The City of Amarillo was first designated as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Amarillo Study Area in February 1973. The original decision-making body of the MPO was called the Amarillo Policy Committee. This committee was composed of state, county, and city officials, and charged with the task of being “. . . cooperatively responsible for the performance of the planning process including transportation systems plans developed as a part of the planning process; ensure proper coordination of transportation modes and between sub-areas; cooperatively establish transportation needs; and propose projects from all transportation modes for recommendation to those governmental units responsible for program development and project implementation.”
[State Department of Highways and Public Transportation Minute Order No. 76787, dated 20 February 1980]
The MPO Policy Committee, the current decision-making body of the MPO, includes eleven voting and seven ex-officio members.
The voting members of the Policy Committee consist of three City of Amarillo members: Mayor, Council Member, and City Manager; two Texas Department of Transportation Amarillo District members: District Engineer and Director of Transportation Planning & Development; two representatives each of Potter and Randall Counties: County Judge and County Commissioner; two citizen representatives from the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce and the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission.
Ex-officio members include representatives of the City of Canyon, Panhandle Regional Planning Commission, 13th Congressional District of Texas, 31st Texas State Senatorial District, 86th Texas State Representative District, and 87th Texas State Representative District.
Non-voting and staff members include: FHWA Texas Division, FTA Region VI, TxDOT Transportation Planning & Programming Division, TxDOT Amarillo Planning staff, and MPO staff.
Definition Of Area
The Amarillo MPO’s Metropolitan Area Boundary (MAB), which is area within the MPO’s geographic planning jurisdiction, includes that geographical area that may be urbanized within the next twenty years. This area is also known as the study area. The MPO Urban Area Boundary (UAB) is roughly concurrent with the City limits of Amarillo, and has not been significantly revised for the last several years. The City of Amarillo is the only urbanized area and the only incorporated community within the study area.
Three Federally Required Programming / Planning Documents
These three documents are developed by the MPO:
The Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) is the Long Range Transportation Plan for the City of Amarillo and surrounding Potter and Randall Counties. The Plan, which covers a twenty-year planning horizon, addresses the following: 1) an inventory of the transportation systems, 2) a forecast of travel demand on the future transportation network, 3) a strategy for alternative modes of transportation other than single occupant vehicles, and 4) an analysis of environmental factors including air quality. Federal requirements call for an update of the MTP every five years. The current 2010-35 MTP was formally approved by the MPO in October 2009. As stated above, the plan summarizes the existing transportation systems within the Amarillo Transportation Study Area and provides an implementation schedule for transportation related projects. The implementation schedule provides a description of the various improvements and estimated costs. In all the 2010-35 MTP lists over $1 billion in proposed transportation improvements for the City of Amarillo and portions of Potter and Randall Counties over the next 25 years. The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is a short-range (four year) list of proposed transportation improvement projects for the Metropolitan area. The TIP is updated every two years. The TIP must include all transportation projects with in the metropolitan planning area. Only projects that are consistent with the MTP may be included in the TIP. That is any project placed in the TIP must come from the MTP. Thus the TIP is actually a subset of the MTP. The TIP must also be financially constrained by year and include a financial plan that demonstrates which projects can be implemented using current revenue sources and which projects are to be implemented using projected revenues.
The Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) describes the annual activities that will be undertaken by the MPO, the relative allocation of resources that will pay for each activity, and to maintain consistency from year to year in addressing transportation systems issues within the MPO’s planning jurisdiction. In the Amarillo Urban Transportation Study Area the UPWP is a one-year work plan. It describes the type of work being performed by the MPO for one Fiscal Year (October 1 thru September 31), the agencies that will be responsible for the work, and the funding sources for each particular task.
What is the MPO?
Every metropolitan area with a population of more than 50,000 persons must have a designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for transportation to qualify for federal highway or transit assistance. The Amarillo Metropolitan Planning Organization is the MPO for the Amarillo Urbanized area and covers portions of Potter and Randall counties.
It is important to note that the MPO membership is made up of local officials of the city and counties within the urbanized area. Other officials include the District Engineer of the Texas Department of Transportation.
The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) relies on the MPO to ensure that highway and transit projects that use federal funds are products of a credible planning process and meet local priorities. USDOT will not approve federal funding for urban highway and transit projects unless they are on the MPO’s program. Thus, the MPO’s role is to develop and maintain the necessary transportation plans for the area to assure that federal funds support these locally developed plans. Federal Transportation Acts, such as ISTEA in 1991, TEA-21 in 1998, and SAFETEA-LU in 2005, have greatly strengthened this responsibility by placing the MPO in a primary role for the programming of transportation projects to be carried out in any given year. The MPO has also been given the responsibility to involve the public in this process through expanded citizen participation efforts.
