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Rapidly Urbanizing/Kootenai County MPO - Coeur D'alene, Idaho

Kootenai County is located in the center of the Idaho Panhandle and was once a very rural part of the state. However, the population of Kootenai County increased 55 percent from 1990 to 2000. The county population center is the city of Coeur d'Alene. After Census 2000 the county was declared an urbanized area with a population of 108,865. Status as an urbanized area did not come as a surprise. Local planners and policy leaders had expected the transition from rural to urban status and initiated a strategy for regional coordination and cooperation with neighboring Spokane, Washington. The extent of that cooperation is significant and serves as an example of a novel and lower cost approach to implementing the metropolitan transportation planning process in a formerly rural area.

Coeur d'Alene and Kootenai County are along I-90 across the eastern border of Washington State near Spokane, Washington (25 miles to the west). Immigration from other states is driving the growth in population in Kootenai County. According to 2000 Census data, more than 20 percent of county residents lived in a different state five years earlier, and 27 percent lived in a different county in Idaho. Many of the newer residents are older adults. The median age of Kootenai County residents increased from 30 in 1980 to 35 in 1990 and 36 in 2000.

The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (KMPO) was created when the county was declared urbanized after Census 2000. The new MPO benefited from the experience and staff expertise of a neighboring MPO in the region, the Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC), the MPO for the Spokane, Washington urbanized area. The KMPO provides a good example how early strategic planning, regional cooperation, and targeted technical studies can lead to a successful transition from rural to urban status.


Planners from highway districts, the Idaho Transportation Department, and local agencies anticipated the growth for the county and began the regional planning process with nearby Spokane well before 2000. Agencies that were to become part of KMPO started to prepare plans in 1997, well before the county was declared urbanized.


The KMPO Board consists of representatives from the Cities of Coeur d'Alene, Hayden, Post Falls, Rathdrum, the East Side Highway District, the Idaho Transportation Department, Kootenai County, Lakes Highway District, Post Falls Highway District, the Worley Highway District, and the Coeur d' Alene Tribe.

KMPO has a technical transportation committee, Kootenai County Area Transportation Team (KCATT), which meets monthly to discuss and advise the KMPO Board on technical transportation issues. The KCATT assists in the development of an annual work program, prepares recommendations for projects for inclusion in the transportation improvement program and the long range transportation plan. The KCATT also assists with maintenance and periodic updates and calibration of the regional travel demand model (Vissum).

The key to the transition from rural to urban status for Kootenai County is the venture between KMPO and SRTC in neighboring Spokane. The KMPO Board contracts with SRTC to provide staff for the new MPO. SRTC operates at the pleasure of the KMPO Board. The KMPO Board provides the policy direction for the KMPO and ensures independence and autonomy for Kootenai County.


The KMPO Board contracts with SRTC for day-to-day operational and administrative needs. This arrangement provides many benefits, including an efficient use of resources by leveraging existing expertise rather than duplicating resources. This arrangement also takes advantage of the experience and regional perspective of the staff of the Spokane MPO. The SRTC planning director coordinates across state lines with state departments of transportation, counties and cities. The director also sits on a regional coordinating council for the Idaho Transportation Department although his primary agency resides in Spokane, Washington.


After designation of KMPO, two technical transit planning studies were initiated: the "Existing Conditions & Needs Assessment Report for Public Transportation In the Kootenai Metropolitan Area" was completed in 2004; and, the follow-up report "Public Transportation Feasibility Study" was completed in 2005. Both studies were commissioned by KMPO and conducted by a private consultant as one of the first steps to metropolitan multimodal planning.

The Kootenai MPO Public Transportation Feasibility Study provides a baseline evaluation of public transportation needs in the Kootenai metropolitan area and recommends fiscally guided alternatives for meeting these needs. The studies allowed KMPO to meet planning requirement for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Section 5307 urbanized formula funds and avoid potential interruption in transit funding when eligibility for FTA Section 5311 non-urban area (rural) funds lapsed.

Another technical planning effort initiated early on was the assessment of current and future transportation needs. The SRTC and KMPO conducted a regional travel survey in 2005. The joint survey provides an opportunity to cost effectively collect information important to the region. The information collected was used to accurately represent typical travel choices in regional travel demand models, which will then be used to evaluate transportation investment choices.

Table: Kootenai County MPO Summary

Planning Area

Notable Practice


  • Metropolitan transportation planning began before Census 2000 designation as an urbanized area.


  • The new MPO policy board contracts with the agency serving as staff for another MPO to provide cost-effective administration and operations support. The policy boards and technical committees ensure MPO independence and autonomy.


  • The regional MPO director serves in that capacity for two MPOs and provides planning expertise and ensures regional coordination and cooperation.


  • Two MPOs are jointly sponsoring a regional travel study.


Glenn Miles, Director, KMPO and SRTC, 509-343-6730, or 1-800-698-1927,
Ed Hayes, Senior Transportation Planner, SRTC, 509-343-6730,
Scott Stokes, District Engineer, Idaho Transportation Department, District 1, 208-772-1200,


Kootenai MPO:
Spokane Regional Transportation Council
Idaho Transportation Department
Idaho Association of Highway Districts, Inc.

Updated: 10/20/2015
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