The St. Joseph Area Transportation Study Organization (SJATSO) is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for the region. A Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is a regional decision making body composed of a variety of stakeholders from a metropolitan area and is charged with creating a Metropolitan Transportation Plan along with related policy and programming documents. A MPO is essentially an organization of representatives from the surrounding local governements that collectively discuss transportation issues and opportunities for the entire metro area. MPOs are required by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962 in all urbanized areas with a population greater than 50,000. The MPO acts as a steward of federal transportation funds while ensuring regional transportation planning is continuing, cooperative and comprehensive.
A MPO is comprised of:
- A Policy Board composed of mostly elected officials (sometimes referred to as a Coordinating Committee)
- A Technical Committee composed of transportation planning and engineering professionals
- MPO Staff
- Various other advisory committees that the MPO may form to advise on specific subjects or projects
The MPO identifies issues through the planning process at various times that require a great level of study to fully understand the options and decisions necessary for later implementation. The studies focus on speaking with stakeholders, the general public, environmental groups, government officials, and locally elected officials to obtain feedback concerning the goals and objectives of the community and how different project possibilities can both solve the identified issue and be compatible with the community itself. Access studies take a broad view at identifying and examining multiple corridors and the transportation options within each. This more comprehensive look at the region’s transportation context allows for the development of several corridor studies in one. Corridor studies often examine matters related to the best way to reach a point, identify the possible modes to do so (rail, highway, mass transit, bicycle, pedestrian, etc) and then factor in the technical challenges, land uses, economics, and overall costs & benefits of the project. Finally, a corridor study will then identify the recommended physical route to fulfill the project’s goals.