FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
By. Neil Williamson, President
When is a regional organization not regional enough?
In the coming days, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) [and the Greene County Board of Supervisors] will be discussing a potential expansion to include Albemarle County’s Crozet, Fluvanna County’s Lake Monticello as well as the Twin Lakes and Ruckersville “urban clusters” of Greene County.
The MPO Policy Board and the respective localities must discuss if there is interest on both parties to move forward with the expansion of the MPO Area.
The MPO is a federally mandated and federally funded organization designed to facilitate regional cooperation on transportation issues of regional importance in communities of over 50,000 residents.
According to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) website [TJPDC serves as staff for the MPO]:
The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is the forum for cooperative transportation decision-making among Charlottesville, Albemarle, state and federal officials.
The MPO considers long-range regional projects and combines public input, technical data, and agency collaboration to develop forward-thinking solutions. Organized for the City of Charlottesville and the urbanized area of Albemarle County immediately surrounding the City, it is responsible for carrying out continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning and programming process*.
The MPO coordinates the transportation planning activities of the various transportation-related agencies that have both a direct and indirect impact on the Long Range Plan and Transportation Improvement Program.
The MPO is led by TJPDC Executive Director Stephen Williams who reports to a Policy Board including five voting members, two Charlottesville City Councilors, two Albemarle County Supervisors and one representative from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). If the MPO was to expand the construct of the voting members of the Policy Board must change to include the new localities as well.
The Free Enterprise Forum has documented how the current construct proved critically important during the recent approval of the US29 Western Bypass (What the MPO could learn from Kenny Rogers). Expanding the voting members significantly changes the voting pool and diminishes the import of the VDOT representative.
In addition, the geographic unity of the MPO footprint would be lost. While we recognize the entire transportation network is interlinked, it is difficult to draw a direct impact of Hillsdale Drive Extended to Lake Monticello.
Currently, if Federal funds are available for a project in an area outside the MPO, VDOT works directly with the locality to secure those funds. If the area is within an MPO footprint there must be additional consent from the MPO . This results in a loss of autonomy by the locality.
Finally, such an expansion would require the outlying counties to increase staffing. The Policy Board currently meets only every other month as does the technical committee but each of these public meetings requires staff (and elected) to review and understand the matters coming before the MPO.
The Free Enterprise Forum has attended well over a hundred hours of MPO meetings. As a seasoned observer, we believe the potential loss of locality autonomy, the increase in staff time on issues not germane to the locality, as well as the lack of geographic unity are reason enough for Greene and Fluvanna to say “No to the MPO”.
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credits: Greene County Record, Charlottesville Tomorrow