Since the MPO is made up of those agencies responsible for carrying out transportation programs in the region, the process puts all units into partnership with one another to carry out the programs. Any agency can, however, carry out its own transportation projects with its own funds independent of the MPO.
What Does the MPO Do?
The MPO carries out three major work activities to meet specific federal requirements. These are:
·The development and maintenance of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) through a “continuing, comprehensive, and cooperative
(3C)” planning process.
The biennial development of a program for highway and transit improvements. This program is known as the Transportation Improvement Program or TIP.
The annual adoption of a comprehensive one-year planning program: the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) describes and coordinates the individual transportation planning activities of all agencies in the area.
Without these products, the Amarillo Metropolitan Planning Organization would lose its eligibility for federal transportation funds.
The Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) was adopted in October 2009. The plan is focused on the developed part of the region surrounding the city of Amarillo. The Map shows the area of the MPO that is designated as the Amarillo Urban Transportation Study Area (AUTS).
A computerized model is in development that will simulate traffic flows within the area under both existing and proposed future conditions. In this way, existing and future problems can be identified, alternate solutions proposed and tested, and specific proposals selected for inclusion in the plan. Equally important, a realistic assessment of financial resources has been made so that the resulting plan reflects the capacity of the area to carry it out. Citizen involvement is an important ingredient in this process.
While the MTP looks some twenty-five years into the future, the MPO also develops a biennial TIP that identifies those projects that will be carried out in the next four years. This process involves solicitation of projects’ requests from those agencies responsible for providing transportation services and facilities, cooperatively ranking them into their merits, and selecting those highest priority projects that will fit into the estimated available funding.
The UPWP is similar to the TIP in that an annual solicitation of ideas is requested that are then ranked and fit into an estimated budget. The difference is that instead of specific transportation projects, the program consists of planning studies that are necessary to carry out the program. While most
of the programs are carried out by the MPO’s own staff, a portion is assigned to other participating agencies in accordance with their own skills and responsibilities. The UPWP is adopted in July for each new federal fiscal year (October 1 to September 30), while the TIP is adopted in April.
Value of the MPO
The value of having the MPO involved in functions that go beyond transportation planning has long been recognized. As a regional organization, the MPO has produced current and forecasted demographic and employment data for the entire two-county area. With the assistance from City of Amarillo, the MPO is developing a GIS map. These data are useful for other public and private entities for planning and forecasting their operations. City also provides the Public Transportation Programs in the urban area.
How is the MPO Organized?
There are two aspects of the MPO organization. First, is the formal structure of the MPO as committees and second, is the arrangement between its staff and staff of the participating agencies.
The Policy Committee (PC) typically meets quarterly on the third Thursday of January, April, July, and October, unless canceled for lack of agenda. Meetings normally begin at 1:30 p.m. and are held in Conference Room 306 on the third floor of Amarillo City Hall, 509 SE Seventh Avenue, Amarillo, Texas. At these meetings current transportation issues are discussed and status reports on transportation studies and projects are given. After these discussions are completed, policy actions are taken that include adoption of the TIP and UPWP, revision to these documents or the Metropolitan Transportation Plan, and adoption of resolutions related to current transportation issues.
The PC delegates technical review of the MPO’s work to the Technical Committee, a working group composed of professional staff members of the MPO’s organizations. The committee members review and approve technical and planning reports and brief PC members as required.
Continuing technical support to the transportation-planning program is provided by the MPO Staff and ad hoc committees composed of professional staff members of the MPO’s organizations. It is at this level that the technical studies are reviewed in detail so that a relatively finished product is passed to the Policy Committee.
The MPO Staff is made up of professionals in planning and mobility. The Staff conducts studies and oversees projects as directed by PC. The Staff reports findings to the MPO Committees and participates in other community wide efforts. The combined work of the MPO Staff and the participating staff of other member organizations provides the information needed to make program and policy decisions.
During the course of its work, the Staff identifies transportation needs in the community. Normally these needs are addressed by member organizations. When no other group responds, the Staff may identify needs on its own. The staff works with other public, private, and academic organizations in the metropolitan area.
The most important partner in the process is the general public. Considerable time is devoted to ensure that the public is informed of the MPO’s programs and activities, and that transportation stakeholders and interested citizens have an opportunity to participate in them. The MPO has a significant commitment to include all citizens in the transportation planning process through its Public Participation Plan.ISSUES AND ACTIVITIES The MPO is particularly interested in issues involving long range transportation planning, development of intermodal connections, reducing reliance on automobile, and land use options to reduce trips. Current activities of the MPO include:
·Collecting and maintaining comprehensive data. The data includes demographic and employment information, travel time and delays, traffic counts and congestion, and land use information. The MPO is making an effort to initiate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to enhance the analysis.
