MPO Member Seminar

Logo for the Mississippi Gulf

Mississippi Gulf Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization

MPO Membership Seminar

Welcome to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Our efforts directly impact the lives of everyone living and working on the coast. Our collective goal is to move people and goods across our region in the safest and most efficient manner possible. You are now a part of the decision-making process that will make that vision a reality.

As a representative of a local city or county, transportation provider, governmental office or other stakeholder group, you have been assigned to one of two MPO committees. The Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC) reviews all program and planning information and makes recommendations to the Transportation Policy Committee (TPC). The TPC considers and acts upon those recommendations toward adopting plans and setting programmatic objectives to accomplish our region’s goals.

The purpose of this seminar is to ensure all MPO members, newly appointed and experienced, know what an MPO is, understand the federal guidance and requirements for our MPO, and to know what their role in the transportation decision-making process is.

MPO staff are always available to answer any specific questions and to walk you through MPO activities.

Introduction

The MPO concept was first introduced in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962. With that legislation and subsequent iterations thereof, urban areas with a population of 50,000 or more are federally required to have a transportation planning organization in place to ensure that federal transportation investments are meeting local system needs and objectives, 23 CFR 450.104. The planning process must be Continuing, Comprehensive and Cooperative; the 3Cs. The term Metropolitan Planning Organization did not appear in law until 1973 when the government clarified that no improvement projects will be constructed without local participation. This was also the first time that state DOT’s were instructed to earmark federal funds to designated MPOs in support of their transportation planning work.

Although the funding mechanisms have changed repeatedly over the years (Example: Federal-Aid Highway Act, ISTEA, TEA-21 and most recently SAFTEA-LU and MAP-21) the role of the MPO has remained fixed in the planning process and our responsibilities to the local community continue to expand as needs and priorities shift.

In short, every urbanized area with a population of 50,000 or more is federally required to designate an MPO to oversee the area transportation planning and investment process.

What is transportation planning?*

Transportation planning provides the information, tools, and public involvement needed for improving transportation system performance

Transportation planning is a continuous process that requires monitoring of the system’s performance and condition

What decisions are influenced by transportation planning?*

  • Policies
  • Choices among alternative strategies
  • Priorities
  • Funding allocations

Transportation planning is about more than transportation*

  • Land Use (State and local law)
  • Clean Air Act / Air Quality Standards
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Title VI / Environmental Justice

Regional transportation planning is essential*

  • Regions face shared challenges in relation to transportation mobility, safety, and security
  • Transportation initiatives can involve major financial investments with long life spans

*Refers to a quote or reference from The Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues, update 2015 

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Gulf Regional Planning Commission

Gulf Regional Planning Commission (GRPC) was established in 1964 under Mississippi statute HB 393, Mississippi Code title 17, Planning and Zoning as a general purpose planning commission.

In 1973, the agency was designated by the Governor of Mississippi to serve as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Gulfport-Biloxi and Pascagoula Urbanized Areas.

Since our original designation as the MPO, our organization has changed and grown. For example, we now serve 15 jurisdictions. The newest is the City of Diamondhead. Another example is that the Gulfport-Biloxi urbanized area reached a population of over 250,000, so it now is considered a transportation management area (TMA).  In managing a TMA, the MPO has many additional planning and reporting requirements beyond what the smaller urbanized areas are responsible for. One of those additional responsibilities is undergoing a multi-day, full federal review every 4 years to demonstrate compliance in our planning processes.

For over 30 years, GRPC was located on Pass Road in Gulfport, but outgrowing that space, the agency relocated to 1635-G Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi in 2013.

It’s important to note that GRPC is the designated MPO, meaning that we are the staff of the MPO, and we work to ensure that the planning process is conducted in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations, but you are the decision-makers. The TCC and TPC committee members vote to adopt our program of work.

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Definitions

23 CFR 450.104 defines a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) as the policy board created and designated to carry out the metropolitan transportation planning process.

