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Census Urbanized Areas and MPO/TMA Designation

FAQ Topic 4: Existing MPOs

When do MPA boundaries for existing MPOs need to be updated to reflect the 2010 UZA boundaries?

The MPA boundaries of current MPOs should be updated no later than the next scheduled MTP update after October 1st, 2012, or within four (4) years of the designation of the 2010 UZA boundary, whichever occurs first. This is consistent with the guidance (Q&As) provided by FHWA/FTA in 1992 and in 2003.

What geographic area must be included within the MPA boundary? Are nearby UCs required to be included? Can the MPA extend as far as the MSA boundary?

The determination of MPA boundaries is a State and local decision that should be made cooperatively between local MPO representative, the State(s) Governor(s) and any adjacent MPOs. However, the MPA boundaries must include the entire UZA boundary identified in the 2010 decennial Census and the contiguous geographic area likely to become urbanized within 20 years. The area likely to become urbanized within 20 years should be determined by the area's existing MPO(s) and State DOT. If nearby UCs are likely to become urbanized within 20 years than they should be included. The MPA may include the entire MSA or CSA as defined by the Census Bureau. The MPA boundaries for UZAs designated as non-attainment areas for ozone and carbon monoxide pollution may be further adjusted to include the entire non-attainment area identified under the Clean Air Act (42 USC 7401 et seq.).

What should I do regarding an area that is now part of "my" UZA with whom we don't get along? What if the newly joined area doesn't want to be part of our MPO? What if the newly joined area wants to start a separate MPO?

Unless the newly joined area is part of a separate UZA as defined by the Census it cannot form a separate MPO. The new area could decide not to participate in the existing MPO, but then they would lack a direct role in how Federal transportation funds would be used in the area. The other members of the MPO, in cooperation with the State DOT and local transit operator(s), would determine which projects would be included in the MTP and the TIP in that area. The purpose of the metropolitan planning process is to support and facilitate regional cooperation in transportation system decisionmaking, so the parties need to find a way to work together as a region.

If the new UZA boundary lies entirely within an existing MPA boundary, must the existing boundary be adjusted?

No. The existing MPA boundary does not need to be adjusted if it contains the entire UZA boundary identified using the 2010 Census. However, the MPO may still need to adjust its MPA boundary to include new areas that are likely to become urbanized within 20 years.

Does an MPA boundary adjustment require redesignation of the MPO?

No. Expansion of the MPA boundary to reflect changes in the UZA boundary, or the addition of new members to the MPO policy board to provide representation for newly included areas, does not automatically require redesignation of the MPO. To the extent possible, it is encouraged that these changes be addressed without a formal redesignation. However, the Governor and MPO should review the previous MPO designation, State and local law, and MPO bylaws to determine if a formal redesignation is required (23 CFR 450.310).

Two or more MPO's MPAs now cover portions of a UZA. Must all MPA boundaries be adjusted to ensure that the UZA lies entirely within a single MPA? Will FHWA and FTA "strongly encourage" MPOs to merge in this situation?

FHWA and FTA strongly urge that one MPO cover an entire UZA, but for various reasons, that is not always the case. We will not require that existing MPOs merge unless the members of those respective MPOs agree to do so, with the concurrence of the Governor(s) and the redesignation provisions of 23 CFR 450.310 are followed.

There are at least three options available to handle this situation:

  1. By mutual agreement, each MPO represents the portion of the UZA lying within its existing MPA boundary. This option requires no boundary adjustment or MPO redesignation, so long as the interests of the UZA population residing within the adjacent MPA boundary are adequately addressed.
  2. The MPOs may adjust their MPA boundaries to ensure that the UZA is located entirely within a single MPA. This will result in a net increase in the size of one MPA and a corresponding decrease in the other MPA(s). This option may require redesignation of one or more MPOs, depending on State and local law and MPO bylaws.
  3. Adjacent MPOs may decide to consolidate into a single MPO. This option definitely will require redesignation.

A small area of a neighboring State is now included in our UZA. Does this area need to be included in our MPA? What if the area in the neighboring State only contains two residents?

Yes. All territory contained in the Census-designated UZA must be included in the MPA. The jurisdiction(s) on the other side of the State line shall be given the opportunity to be a part of the MPO Policy Board and planning process. To what extent those representatives need to be part of the process can be tailored to meet their needs and interests. Any Federal transportation funds spent in that area still need to be included in the relevant MTP and TIP. The existing MPO for the UZA will need to work with the relevant jurisdictions and the Governor of the neighboring State to develop an agreement to include that area in the MPO's planning process and MPO Policy Board, to the extent appropriate.

If you believe the Census Bureau has made an error, please contact the Census Bureau Urban Area Delineation Program staff at 301-763-3056 to discuss specific situations.

What is the process for preparing and submitting adjusted MPA boundaries?