·Working with various interest groups to deal with the full range of transportation issues.
·Working to enhance the accessibility and circulation in the City through cooperative efforts with the City of Amarillo, Texas Department of Transportation, and others.
·Carrying out the recommendations of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan.
·Maintaining working relationships with the regional planning organizations to integrate land use planning and development of the region with transportation planning and development.
Developing intermodal planning activities.
Funding Highway, Transit, and Other Projects
Construction Funds Nearly all major transportation projects in the MPO region involve some federal funding. SAFETEA-LU has placed the MPO in major partnership position with the transportation providers to determine how the federal funds should be allocated to the many competing projects. These federal funds are provided to the region under several program categories. In the highway area, funds are identified as Interstate, National Highway System (NHS), Surface Transportation Program (STP), and Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation. Transit funds are provided through various sections of transit programs for operating and capital expenses for urban and rural needs.
Despite the specification of funds to a particular program area, TxDOT, in consultation with the MPO, has considerable flexibility in making final determination of the projects to be funded and the source of funding. Though some funds are specifically restricted for one particular type of project or another, a large portion of them may be transferred from one program to another, including the transfer of funds from highway to transit projects and vice-versa. This provides the TxDOT with significant latitude in shaping the programs to meet local priorities. In addition to the federal programs, the State of Texas provides the required matching funds for federal highway projects. Many projects are funded completely by the State of Texas.
Most transportation projects on city and county roads are financed through local funds. The Capital Improvement Projects (CIPs) of the cities and counties provide this information.
The MPO uses planning funds to meet federal requirements for the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), and specific studies addressing area wide and local issues. These funds are obtained as PL (Planning) funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Section 5303 (MPO Planning) funds from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The use of these funds is identified in the annual UPWP.
How is the Project Included in the Unified Planning Work Program and Transportation Improvement Program
The UPWP lists all the studies to be undertaken during the coming fiscal year. These studies may involve any aspect of transportation including highways, transit, or the needs of the transportation disadvantaged. A study may be proposed by any participating entity of the MPO. Some studies are proposed in response to federal or state requirements while others are included in response to local needs. A selection is made of those studies to include in the coming year’s UPWP based on the MPO priorities, the need to satisfy state and federal requirements, and funding constraints. A draft UPWP is submitted to the Policy Committee for approval. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) also review the proposed UPWP. The MPO staff incorporates the comments of the state and federal agencies and presents the final document to the Policy Committee for approval.
The TIP is required to list all transportation projects using federal funds in the MPO region. This includes highway and transit projects and other necessary enhancements such as bicycle and pedestrian projects. The MPO entities propose eligible projects. The MPO staff and the Technical Committee evaluate proposed projects and rank them in accordance with a process. This aids a project in its advance through the transportation‑planning process, from conception to the construction stages.
The comments received during public meetings are made as part of the process. The ranking of the projects consistent with funding constraints and public comments are presented to the Policy Committee for final selection of projects for the TIP.
What is Expected of Me
Whether you are a member of the MPO or a private citizen you have a role to play with the MPO. The Policy Committee (PC) makes difficult decisions in a cooperative manner. However the PC ‘s responsibilities do not begin and end with making decisions. PC members are ultimately responsible to the residents of the region for the quality of transportation services and for the impact of transportation on their overall quality of life. This means the PC members share the responsibility for making sure that major transportation issues of today and tomorrow are dealt with fairly and properly. The citizens are encouraged to participate in the transportation planning process during quarterly Policy Committee meetings, development of the MTP and development of the TIP.
What Other Information is Available?
If you would like to learn more about the issues the MPO deals with and the services it provides you may wish to visit the MPO office. The MPO maintains publications on transportation and related subjects. Visitors’ may read any of the publications while at the office and may make copies at cost. However most publications cannot be removed from the office. The MPO staff is also available to make presentations or to speak to organizations or group of citizens on any subject of mutual interest.
Where are the MPO Offices Located
Our offices are located in downtown Amarillo at 808 S Buchanan St (Northwest corner of Buchanan Street and SE 9th Avenue), in Room 237 of the Simms Municipal Building.
Driving from the east or west on IH-40 take the downtown exit and proceed to the Buchanan Street ramp; when coming from the south on IH-27 take the Buchanan Street ramp also. From Buchanan Street, turn left into the Simms Building parking lot driveway entrance just north of SE 9th Avenue. Coming from the north on US 87 (Pierce Street) turn left onto SE 9th Avenue, then mid-block turn left into the parking lot driveway entrance. There is ample parking in front of the building. The MPO offices are located on the second floor of Simms Municipal Building and are ADA accessible.