Wednesday, April 15, 2009

MPO April 15, 2009

This morning the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Hampton Roads' Federally-mandated Transportation planning group, held it's April meeting.

The meeting begins with a Public Comment period. I rose to speak on mass transit items under Agenda Item 8, having no idea that I was being followed to the microphone by Phil Shucet, Delegate John Cosgrove, and Delegate Glenn Oder. The latter three addressed issues surrounding the MPO's reorganization.

Speaking of which, the MPO gave initial approval to a series of amendments to it's By-Laws. It was debated whether to pass them today or not. Given that the draft hadn't appeared in the MPO meeting packet, only initial approval was given, allowing the public to comment at the May 20 meeting prior to final approval.

The issues covered today? First, to change the name from the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), better indicating to the public what it actually does. Second, to include 4 General Assembly members as members: one Delegate from the Peninsula, one Delegate from the Southside, one Senator from the Peninsula, and one Senator from the Southside. Third, to invite the military to send Liaisons, recognizing legal barriers to having even non-voting military members. Fourth, meetings temporarily will be moved from 9:30 A.M. to 10:30 A.M., flip-flopping with the HRPDC. Staff will then examine the possibility of a new permanent time and location.

There was a move made to reopen the region's 2030 Transportation Plan, in light of the fiscal impact of the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority's (HRTA) taxes and fees having been struck down. In the end, Staff will examine the pros and cons of such a move, especially with work soon to begin on the 2034 Plan.

The MPO moved to standardize traffic light preemption devices for emergency vehicles throughout the region.

I mentioned transit earlier. Two big moves:

1. The final approval for the last installment of money to cover the studies of the light rail extension package of Newtown Road - Dome site and EVMS - Navy base.

2. Under Agenda Item 8, a list of items for funding via Federal Section 5307 funds for Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) was given initial approval.

My kudos to the MPO's much-maligned Staff. When I looked for a copy of the draft By-Laws and they were all gone, a Staffer gave me her copy. In return, I offered to help Staff with the possible rescheduling of MPO meetings. One of the criteria is that they be transit-accessible, and I can do that off the top of my head.

Finally, thanks for further improving the refreshments. In addition to coffee and tea, there were pitchers of ice water. The amusing part was that Slim Jims were among the snacks. Slim Jims?

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