The Census Bureau defines an Urbanized Area (UZA) as a place with a central core and adjacent densely settled territory that together contain at least 50,000 people, generally with a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile.  Additional information describing urbanized areas can be found in Federal Register, Vol. 55, No. 204 (October 22, 1990).  Under this general definition, there are two UZAs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast: Gulfport and Pascagoula.  They are adjacent to one another, but the Census Bureau has determined that there is an unpopulated expanse of land (primarily, the Sandhill Crane Refuge) that separates and creates two distinct areas. The 2010 Census reported a population of 50,428 in the Pascagoula planning area, qualifying it as a UZA.

Once an urbanized area reaches a population of 200,000 or more it becomes a Transportation Management Area (TMA). TMA’s involve additional planning and organizational requirements that must be adhered to by the MPO. The 2010 Census reported a population of 208,948 in the Gulfport planning area making it a TMA.

A Metropolitan Planning Area (MPA), also referred to as a smoothed planning area is defined in 23 CFR 450.104 as a geographic area that is broader than, but includes the census defined UZA.  The planning area is determined by agreement between the MPO, state and local officials, with the approval of the Secretary of Transportation.  The adjusted boundary includes the area likely to become urbanized within the next forecast period of the long-range metropolitan transportation plan.

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MS Gulf Coast MPO

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) supports two planning areas; the Gulfport TMA and the Pascagoula UZA.

Municipalities within our planning area include: Hancock County, Harrison County and Jackson County as well as the cities of Waveland, Bay St Louis, Diamondhead, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, Biloxi, D’Iberville, Ocean Springs, Gautier, Pascagoula and Moss Point. Unlike most MPO planning regions, ours is linear and poses some unique challenges and opportunities toward facilitating a cohesive transportation network connecting our communities eastward to Alabama and westward to Louisiana.

The MPO decision-making process brings together federal, state and local officials, transportation providers, and a variety of other  stakeholders to determine regional goals, discuss and resolve transportation issues, adopt programs, set planning policies and manage transportation planning documents.

Our MPO structure has three core components.

  1. Transportation Policy Committee (TPC)
  2. Technical Coordination Committee (TCC)
  3. GRPC professional staff

MPO committee meetings are scheduled quarterly on the last Thursday of the month. TCC meets February, May and August. The TPC meets in March, June and September. Our joint annual meeting occurs in December. Every meeting is open to all interested members of the public and time is allotted on each agenda for comments and guest introductions.

Current MPO Leadership includes:

Transportation Policy Committee

  • Chairman: Mayor Billy Skellie (Long Beach)
  • Co-Chair: Supervisor John McKay (Jackson County)

Technical Coordianting Committee

  • Chairman: Kris Riemann (Gulfport)
  • Co-Chair: Supervisor Brian Fulton (Jackson County)

GRPC Staff Contacts

  • David Taylor – Planning Director
  • Kenneth Yarrow – Planning Manager
  • Stephanie Plancich – Public Involvement/Title VI Coordinator

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Excerpt from the MPO Prospectus:

Transportation Policy Committee (TPC)

Membership

In accordance with federal guidelines, the TPC includes the “representation of local elected officials, officials of agencies that administer or operate major modes or systems of transportation and appropriate state officials.” (23 CFR450.306)

The voting members of the TPC shall include the elected head of government from each member jurisdiction located within the MPA, and representatives of the state department of transportation and other local and state organizations that allocate federal funds to implement transportation improvements.  Additionally, voting members may include: publicly-funded entities; common carriers which operate major modes of transportation including bus transit, rail transit, major airports, railroads and maritime ports; other transportation service providers or operators of transportation facilities, including major military installations; and, others that participate in funding transportation improvement projects and the operations of the MPO.

TPC Voting Members:

  • Presidents of the Board of Supervisors for Hancock, Harrison and Jackson Counties
  • Mayor/City Manager from the Cities of Waveland, Bay St Louis, Diamondhead, Pass Christian, Long beach, Gulfport, D’Iberville, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Gautier, Pascagoula and Moss Point
  • Gulf Regional Planning Commission Board Chairman
  • Coast Transit Authority Board Chairman
  • Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director
  • Gulfport International Airport Executive Director
  • Port Directors from the Mississippi State Port Authority, Jackson County Development Commission and the Hancock County Development Commission

TPC Non-Voting Members:

  • Mississippi Trucking Association
  • Heritage Trails Partnership
  • FTA Regional Administrator
  • FHWA Division Administrator
  • MS Coast Business Council President

Individuals serving on the TPC by virtue of their status as elected or appointed officials have a term of office for membership on the policy committee coterminous with their term of office.

