(Important information included in an email  sent  from Muhammad Ulkarim, Transportation Study Director of Jonesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization "

 

 

Jonesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization

 

In accordance with federal law, the Governor of Arkansas designated the Jonesboro MPO.  This designation was accepted by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration on May 15, 2003.  The Agreement of April 16, 2003 established the composition of the Transportation Policy Committee.  The Transportation Policy Committee is composed of elected officials:  three members from the City of Jonesboro, one member each from the Cities of Brookland, Bono and Bay, two members from Craighead County.  The Committee also includes two members from the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.

 

The MPO staff works at the pleasure of the Transportation Policy Committee and implements the vision, goals, and objectives adopted by the this Committee.

 

Metropolitan Planning Organization:

 

A Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) provides a forum for cooperative transportation decision making for a metropolitan planning area.  MPOs are organized in urbanized areas with populations over 50,000 and are responsible for carrying out transportation planning activities.  An MPO, in cooperation with the state and key transportation providers, must develop transportation plans and programs for the metropolitan area.

 

Historic Development of MPOs:

 

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorized construction of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, planned to link 90 percent of cities with population of 50,000 and over.

 

The Highway Revenue Act of 1956 created the Highway Trust Fund and taxes on fuels, tires and heavy vehicles in order to pay for the transportation infrastructure.

 

The construction of interstates was done without the consent and consultation of local authorities.  The citizens did not know the location of new construction and many communities were negatively impacted by these highways.  Therefore, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962 mandated urban transportation planning.  The most important provision of this act was the secretary shall not approve . . . projects in any urban area of more than fifty thousand population unless he finds that such projects are based on continuing, comprehensive transportation planning process carried out cooperatively by states and local communities . . .

 

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 established Metropolitan Planning Organizations responsible for comprehensive transportation planning in urban areas.  This act increased the role of local officials in the selection of urban highway projects and broadened the scope of transportation planning.

 

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) enhanced local participation in transportation planning and required the MPOs to have a written procedure proactive involvement of citizens in the transportation planning process.  Subsequent acts, TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU, strengthened this provision.

 

Legal Authority:

 

The MPO operates under the regulations established in 23 CFR 450 Subpart C Metropolitan Transportation Planning and Programming.  The purpose of this subpart is to implement the provisions of 23 U.S.C. 134 and 49 U.S.C. 5303, as amended.

 

Section 450.306, relates to the scope of planning.  In addition to other provisions, this section focuses on safety and security of both motorized and non-motorized users of the transportation system.  A Non-motorized user is the term used for the walkers, hikers and bikers.

 

Section 450.316 deals with public participation and emphasizes providing reasonable opportunities to representatives of users of pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities, and representatives of disabled persons to participate in the transportation planning process.  In addition, this section also requires seeking out and considering the needs of those traditionally underserved by existing transportation system, such as low-income and minority households, who may face challenges getting to work and other services.

 

Section 450.322 deals with the development and contents of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).  Subsection 450.322 (b) deals with the development on an integrated multimodal transportation system to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods.  Section 450.322(b) emphasizes people and goods, not automobiles and trucks.  The emphasis on people and goods is repeated in other places of Section 450.322.  Subsection 450.322 (f)(8), and (f)(9) specifically focus on the improvements of walkways, bikeways, and transit facilities.

 

Proposed Legislation:

 

The Department of Transportation has proposed that the next authorization of the transportation bill include a 10% set aside from the Surface Transportation Program (STP) Urban Fund category for the provision of sidewalks and bikeways.

 

The Complete Streets Act of 2009 (HR 1443, and S 584) is in the Congress for consideration.  The bill is "to ensure that all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, children, older individuals, and individuals with disabilities, are able to travel safely and conveniently on and across federally funded streets and highways."

 

A sister bill, the Livable Communities Act of 2009 (HR 4690 and S 1619), is also pending in Congress.  This bill is "to establish the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, to establish the Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities, to establish a comprehensive planning grant program, to establish a sustainability challenge grant program, and for other purposes."

 

The above mentioned three acts (if approved and promulgated) would require the construction and improvement of sidewalks and bikeways in order to utilize certain federal funds on transportation projects.  However, even if passed, these acts would not make it mandatory for any person to give up his/her personal automobile or to use sidewalks and bikeways.  Rather, the objective of these bills is to give people more transportation alternatives.

 

Supporters of Sidewalks and Bikeways:

 

AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) is mindful of the needs of older Americans.  AARP's Public Policy Institute published the Planning Complete Streets for Aging America, May 2009, and AARP supports the Complete Streets Act of 2009. 

 

On the local level, the NEA Bike Coalition is supportive of constructing and improving sidewalks, bikeways, and trails.  On the national level, there is abundance of public and private groups and organizations supporting the provision of bikeways and sidewalks in every community.  The list below is not exhaustive, but it includes a multitude of groups supporting the provision of sidewalks and bikeways.

 

U.S. Department of Transportation

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. Centers for Disease Control

Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations

National Association of Development Organizations

National Association of Regional Councils

American Planning Association

American Institute of Architects

Institute of Transportation Engineers

Transportation Research Board

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

American Public Transportation Association

AARP

Easter Seals

American Highway Users Alliance

The Project for Public Spaces

National Complete Streets Coalition

Urban Land Institute

U.S. Green Building Council

National League of Cities

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

American Public Transportation Association

American Public Works Association

Children's Defense Fund

Habitat for Humanity

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

National Association of Realtors

National Housing Trust

Association of Commuter Transportation

Ecology and Environment, Inc.

EPA Energy Star

Project Earth

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Business for Social Responsibility

Sustainable Business

Green Ride

Green Meter

Flex-T

Policylink

Sierra Club

Trust for America's Health

U.S. Conference of Mayors

American Society of Landscape Architects

 

This is not an all encompassing list, but it suggests that there is broad support for the provision of alternative modes of transportation.

 

It will not be out of place to mention that construction and maintenance of roads is very expensive.  One mile of a typical two lane arterial standard road costs in excess of $4.286 million while a one mile stretch of two-lane collector road would cost $2.465 million.  It is only through the federal government participation that states and local governments are building and maintaining roads.

 

We would be happy to meet with you and your group to further discuss these matters.  If you are interested in doing so, please contact us so that we can schedule a meeting.

 

Thank you, once again, for participating in the transportation planning effort of this region.