By Linda Collins
Fairborn Daily Herald
MAD RIVER TOWNSHIP – The Mad River Township Board of Trustees have joined the Village of Enon, the City of New Carlisle, Bethel Township, and the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee (TCC) in stating their opposition to a proposed federal plan that would change the process in which area transportation planning organizations would operate.
If approved, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Coordination and Planning Area Reform would promote more effective regional planning by states and metropolitan planning organizations and would possibly lead to the Western Clark County municipalities merging with the Miami Valley Regional Planning Committee.
“This proposed reform would have a negative effect on the township. If the township was added to a larger planning organization, we would most likely be overlooked when applying for federal funding for our road projects,” Mad River Township Trustee Kathy Estep told residents during the Monday, Sept. 12 township meeting.
According to Clark County-Springfield TCC Director Scott Schmid, the federal transportation law requires urbanized areas with population concentrations in excess of 50,000 peoples to conduct an urban transportation planning process as a prerequisite for receiving federal funding for financing regional transportation improvements. The MPO Committee, which is comprised of local elected officials, regional transportation representatives, and state officials, conducts the transportation planning process in an urbanized area.
The proposed revisions to the transportation planning regulations would result in MPOs developing a single metropolitan transportation plan, a single transportation improvement program (TIP), and a jointly established set of performance targets for the entire urbanized area and any contiguous area expected to become urbanized within the next 20 years.
The rule leaves three options for Metropolitan Planning Areas (MPAs) with more than one MPO: merging two or more planning organizations; the governor and affected MPOs redrawing the boundaries to prevent overlapping; or MPOs remaining in place.
However, the third option would require a unified plan, a TIP, and a jointly established set of performance targets with procedures for joint decision-making and dispute resolution.
“Don’t fix what isn’t broken,” Schmid said during a presentation about the proposed changes at the Tuesday, Aug. 9 Enon Village Council meeting. “Logical boundaries already exist, tailored to our unique communities and economies. Federal law already allows for this coordination, and we are currently coordinating with neighboring MPOs.”
Township Trustee Kathy, who is also a Clark County-Springfield TCC board member, pointed out that Clark County currently has two urbanized areas, as defined by the 2010 U.S. Census. Springfield has its own census area, whereas Enon and Mad River Township are included in the Dayton census area.
In two response letters dated Aug. 28, 2016 and addressed to Gregory G. Nadeau, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, and Carolyn Flowers, acting administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, township trustees stated that remaining a part of the Springfield Metropolitan Planning Area “would fit the needs of our citizens geographically, economically and demographically.”
“Mad River Township would be directly affected by the proposed rule as we are classified as part of the Dayton urbanized area but outside of the Dayton metropolitan planning area,” said Estep. “At this time, we are being well served because of the high level of cooperation from the Dayton MPO, the Springfield MPO, and the Ohio Department of transportation.”
The township trustees also emphasized in the two letters that MPO planning is critical to the maintenance and continued development of the township’s transportation system. Currently, the localized government meets the needs of the township by allowing township officials’ input in the planning process. The creation of complex and large MPAs would lead to the breakdown between the planning process and local input.
The trustees continued to underscore that under the proposed rule, the local municipalities would possibly be considered part of a large Dayton and Cincinnati area. This would create a very large and complex MPA consisting of more than 2 million people and would potentially be costly and inefficient.
“Our township has a population of approximately 12,000 people. We believe we would be lost in a larger organization,” Estep said.
Mad River Township Trustee Joe Catanzaro said he strongly believed that the goal of the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration would not be achieved by the proposed reform. In fact, the larger size of a new region would make it difficult to provide good service to members.
“Bigger isn’t always better,” Catanzaro said. “Our working relations with the Springfield MPO have been in place for many years, and this planning organization has been very successful in serving the needs of the township. I see nothing positive about merging our community with Dayton and Cincinnati.”
The federal government provides approximately $2.5 to $3 million annually to the Clark County-Springfield TCC for road improvement projects. However, Catanzaro noted that the proposed reform would result in federal funding being distributed based on the number of municipalities in each newly established MPA.
“I am genuinely concern that the township would lose federal funding that is essential for our road improvements,” said Catanzaro.