What is a Metropolitan Planning Organization?

A Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is an agency created by federal law to provide local input for urban transportation planning and allocating federal transportation funds to cities with populations of greater than 50,000. The mission of a MPO is to provide comprehensive, coordinated and continuous (the "3Cs") transportation planning for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods consistent with the region's overall economic, social and environmental goals. Special emphasis is placed on providing equal access to a variety of transportation choices and effective public involvement in the transportation planning process. There are more than 300 MPOs across the country. Most MPOs are part of a city, county or area regional planning council.

Why is the MPO important to the community?

Transportation planning is important to everyone. How well a citizen can travel to work, school, the shopping mall or the hospital affects their safety and quality of life. Vehicle miles traveled daily on the Lake-Sumter road network will almost double during the next 20 years so planning wisely can keep the transportation system working efficiently. The MPO provides an independent yet cooperative forum for regional planning and the allocation of millions of dollars in federal transportation funding annually. The MPO also helps citizens speak with one voice to their state and federal legislators on transportation-related issues. Most importantly, effective public involvement insures scarce tax dollars are used in accordance with the greatest needs and desires of the people.

When did MPOs take shape?

MPOs were first required by the Federal Highway Act of 1962 to provide a "3C" transportation planning process by local, state and federal officials. In November 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush designated Lake-Sumter MPO as an MPO. The Lake-Sumter MPO held its first meeting on Feb. 25, 2004.

Who is the MPO?

The Lake-Sumter MPO Governing Board consists of 29 board members (16 voting and 13 non-voting) representing the communities of the Lake-Sumter region. Each member government appoints elected representation to the MPO Governing Board, along with an alternate representative.

The apportionment of membership on the Lake-Sumter MPO Governing Board includes one voting representative from each of the seven most populated cities in Lake County, including Clermont, Eustis, Lady Lake, Leesburg, Minneola, Mount Dora and Tavares. The seven (7) least populated cities of Lake County (Astatula, Groveland, Fruitland Park, Mascotte, Montverde, Umatilla, Howey-in-the-Hills), share one at-large vote that rotates alphabetically each year. An At- Large Representative voting position rotates annually among the five (5) Sumter County municipalities of Bushnell, Center Hill, Coleman, Webster and Wildwood. In addition, the five members of the Lake County Board of County Commissioners and two designated County Commissioners from the Sumter County Board of County Commissioners are each voting members. During 2012, Astatula and Bushnell hold the rotating votes. Ex-officio board members from Lake County Schools, Sumter District Schools and the Florida Central Railroad round out the membership of the Lake-Sumter MPO Governing Board.

What does the MPO do?

In general, the MPO is responsible for the urban transportation planning process, which allows Lake-Sumter MPO to receive more than a $100 million annually in federal and state transportation funding. This is accomplished primarily through three related activities —the Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP).

The LRTP is a 20-year plan and the basic framework for all transportation planning. The TIP is a five-year list of prioritized transportation improvement projects. These projects generally fall into five categories — capacity improvement projects (adding lanes), preservation projects (road reconstruction without adding lanes), bicycle projects, pedestrian projects and transit projects. About 30 percent of the regional road network is eligible for federal aid. That 30 percent, however, carries the vast majority of daily vehicle miles traveled. Local residential streets do not generally qualify for MPO funding. The UPWP is the annual work plan and budget. The UPWP is funded by a combination of Federal Highway and Federal Transit Administration planning funds. It describes all the agency and consultant transportation studies, population and employment forecasts, computer travel demand modeling and MPO staff budgeting for the coming year.

How is the MPO funded?

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) guarantees a minimum of $204 billion in federal transportation funding through Sept. 31, 2003. The Federal Highway Transportation Fund sends funding to urban areas through state departments of transportation for the Transportation Improvement Program. The Lake-Sumter metropolitan area normally receives more than $100 million in federal and state transportation funding each year.

Transportation planning is essential to the continued growth of any community. Transportation promotes and facilitates the movement of people, goods and services keeping a community active and economically viable. Identifying funds to cover the cost of transportation improvements and the environmental impacts that must be taken into consideration before making them, make the transportation planning process a lengthy one. It is common for several years to pass between the identification and the implementation of a given transportation project, especially if environmental concerns are part of the project.

A significant element of the transportation planning process is the participation by members of the public in the development of the plan.