-Conover, High Point, Jacksonville, Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem.

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 Transportation Advisory Committee, Technical Coordination Committee, and the Transportation Steering Committee. 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 TAC 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 staff person may sit on the MPO board.