Annually, in conjunction with the self-certification process, the MPO planning staff will update the committee rosters to reflect any changes that may have occurred within member entities.  If changes need to be made to the TPC member list at any other time, an entity shall submit their request for roster change in writing to the Public Involvement/Title VI Coordinator.  It can be emailed to contactus@grpc.com or delivered to 1635-G Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi M 39532.

The Designee will be afforded the same participation level as the member including attending meetings, participating in deliberations of the committee, casting votes and otherwise serving as a committee member in his or her stead.  Proxy voting is prohibited on the MPO committees.

The addition or removal of entities or jurisdictions due to urbanized area growth, expanded MPO boundaries or other circumstances relevant to the transportation planning process will be by approval by a majority vote of the TPC and will constitute a modification of the Prospectus.

Officers

The TPC will elect by majority vote a Chair and Vice-Chair at the first meeting of each fiscal year.  The Chair has the authority to call meetings of the policy committee and to preside over all regular and special meetings.  The Vice-Chair will preside in the absence of the Chair.

The Public Involvement/Title VI Coordinator will act as the Secretary for the Policy Committee meetings.  He/she will take the minutes, assist with ballot votes, type any written minutes, and ensure that members have opportunity to review the minutes before they are voted upon at the next committee meeting.

Meetings

The TPC will meet whenever the transportation planning process requires policy discussion and decision-making. Meetings will occur quarterly, with at least one scheduled in September to close out the current fiscal year and to kick off the new one.  The current meeting schedule includes the last Thursday in March, June and September and on the 2nd Thursday of December.  Meeting dates may be altered, if necessary, for the provision of more timely MPO actions and to meet federal and state guideline and timetables.

Special meetings will be held at the call of the Chair, provided that each member is notified and furnished an agenda at least five (5) days in advance of the time set.

Quorum

Quorum for the TPC shall consist of a simple majority.  With the current 22 person membership, 12 votes will represent the majority needed to approve MPO actions.

Voting

Each member of the policy committee shall be authorized to cast one (1) vote.  If an individual holds the position of more than one voting member, he/she must declare for which entity they are casting a vote for and assign a designee to participate in their place for the other voting position(s).

All final action and recommendations of the TPC shall be approved by a majority vote of the members present, so long as quorum has been met.  Each motion made by a member, upon being seconded by another member, shall be put before the present membership for discussion.  The decision on a given motion will be taken by voice vote, unless it is requested by a member that the vote be conducted by ballot of show of hands. If a member requests a vote by ballot, the following procedure will apply:

  1. Each TPC member’s vote will be cast on an individual ballot which shall include a precise description of the motion before the committee.
  2. The ballot shall be collected and tabulated by two members of the GRPC staff, not including the Executive Director or his/her designee.
  3. When the ballots have been tabulated and recorded in the minutes, the Chair will announce the results.

If there is a conflict of interest and a member of the TPC recuses him or herself from the discussion and/or voting procedure on an MPO matter, the Secretary shall record the member’s name and note the that he/she was recused from voting in the minutes.

Should a vote be required in between scheduled meetings, the following procedure applies:

  1. A letter ballot shall be sent to each voting TPC member.
  2. The ballot shall include the name of the member and the complete text of the motion under consideration.
  3. The Ballot shall include space for the member to clearly indicate whether they are For, Against or Abstaining from the vote.
  4. The ballot shall include any necessary instructions including the date the ballot must be returned to the GRPC offices, and by what delivery method(s).
  5. The ballot shall include clear notice that it must be signed in order to be recorded, and ample space for the member signature and date will be provided.
  6. In the event of a tie, the motion will fail for lack majority vote.

Minutes

Minutes shall be kept of all meetings of the TPC, showing the number of members present and absent; date, time and place of meeting; accurate recording of all final actions taken; a record of member discussion on any votes taken; other meeting agenda notes; and other information the committee asks to be included in the minutes.

