WASHINGTON – The House has passed legislation that repeals a rule allowing metropolitan planning organizations to substantially widen their jurisdiction.
Approved in the twilight of the Obama administration, the rule allows for the expansion of federally designated metropolitan planning organizations to encompass the entire urbanized region and any surrounding areas that could be urbanized in the next 20 years.
The U.S. has more than 400 such organizations, or MPOs, and the rule would allow some of those to merge to create a more streamlined regional planning authority. That includes the Met Council, which covers seven counties in the Twin Cities metro and oversees planning and transit such as the Southwest LRT. Freshman Rep. Jason Lewis, a Republican, sponsored a bill rolling back the rule shortly after coming to Washington.
On the House floor last week, Lewis questioned why the federal Department of Transportation implemented the rule to begin with. Citing the Met Council, he said that the regulation “encourages them to expand without any participation or control from local citizens.” He added that the move could allow the council to add a new tax for projects that didn’t address local needs.
Lewis joined Rep. Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat, in sponsoring the measure. But the rule appears unlikely to affect the Met Council, which isn’t in a position to merge with any other MPO and would need state approval to expand its taxing authority.
“The essence of this bill is local control,” Lewis said on the floor. “The more government is removed from the people, the less responsive it becomes.”