The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) jointly finalized a new rule this week that would improve coordination of multi-modal transportation planning by metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) serving the nation’s urban areas. The rule, which will affect about a third of the nation’s 409 MPOs, promotes more effective regional prioritization of multi-modal investments through better coordination among local governments with planning responsibilities in the same urbanized areas, as designated by governors. It will improve the effectiveness of transportation planning for multi-modal projects addressing regional needs. The rule revises the definition of “Metropolitan Planning Area” (MPA) to align with its statutory definition, and requires the MPA to include the entire urbanized area. Where there are multiple MPOs in a single MPA, the rule would also require that those MPOs and their states’ governors decide whether to consolidate, adjust their boundaries, prepare unified planning products, or request an exemption. The changes will improve the planning processes that are more efficient and more comprehensible to stakeholders and the public, and more focused on projects that address critical regional needs. This rule is one aspect of Secretary Foxx’s interest in building the capacity of Metropolitan Planning Organizations to fulfill a strong role as America’s population continues to grow and metropolitan regions continue play an ever more important role in our future. The Department’s recent report, Beyond Traffic, identified many trends that will affect transportation planning at a regional scale, including an aging society, and the need to provide access to opportunities for more Americans – all in the context of limited funding. DOT received more than 600 comments on the NPRM, and made changes to the rule to address feedback from stakeholders and the public. For example, the final rule includes an exception that allows multiple MPOs in an MPA to continue to generate separate planning products under certain circumstances. The final rule also extends the compliance deadline, so that States and MPOs have more time to lay the groundwork for the changes necessary to comply with the rule.