MPO to TPO: A Change For The Better

1 06 2009

For those of you that have not heard, our MPO is becoming our TPO among other changes. If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, relax; you are in the majority. Let me explain it. ‘MPO’ stands for Metropolitan Planning Organization. What does it do? Nobody ever really knew. Its stated purpose had something to do with transportation but aside for reprinting wish-lists full of roads, they didn’t really do much. I’m not sure that they knew what they were there for either. Seriously though, the MPO is a federally required organization whose purpose is to prioritize and fight for regional transportation projects.

Regardless of what it was supposed to be doing for the past 18 years (1991 was when the Peninsula MPO and the Southside MPO merged in order to, get this, increase regional cooperation), it is going through some changes. These changes were mandated by the Federal Highway Administration. First, they will change their name from MPO to TPO, or Transportation Planning Organization, which is substantially less vague than MPO. Most of the other changes involve increasing transparency, which, until recently was as clear as mud. A few of these changes include a public comment period at the beginning of each meeting (which apparently never existed before), a freight hauler’s advisory committee and a citizen advisory committee.

To give an example of how weak our MPO has been in the past compared to other MPOs, the group Future of Hampton Roads released a few statistics. Apparently, in the most recent state budget cuts, Hampton Roads’ new construction budget fell 31% while Northern Virginia’s fell only 19%. Even more alarming is the fact that funding for interstate projects alone fell 72% in Hampton Roads and only 1% in Northern Virginia. Maybe the discrepancy is due to our superior quality roads here in Hampton Roads. Yeah right. The real reason Hampton Roads has such a large number of off-road, jacked-to-the-sky pickups and SUVs is so they can climb out of the potholes on I-64 on their way to work. The reason our funding fell so much is directly due to our weak regional institutions. Northern Virginia’s MPO has always had multiple members of the Legislature on the board. This way they can take concerns to the State first-hand with authority, unlike Hampton Roads, which has always sat by the front door crying to the Legislature crying to the members like an 8-year-old with a ridiculous Christmas List.

I am glad that we are finally making these changes. Hopefully Hampton Roads can pull out of our transportation cul-de-sac and take its rightful place as a leader in the State and the Nation.

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One response

1 06 2009
t1ewis

well i hope it doesn’t require Hampton’s involvement, because really they don’t care. All Randy Gililand does is parrot what’s said at the (TPO) meetings when he’s at the city council meetings and that’s it. u don’t hear any real input or ideas going across the table, nothing. they haven’t ONCE mentioned antything that was suggested in the Transit Vision plan for Hampton (although i know it’s supposed to be redone by HRT but still NOTHING) they always talk about making things the way the used to be in Hampton but yet aren’t considering one of the major modes of transportation during those times which is Street Car. it’s like they’re listening to a 3 year old talk at the dinner table: “mmm hmm, wow that’s neat Randy, go show grandma.”

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