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News Digest - DOT 119-16

Monday, October 3, 2016

USDOT Re-Opens Comment Period on Proposed New Rule to Improve Transportation Planning in High-Population Regions.  This week, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the reopening of a public comment period for a proposed new rule that would improve coordination of multi-modal transportation planning by metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) serving urban areas throughout the nation. The original comment period closed in August after being open for 60 days.

Due to the volume of comments, USDOT officials decided to reopen the comment period until Oct. 24 to allow for additional public comment on targeted issues – such as comments that contribute to the understanding of the impact of the proposed requirements for unified planning products where multiple metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) serve the same urbanized area, potential exceptions that should be included in the final rule, and criteria for applying such exceptions.

The FHWA and FTA also seek specific and detailed comments on the expected costs of implementing the proposed rule.  Other comments will be considered to the extent practicable.  Previously submitted comments should not be resubmitted.

The proposed rule, which would affect about a third of the nation’s 409 MPOs, would promote more effective regional prioritization of multi-modal transportation investments through better coordination among local governments with planning responsibilities in the same urbanized areas, as designated by governors. Its goal is to improve the effectiveness of transportation planning for multi-modal projects addressing regional needs.

It would revise the definition of “Metropolitan Planning Area” (MPA) to align with its statutory definition, requiring the MPA to include the entire urbanized area. Where there are multiple MPOs in a single MPA, the proposed rule would also require that MPOs and their states’ governors decide whether to consolidate, adjust their boundaries or to prepare unified planning products.  This is in alignment with the findings of the USDOT report Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices 2045 released in early 2015. The Beyond Traffic report examines the long-term and emerging trends affecting our nation’s transportation system and the implications of those trends.

It describes how demographic and economic trends, as well as changes in technology, governance, and our climate, will increase the importance of our metropolitan regions in making decisions that cross State, political, socioeconomic, and often transportation planning lines. The proposed rule first appeared in the Federal Register in June, and the reopened comment period was announced in September in the Federal Register.

The public is invited to submit its comments through during this supplemental 30-day public comment period. Contact: FHWA’s Doug Hecox (202) 366-0660 or FTA’s Sarah Clements (202) 366-3062.