Minutes will be saved in paper copy within the meeting files maintained by the MPO Planning Director and an electronic copy filed on the GRPC agency network.  A copy of the draft minutes shall be sent to each TPC member for their review prior to the next TPC meeting.  Approved minutes shall be open for public inspection at the MPO offices during regular business hours and on the GRPC website, www.grpc.com.

TPC Responsibilities

The TPC serves as the forum for the discussion and advancement of transportation plans and projects that best address the needs and transportation problems within the MPA.  The Committee has the following specific responsibilities:

Adopt region-wide goals and objectives – It is the responsibility of the Transportation Policy Committee to see that cooperation and constructive communication occur in order to assure that the necessary studies and programs are conducted to enable the development and implementation of regional transportation goals and objectives.  These must be formulated in the context of comprehensive transportation planning.

Review and consider all recommendations – Recommendations considered include programs, plans, data and other pertinent actions and materials as submitted by the TCC.  They include a variety of documents including the Prospectus, Unified Planning Work Program, Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Transportation Improvement Program, Public Participation plan, Congestion Management Plan, Civil Rights Compliance Documents, as well as other technical reports and studies.

Establish/amend planning boundaries – The TPC establishes the MPA within which the MPO must carry out the transportation planning process.  NOTE: In accordance with joint FHWA/FTA regulations, the region’s smoothed area maps were updated and adopted in 2014.  As a result, the City of Diamondhead became the 15th member jurisdiction of the MS Gulf Coast MPO.

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Excerpt from the MPO Prospectus:

Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC)

Membership

The Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC) is comprised of those individuals appointed by the TPC whose skills and training are necessary to comprehend and advise the MPO on plans and projects, or others that represent an agency or organization than can contribute to the discussion and development of the metropolitan transportation plan.

The TCC should consist of members who represent all major modes within the MPA.  The voting membership, shall consist of a representative from each jurisdiction or agency represented on the policy committee, and other representatives of agencies and organizations the TPC recognizes as having the ability to inform the planning process.

TCC Voting Members:

  • Representative from each of the 15 MPO member jurisdictions to include Hancock, Harrison and Jackson Counties as well as the cities of Waveland, Bay St Louis, Diamondhead, Pass Christian, Long beach, Gulfport, D’Iberville, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Gautier, Pascagoula and Moss Point
  • Gulf Regional Planning Commission Executive Director
  • Coast Transit Authority Executive Director
  • TCC Sub-committee Chairman: Safety, Sustainability, Freight, Transit, Bike/Walk
  • Mississippi Department of Transportation State Planning Engineer
  • Mississippi Department of Transportation District 6 Engineer
  • Gulfport International Airport Operation & Planning Director
  • Port planning directors from the Mississippi State Port Authority, Jackson County Development Commission and the Hancock County Development Commission
  • Mississippi Trucking Association Planning & Operations Director

TCC Non-Voting Members:

  • FTA Regional Representative
  • FHWA Regional Planning Engineer
  • Military Directors from Keesler AFB, NASA/Stennis Space Center, and the Naval Construction Battalion
  • Railroad Directors from CSX, Kansas City Southern, Amtrak and Southern Rapid Rail Commission

Additional members can be added at the discretion of the TPC by a majority vote.

The TCC roster will be updated as part of the annual update process conducted by the MPO staff in consultation with the policy committee.  Each TCC member may submit up to three designees to represent him/her.  One or all may attend and participate in meeting discussions, but only one person may vote on behalf of the specific entity.  To make a change to the TCC member list, an entity shall submit their request for roster change in writing to the Public Involvement/Title VI Coordinator.  It can be emailed to contactus@grpc.com or delivered to 1635-G Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi M 39532.

Designees will be afforded the same participation level as the member, including attending meetings, participating in deliberations of the committee, casting votes and otherwise serving as a committee member in his or her stead.  Proxy voting is prohibited on the MPO committees.

The addition or removal of entities or jurisdictions due to urbanized area growth, expanded MPO boundaries or other circumstances relevant to the transportation planning process will be by approval by a majority vote of the TPC and will constitute a modification of the Prospectus.

