Washington - A bill to repeal regulatory mandates on Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and keep decision-making authority for transportation improvements at the local level overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 417 to 3 today.
The House passed S. 496, a bill that repeals the rule entitled “Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform,” a rule that increases burdens on MPOs and states in excess of what is required in law. The legislation approved today, which now goes to the president’s desk, maintains MPO and state flexibility in planning and making transportation investments.
The bill approved today is identical to bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1346) that passed out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on March 29th and was spearheaded U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN).
“MPOs serve a unique planning role in our nation’s transportation system,” said Lipinski. “They bridge the gap between planning at the state and local levels to focus on regional priorities and deliver projects. The DOT’s rule would stifle the voice of local elected officials, make public participation difficult, and cause serious planning challenges. For example, in my Illinois district, the rule would give Indiana and Wisconsin more power on decisions that directly impact the daily commutes of Chicago area residents.”
“It was a pleasure to work in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues to advance this common-sense policy. We are making sure that decision-making stays local when it comes to vital planning projects in our communities, and I look forward to seeing this bill become law,” Lewis said.
“When we sat down to write the FAST Act, our primary focus was on giving states more ownership over their own transportation decisions,” said Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO). “We all agreed that people on the ground were in the best position to identify infrastructure needs and set priorities. Unfortunately, the previous administration’s DOT decided it wanted things run differently. The bill passed in the House today will restore Congress’ intent in the FAST Act to emphasize local planning authority, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law by the President in the coming days.”
Congress sets policy for how transportation planning should be done by states and MPOs. However, the previous administration issued a final rule imposing strict new requirements on MPOs that far exceed what is required in law and was not in response to a Congressional mandate. The Department of Transportation estimates the additional requirements under the recent rule could cost local planning organizations more than $340 million over four years, money that could otherwise be spent on advancing local transportation projects.