The determination of MPA boundaries is a State and local decision that should be made cooperatively between local MPO representatives, the Governor(s) and any adjacent MPOs. All boundary adjustments must be approved by the Governor(s) and submitted to the FHWA Division Office(s). The MPA boundaries must include the entire UZA boundary identified in the 2010 decennial Census and the contiguous geographic area likely to become urbanized within 20 years.

Note: Please keep in mind that not all FHWA Division Offices have GIS capabilities; in some instances the State may be required to print hard-copy maps for the Division to review/approve. We stress that the approved (either signed or e-signed) boundaries files and maps must be retained and retrievable as part of the State's and FHWA's system file, until the next adjustment update.

The area likely to become urbanized within 20 years should be determined by the area's existing MPO(s) and State DOT. If nearby UCs are likely to become urbanized within 20 years than they should be included. The MPA may include the entire MSA or CSA as defined by the Census Bureau. The MPA boundaries for MPOs representing UZAs designated as non-attainment areas for ozone and carbon monoxide pollution may be further adjusted to include the entire non-attainment area identified under the Clean Air Act (42 USC 7401 et seq.).

After the boundaries are approved, the State DOT(s) or the FHWA Division Office(s) should provide the boundary files electronically to the FHWA Office of Planning (HEPP-30) for inclusion into the FHWA Office of Planning Executive Geographic Information System (HEPGIS) database. The preferred submission formats are ArcGIS or TransCAD GIS file formats - the GIS software packages most commonly used by State DOTs and MPOs. E-mail or File Transfer Protocol (FTP) submissions are strongly encouraged. Submitting a CD or DVD via United States Postal Service (USPS) mail is also acceptable. Please contact Supin Yoder (Supin.Yoder@dot.gov) for detailed mailing and FTP submission instructions.

If an existing MPO expands its MPA to include a new UZA, what changes need to be made to its governing board?

The MPO should take into account changes in its MPA in reviewing representation on its governing board. Current MPO bylaws would be the basis for determination of any board changes (23 CFR 450.310). The FHWA and FTA will not define, require or approve any specific changes, other than those affecting TMAs.

If there are 5 transit agencies in my area, should each transit operator have a seat on the MPO Policy Board?

23 CFR Part 450 requires the MPO for a TMA to include "officials of public agencies that administer or operate major modes of transportation," if the MPO has been designated or redesignated since TMA designation. In most cases, the actions necessary to reflect Census 2010 UZA delineations will not require a formal MPO redesignation. 23 CFR 450.310(l)(3) allows MPOs to add members to satisfy the specific membership requirements for an MPO that serves a TMA without undertaking formal re-designation, provided this does not trigger any of the significant changes noted elsewhere in the regulation.

Statutory and regulatory provisions do not require voting membership on the MPO policy board for every transit agency operating in the MPA. Typically, voting membership will be extended to the "designated recipient" of 49 USC 5307 funding, who will involve and seek to represent other operators through on-going consultation and coordination.

Will the MTP and TIP need to be modified immediately to assure that projects located in the new UZA boundary are eligible for advancement in existing MPO areas?

Following the Census 2000 UZA definitions, the MPA should have been expanded (if necessary) to include the 2000 Census-defined UZA, plus any additional area anticipated to be urbanized within the next 20 years. Therefore, it is likely that no immediate changes to the MTP or TIP will be needed. However, in cases where the UZA boundary has increased significantly beyond what was expected to become urbanized, the MPO should review and adjust the MPA boundary by the next MTP update occurring after October 1st, 2012, or within four (4) years of the Census definition of 2010 UZAs (whichever is sooner), to incorporate new UZAs outside the current MPA, as well as additional areas expected to become urbanized in the next 20 years.

New MPA boundaries must be approved by the MPO and the Governor and submitted to the FHWA and the FTA. Once the expanded MPA boundary has been submitted, projects in the expanded MPA can be added to the MTP and TIP.

We are in the middle of an update to our MTP, but don't expect to be done by October 2012. By what date must we complete modifications to our MPA boundary?

FHWA has called for the next MTP update occurring after October 1st, 2012 to reflect revised MPA boundaries based on the Census 2010 UZA delineation. We understand that some MPOs began their MTP updates before the Census 2010 population figures and boundaries were released. That work can be finished on your regular update schedule. However, the MPA should be revised to cover all of the Census 2010 UZAs (and additional areas forecasted to become urbanized within the next 20 years) as soon as possible.

What happens to an MPO if the UZA population fell below 50,000 in the 2010 Census?

There are three areas in this situation: Danville, VA; Sandusky, OH and Galveston, TX. FTA HQ and the FHWA Office of Planning are working directly with the FHWA Division Offices and FTA Regional Offices to provide the affected MPOs with guidance.

Updated: 07/03/2012
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