Officers

The TCC will elect by majority vote a Chair and Vice-Chair at the first meeting of each fiscal year.  The Chair has the authority to call meetings of the Technical Committee and to preside over all regular and special meetings.  The Vice-Chair will preside in the absence of the Chair.

The Public Involvement/Title VI Coordinator will act as the Secretary for the Technical Committee meetings.  He/she will take the minutes, type any hand written minutes, file minutes in paper and electronic formats, ensure that members have opportunity to review the minutes before they are voted upon at the next committee meeting.

Meetings

The TCC will meet whenever the regional transportation planning process requires technical discussion and recommendations in support of the MPO decision-making process.  Meetings will be scheduled quarterly, with at least one scheduled in August to provide guidance for the September TPC meeting.  The current meeting schedule includes the 4th Thursday in February, May and August and on the 2nd Thursday of December.  Meeting dates may be altered, if necessary, for the provision of more timely MPO actions and to meet federal and state guideline and timetables.

Special meetings will be held at the call of the Chair, provided that each member shall be notified and furnished an agenda at least five (5) days in advance of the time set.

Quorum

Quorum for the TCC shall consist of a simple majority of its voting members, excluding representatives of the five designated sub-committees.

To clarify, there are 29 voting members of the TCC. Quorum will not be impacted by the attendance or absence of a chairman representing one of the five TCC sub-committees. This reduces the total persons impacting quorum to 24. Therefore, the simple majority needed to execute committee actions is 13.

Voting

Each member of the policy committee shall be authorized to cast one (1) vote. If an individual holds the position of more than one voting member, he/she must declare for which entity they are casting a vote for and assign a designee to participate in their place for the other voting position(s).

All final action and recommendations of the TCC shall be approved by a majority vote of the members present, so long as quorum has been met.  Each motion made by a member shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting; and upon being seconded by another member; it shall be put before the present membership for discussion.  The decision on a given motion will be taken by voice vote, unless it is requested by a member that the vote be conducted by ballot of show of hands.

If there is a conflict of interest and a member of the TPC recuses him or herself from the discussion and/or voting procedure on an MPO matter, the Secretary shall record the member’s name and note the that he/she was recused from voting in the minutes.

If a member requests a vote by ballot, or if a vote is needed between scheduled meetings, then the procedures described above under the TPC heading will be followed by the TCC.

Minutes

Minutes shall be kept of all meetings of the TCC, showing the number of members present; date, time and place of meeting; accurate recording of all final actions taken; a record of member discussion on any votes taken; other meeting agenda notes; and other information the committee asks be included in the minutes.

Minutes will be saved in paper copy within the meeting files maintained by the MPO Planning Director and an electronic copy filed on the GRPC agency network.  A copy of the draft minutes shall be sent to each TPC member for their review prior to the next TPC meeting.  Approved minutes shall be open for public inspection at the MPO offices during regular business hours, and on the GRPC website, www.grpc.com.

TCC Responsibilities

Make Recommendations – The TCC has the responsibility to make recommendations to the MPO Policy Committee concerning all programs, plans, data and other material pertinent to the transportation planning process.  TCC recommendations may relate to a variety of documents including the Prospectus, Unified Planning Work Program, Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Transportation Improvement Program, Public Participation Plan, Congestion Management Plan, Civil Rights Compliance documents, as well as other technical reports and studies. A TCC majority vote is required before a recommendation can be forwarded to the Policy Committee for their consideration and motion to adopt.

Provide Technical Direction – TCC members review MPO plans and programs to provide technical guidance to agency staff and the TPC membership to assist with the decision-making process.  The TCC provides input during the amendment and update processes for MPO maintained documents including those listed above.

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What does the MPO do?

The MPO is entrusted with the responsibility to develop strategies, plans and programs for operating, managing and financing the region’s transportation system. These strategies ensure that we meet our long-term goals, including economic growth, safe access, mobility choice and connectivity. The core function of the MPO is developing and adopting transportation policies. By law, the MPO is defined as a policy board comprised of local officials. As an MPO member, you will help identify transportation needs, prioritize regional goals and select projects to best achieve our regional vision.

