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MORPC serves as the federally-designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Columbus and environs. MPOs are established in all urban areas of the U.S. that are over 50,000 population, to perform the “3-C” (continuing, comprehensive, and cooperative) transportation planning process. The 3-C planning process, which makes the area eligible to receive federal highway and transit funding, includes two major required products – a regional transportation plan, with at least a 20-year planning horizon, and a transportation improvement program, a shorter-term schedule of active projects. MORPC has been the designated entity to carry out the 3-C process in Central Ohio since 1964, soon after the 3-C requirements were established in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962 (and in other subsequent legislation).

As the MPO, MORPC is involved in a wide range of activities related to all forms of transportation – sidewalks and airports, rail and highways, and bicycles, trucks and public transit in the Central Ohio region. MORPC’s metropolitan planning area (the MPO area) includes Delaware and Franklin Counties, and portions of Fairfield and Licking Counties. A neighboring MPO, the Licking County Area Transportation Study, is the MPO for the Newark area, and covers additional areas of Central Ohio, to the east of Columbus.

Federal Regulations concerning MPOs
Part 450—Planning Assistance and Standards of Title 23: Highways of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains the federal rules that MORPC and other MPOs must follow.

Part 450 defines a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) as the policy board of an organization created and designated to carry out the metropolitan transportation planning process. MORPC's Transportation Policy Committee fulfills this important role.

In compliance with Part 450, MORPC writes a unified planning work program (UPWP), "a statement of work identifying the planning priorities and activities to be carried out within a metropolitan planning area. At a minimum, a UPWP includes a description of the planning work and resulting products, who will perform the work, time frames for completing the work, the cost of the work, and the source(s) of funds." MORPC refers to its UPWP as the Planning Work Program (PWP).

Also in Part 450 is a formal definition of transportation improvement program, namely, a prioritized listing/program of transportation projects covering a period of four years that is developed and formally adopted by an MPO as part of the metropolitan transportation planning process, consistent with the metropolitan transportation plan, and required for projects to be eligible for funding under title 23 U.S.C. and title 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53.

For more information on metropolitan transportation planning, see this video by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration in association with the National Highway Institute and National Transit Institute.