05/11/12 — Pikeville tapped for spot in MPO

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Pikeville tapped for spot in MPO

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 11, 2012 1:46 PM

The organization mandated by the federal government to be responsible for transportation planning for the Goldsboro area is expanding to take in Pikeville, and there has even been discussion about optional growth along the U.S. 70 corridor to the Johnston County line.

However, members of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization during their Thursday morning meeting sought to assure the public that the growth would not usurp any local authority, including zoning.

Pikeville's zoning jurisdiction and regulations will not be affected by the MPO boundary, said Jennifer Collins, senior planner for the city of Goldsboro.

"We just now have to offer transportation planning services to Pikeville," she said.

James Upchurch of the state Department of Transportation Southeast Planning Group, reminded MPO members of a "very exciting and enthusiastic" meeting two years ago during which local residents questioned the MPO's responsibilities.

"One of the things in this particular area that was shared by many of the citizens was not understanding how the MPO fits into how the county works, how the city works," he said.

Upchurch encouraged MPO members to promote the organization and its work.

MPO's have been around since the 1960s, when they were formed by Congress, said Nora McCann, area coordinator with DOT's planning branch. Its job, she said, is to look at transportation needs for the next 25-30 years.

The creation of an MPO is based on U.S. Census data. One is created when the population of an area reaches 50,000. The size of the area can change every 10 years, based on Census data.

The 1980 Census showed that the Goldsboro area had a population of more than 50,000 people, the threshold for requiring a MPO, Ms. McCann said.

"Because you are an MPO you get federal money to do long-range transportation planning. As the urbanized area grows, you take in more people," she said.

"According to the 2010 Census your urbanized area has grown to the north along the U.S. 117 corridor to include Pikeville. What needs to happen is that Pikeville has become a part of your MPO."

The Census basically looks at population density, said Jill Stark, a community planner with the Federal Highway Administration.

"That is what the MPO plans for, that population density," she said. "It might include rural areas, but it has nothing to do with zoning or anything like that. It is more of just how, on a transportation level, are we going to meet the needs of the growing population and how are we going to look that?

"That is all that we are talking about here. When the Census comes out, they are looking at growth patterns. They basically lay this down as law that this needs to be represented by an MPO. They have seen the growth area of Pikeville. We are required by law to include transportation planning for that area."

Upchurch said the idea is for the high density areas to plan together for consistency and because they have the highest potential for growth.

"Therefore, if you don't plan together, you may miss some of that growth," he said.

Ms. McCann that she, along with city and county staff, had looked at several ways to change the MPO boundary to include the Pikeville area.

"Another was why not talk about taking it all the way to the Wilson County line?" she said. "Another one was taking it all the way over to the west to the Johnston County line. These are just things we have talked about. There is no action item. It is just something that you need to think about. It will not be until August when you will need to decide how you want to grow your boundaries."

The reason to expand to the west is because of the importance of U.S. 70, she said.

MOP member and Wayne County Commissioner Sandra McCullen asked if there would be public input. There can be, Ms. Stark said.

"That is up to you, but at the end of the day this isn't requiring that Pikeville be a member. Whether or not you want to physically be at the table that is for you all to decide. But Goldsboro MPO is required to plan, transportation-wise, for that area. I only say this because sometimes members don't want a seat. It is always better if you have a seat at the table, vote and be actively involved. That is the ideal."

There is really no choice about being in the MPO area, the choice is whether Pikeville wants to be involved, said Chuck Allen, Goldsboro mayor pro-tem and chairman of the MPO Technical Advisory Committee -- the decision-making arm of the MPO.

"By default you would think that they would want a seat at the table," Allen said.

The MPO already had contacted the Pikeville Town Board, and Pikeville Commissioner Robert Hooks was at Tuesday's meeting. Allen suggested that MPO and DOT staff meet with the Pikeville Town Board to explain what the MPO is, its responsibilities and powers. Hooks said he would ask town staff to make arrangements for such a meeting.

If all goes well, Pikeville would be ready to take its place at the MPO table in November, Ms. Collins said.