The MPO decision-making process is Continuous (on going with regular opportunities for stakeholder involvement) Cooperative (Involves the needs, wants and opinions of federal, state, local transportation agencies, transportation providers, other industry stakeholders and provides ample opportunity for he general public to participate in the planning process) and Comprehensive (Our panning efforts reflect our regional vision for future mobility, the process and products produced must fully comply with applicable state and federal laws and regulations.) Through the 3C planning process, the MPO establishes our vision and goals, evaluates alternatives to identified needs and involves the public in the decision-making process. Maintaining a 3C process is a requirement for our region to continue receiving federal improvement funds.

The MPO works closely with state department of transportation staff to ensure we maintain overall compliance with policies and procedures, that our programs are progressing efficiently and within fiscal constraints. Our regional plans and programs are incorporated into the larger statewide transportation program, so coordination of our work products is an essential part of the planning process.

Although our MPO supports and conducts programs and projects throughout the three coastal county region, our primary responsibility is planning within the defined urbanized areas, shown below.

 

2015 Urbanized Area Boundary Map for the MS Gulf Coast Region

2015 Urbanized Area Map

GRPC staff coordinate and ensure that the MPO is meeting its planning and reporting requirements.

FHWA notes that an MPO has 6 core functions:

  1. Establish a setting for effective decision-making
  2. Prioritize transportation improvement options
  3. Prepare and maintain a long-range Metropolitan Transportation Plan
  4. Develop a Transportation Improvement Program
  5. Identify performance measures and monitor progress toward those targets
  6. Involve the public in the decision-making process

These are the specific planning documents the MPO produces to maintain its designation and to function as intended. (View and download copies of each plan at www.grpc.com)

The Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP)

The MTP is our long-range plan. It encompasses a 25-year span and is updated every 5 years. The update process is very involved and takes about 18 months to accomplish. We work in partnership with MDOT and the other state MPO’s as all of our plans make-up the statewide long-range plan titled “MULTIPLAN.” MPO members are kept updated throughout the planning process and are asked to help identify system needs and deficiencies, select alternatives, develop projects to address future needs, approve goals and set our regional vision. Public meetings are held both at the start of the update process and again during the draft review period. The 2040 MULTIPLAN will be published in Dec. 2015.

Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)

The TIP is a prioritized list of local projects scheduled to be obligated over the next 4 years. It undergoes a full update every 2 years, but is amended and modified as needed. The MPO membership reviews and votes to adopt all amendments and updates and the public has a review period to make comments as well. The TIP is developed through an application process. (View the TIP Handbook at www.grpc.com for specific details.) Local jurisdictions submit an application for each roadway project they expect to start in the next 4 years. Projects are then evaluated through an adopted prioritization process. Project recommendations are then brought to the TCC from the MPO staff for discussion. The TCC then recommends a set of projects to the TPC for adoption.

Both the TIP and MTP are required to be fiscally-constrained. This means, we cannot plan to spend more money than we are expected to receive for roadway improvements. Each TIP project must be consistent with the objectives of the MTP.

Allocated v Obligated: Once a project has been selected to be placed on the TIP, funds have been allocated to it. A project is considered obligated once those funds begin to be spent.  Reaching obligation may take years and must comply with the LPA project development process.

Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP)

The UPWP identifies our planning priorities and details what activities the MPO will accomplish over a two year span. It is updated annually, and mainly contains to work to be conducted by the GRPC staff to ensure the MPO meets its goals and compliance requirements. It describes the planning work and resulting products to be produced, costs and funding sources.

Public Participation Plan (PPP)

The PPP defines the MPO’s process for involving transportation stakeholders and the general public in the planning process. It includes our non-discrimination program, addressing all applicable civil rights regulations. The PPP is maintained by the GRPC Public Involvement/Civil Right Coordinator. The PPP is reviewed annually and updated as needed to reflect changes in priorities, new resources, tools or other information.

The non-discrimination laws addressed include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Environmental Justice (EJ), Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) and Title VI of the Civil Right Act.

Key Transportation Planning Products, 2015 Update of Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues

Key MPO planning products

Transit Funding Program

As a TMA we are required to work closely with state and local transit service providers to implement the TIP program and we work with the local transit agency, Coast Transit Authority, to develop their projects and funding pages which are included in the TIP.

