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Metropolitan Planning Organization Activities

 

The MPO Activities team in the Office of Transportation Planning serves as liaisons to the Commonwealth’s 13 Metropolitan Planning Organizations. The work of the MPO Activities group ensures that state and federal transportation funding is programmed effectively in the regions for highway, transit, bicycle and pedestrian investments, and that the statewide goals of MassDOT are implemented throughout the Commonwealth. Some of these goals relate to safety, system preservation, and sustainability. The MPO Activities group collaborates closely across many other divisions at MassDOT including Highway, Rail and Transit, GreenDOT, and the Office of Diversity and Civil Rights, as well as partners at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

What is an MPO?

An MPO is a regional transportation policy-making organization consisting of representatives from local government, regional transit operators, and state transportation agencies.  Federal legislation passed in the early 1970s required the formation of an MPO for any urbanized area with a population greater than 50,000.  MPOs were created to ensure that existing and future expenditures for transportation projects and programs were based on a “3-C planning process”:

  • Continuing – Planning must be maintained as an ongoing activity and should address both short-term needs and the long-term vision for the region;
  • Cooperative – The process must involve a wide variety of interested parties through a public participation process; and
  • Comprehensive – The process must cover all transportation modes and be consistent with regional and local land-use and economic-development plans.
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What do MPOs do?

MPOs create a fair and impartial setting for effective regional decision making in the metropolitan area with inclusionary approaches to effectively engage communities and stakeholders. MPOs achieve this by producing three principal planning documents:

    Regional Transportation Plan
    • The Range Transportation Plan is the policy and visioning document of the MPO. This document results from regional and statewide collaboration and consensus on a region’s transportation system and serves as the defining vision for the region. The document also contains a financial plan or budget which guides and shapes the actions an MPO undertakes as they fulfill the region’s visions and objectives. This 20-year transportation vision document is updated every four years by the MPO.
    Transportation Improvement Plan
    • Every year, each regional MPO must prepare and update its Transportation Improvement Program, a staged four-year program of capital improvements that reflect the needs of the regional transportation system. Under federal regulations, the TIP must be constrained to available funding, consistent with the long-range Regional Transportation Plan, and include an annual element, or listing, of projects to be advertised in the first year of the TIP. The TIP has a roadway component and a transit component. The State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) is a compilation of the 13 regional Transportation Improvement Programs prepared annually by the MPOs. The STIP is compiled annually by MassDOT/Highway, MassDOT/Rail & Transit Division, the regional planning agencies (RPAs), the regional transit agencies (RTAs), the Office of Transportation Planning (OTP) and the Federal Aid Expenditure and Programming Office (FAPO), and, is reviewed and approved by state and federal transportation and environmental agencies.
    Unified Planning Work Program
    • Each year the MPO staff, under the direction of the MPO, prepares a work program of tasks to be completed by the MPO staff. This work program lists the transportation studies and tasks to be performed during this one year period. Transportation studies identified and completed through the UPWP lead to recommended actions that MPOs use to guide future transportation policy and project investment decisions. These regional MPO UPWP tasks and activities are funded with federal funds.

 


What are the MPOs and RPAs in Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has 10 urbanized regions designated as MPOs and 3 rural regions that function like MPOs. Each of the MPOs has co-terminus boundaries with the state created Regional Planning Agencies (RPAs). There is an MPO Activities staff member assigned to each of MPOs as a MassDOT planning liaison. The MPOs/RPAs and links to their websites are as follows:

 

 


Regional Long-Range Transportation Plans (RTP)

The Long-Range Transportation Plan is the policy and visioning document of the regional MPO.  This document results from regional and statewide collaboration and consensus on a region’s transportation system and serves as the defining vision for the region.   The document also contains a financial plan or budget which guides and shapes the actions an MPO undertakes as they fulfill the region’s visions and objectives.  This 20-year transportation vision document is updated every four years by the MPO.

State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)

The State Transportation Improvement Program is a compilation of the thirteen regional Transportation Improvement Programs prepared annually by the state’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). It is essentially a listing of priority transportation projects (roadway and transit) listed by region and fiscal year. The STIP is compiled annually by MassDOT/Highway, MassDOT/Rail & Transit Division, the regional planning agencies (RPAs), the regional transit agencies (RTAs), the Office of Transportation Planning (OTP) and the Federal Aid Expenditure and Programming Office (FAPO), and, is reviewed and approved by state and federal transportation and environmental agencies.

Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)

Every year, each regional MPO must prepare and update its Transportation Improvement Program, a staged four-year program of capital improvements that reflect the needs of the regional transportation system. Under federal regulations, the TIP must be constrained to available funding, consistent with the long-range Regional Transportation Plan, and include an annual element, or listing, of projects to be advertised in the first year of the TIP. Like the STIP, the regional TIP has a roadway component and a transit component.

Regional Unified Planning Work Programs (UPWP)

Each year the MPO staff, under the direction of the MPO, prepares a work program of tasks to be completed by the MPO staff.  This work program lists the transportation studies and tasks to be performed during this one year period.  Transportation studies identified and completed through the UPWP lead to recommended actions that MPOs use to guide future transportation policy and funding decisions.  These regional MPO UPWP tasks and activities are funded with federal funds.

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