Congestion Management Plan (CMP)

The CMP is another planning document required by MPO’s who coordinate transportation planning in a transportation management area (TMA). It an additional effort to identify areas a congestion on our roadways and to develop projects that will alleviate the strain in those areas.

A well-developed CMP should help the MPO:

  • Define congestion in the region and identify congested locations
  • Determine the cause of the congestion
  • Evaluate different strategies to address the congestion
  • Propose alternative strategies that best mitigate the cause
  • Evaluate impacts and effectiveness of each strategy

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Transportation Equity

Transportation equity (TE) refers to how the MPO engages and involves the public, particularly those traditionally underserved by existing transportation systems, in the planning and decision-making process. TE also means that transportation decisions deliver equitable benefits to a variety of users and that any associated burdens are voided, mitigated or minimized so as not to disproportionately impact disadvantage populations.*

Considering equity early and often through public participation and the data collection process improves the planning process’s ability to adequately respond to the needs of the community it serves. It also can avoid project delay by identifying conflicts and barriers early in the planning process. *

The MS Gulf Coast MPO must abide by several non-discrimination rules and regulations. They include; the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Environmental Justice and Limited English Proficiency Presidential orders, Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, Federal Transit Administration Circulars, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other applicable policies.

The MPO certifies annually that we are aware of our obligations to not discriminate in the performance of our activities and services. A copy of the signed self-certification is submitted to both FHWA and MDOT. We are also required to track our involvement efforts and produce an annual compliance report submitted to MDOT and then all efforts are reviewed as a part of the FTA and FHWA TMA audit process conducted every 4 years. It is through this audit process that we maintain or lose our designation as the MPO.

Our program to involve the traditionally underserved in the planning process and our compliance documentation is included in the MS Gulf Coast MPO Public Participation Plan, available a www.grpc.com or by request to Stephanie at contactus@grpc.com or 228-864-1167.

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Why is this important to me?

As stated earlier, MPO members collectively set regional mobility goals that make up the vision for how we will travel in the future. Transportation impacts every aspect of our community life. It supports both individual success as well as our economic vitality and environmental health. By working to ensure we have a multimodal system that is safe and efficient, we will make your commute more desirable, will support existing businesses and encourage more growth and development on the coast.

You, as an MPO member, will participate in the long-range planning process, project identification and selection process and ultimately ensure that we develop a transportation system that will meet the needs of our communities 20+ years into the future.

The MPO does not own roads or operate transportation services, so we are rarely involved in the project implementation process. “Rather, the MPO serves an overall, consensus-building role in planning and programming funds for projects and operations.”*

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Role of GRPC in the process

The Gulf Regional Planning Commission (GRPC) is governed by a Board of appointed Commissioners.  The Commission meets regularly, on the 4th Wednesday of each month, unless notice otherwise is given, to consider various planning elements, and oversees the administration of the agency.  A Chair, Vice-Chair and Treasurer are elected annually.  The GRPC Executive Director serves as Secretary to the board.  GRPC provides and manages the MPO planning staff; has fiscal responsibility for administration of the transportation planning funds allocated to the MPO; and has the authority to contract for outside resources to provide additional services in fulfillment of the transportation planning process.

As part of the MPO planning process, staff evaluate our current transportation network and identify where system failures will occur in the future if no improvements are made. Then they identify and prioritize projects that can alleviate potential issues and finally those projects are scheduled for construction within our fiscal constraints.

The GRPC staff manage the planning process by preparing documents, facilitating project development discussions, overseeing the project development process, conducting outreach activities, compiling public input for consideration, fostering interagency cooperation, providing technical support as well as developing and supporting plan development efforts with consultant firms, state dot or other organizations.

As the MPO staff, GRPC employees work to ensure that the MPO is meeting its compliance and reporting requirements but we are not the decision-makers. The TCC reviews all proposed actions and makes recommendations to the policy board for adoption, rejection, etc.

GRPC staff update MPO materials with new decisions and prompt MPO review and discussion when a planning document needs to me amended or reviewed.

GRPC staff coordinate the public engagement effort ensuring that members of the community have full access and opportunity to participate in the planning process.

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Role of MDOT in the process

As stated before, the MPO works closely with the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) in developing its programs and plans.

Outside of its support of the MPOs, MDOT is responsible for”

  • Carrying out a “continuing, comprehensive, and intermodal statewide transportation planning process”
    23 CFR 450.200
  • Developing a vision and strategy for the transportation system throughout the State
  • Coordinating with and incorporates transportation plans and programs developed by MPOs
  • Performing planning for non-urbanized areas
  • Overseeing distribution of Federal planning funds and State and Federal project funds

Statewide Planning Process

Other benefits of MPO ad MDOT cooperation include:

  • Sharing of data
  • Assistance with technical analyses
  • Sound fiscal projections
  • Coordinated public involvement outreach
  • System synergy and connectivity
  • Optimal planning outcomes

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Role of FHWA in the process

FHWA’s mission is to provide proactive leadership, expertise, resources and information to continually improve the quality of our nation’s highway system and its intermodal connections. They undertake this mission in cooperation with all of our partners to enhance the country’s economic vitality, the environment and our quality of life.

Each year, FHWA makes funds available to the state DOTs by legislative formula. The states then work with local officials through the statewide and metropolitan processes to establish priorities and to determine which projects will be developed within funding limits.

Federal law states that only the states and local officials, who are responsible for project planning, design and construction, can select projects to be implemented. FHWA does not decide what which roads will be improved or who will do the work, they do, however; provide technical assistance and give approval at key stages in the project development process to ensure that it is satisfactorily meeting federal requirements such as the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).

There are 6 planning factors established in TEA-21 that the MPO committee must consider in the decision-making process. These include:

  1. Economic vitality of the region
  2. Safety and security of the transportation system
  3. Accessibility and mobility options
  4. Environmental protection, conservation, and quality of life
  5. Integration and connectivity of the system
  6. Efficient system management and operations
  7. System preservation

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What is MAP-21?

Map-21 is the abbreviation for our current transportation funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. In July 2012, President Obama signed it into law to fund the surface transportation program. Unlike previous funding strategies, MAP-21 creates a streamlined, performance-based, multimodal program to address current needs of our national transportation system. It added a requirement to enhance performance measurement in the planning process, and emphasizes several areas for direct improvement including safety, maintaining infrastructure, reducing congestion, improving freight efficiency, protecting the environment and reducing delays in project delivery.

In addition, MAP-21 refined support for the transit, bike and pedestrian programs by combining positive aspects of past programs and increasing support to alternative modes in general.

This bill expired in 2014 but has since been extended several times by congress.

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MPO Funding

Typically, roadway construction funding is primarily federal; however, other sources may also contribute to system enhancements. These may include grants, state governments, special authorities and earmarks, public and private tolls, local districts and general fund accounts and impact fees.

Federal funds are made available through the Federal Highway Trust Fund (allocated through the State DOT) and Mass Transit Account of the Trust Fund (Dispersed directly to the transit agency.) Other funding sources include; state government, local governments, transportation agencies and public-private partnerships.

The Highway Trust Fund, established in 1956, is maintained with dedicated fees such as taxes on fuel, tires and truck sales. These funds are apportioned to the state DOTS and then the States distribute allocations to the designated MPO’s.

Most MPO projects are federally funded at 80/20. Which means that federal funds will cover 80% of the capitol cost of the project, but the state or local agency must contribute the other 20%.

There are some exceptions. For example, MAP-21 placed such a high emphasis on improving roadway safety, that FHWA authorized the states and MPOs to use a limited portion of their annual apportionment to cover 100% of certain safety improvement project costs.

What is Fiscal Constraint?

Fiscal constraint refers to the projects and initiative we include in our planning program. We cannot plan to spend more than is reasonably expected to be available to our region.

For example; the MS Gulf Coast MPO typically receives authority to obligate $6.5 million in project funds each year. So in selecting, prioritizing and assigning projects to the TIP, the MPO must ensure that we stay within our obligation authority and not program beyond our fiscal limitations.

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Where you can get more information

Resource Acknowledgements

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