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MPO 101


What is a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)?

An MPO is an organization created to carry out the transportation planning process within a metropolitan area. The MPO is the Policy Board, designated by the Governor, that carries out a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive (3C’s) performance-based multimodal transportation planning process, including the development of long- and short-range plans such as the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) and a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). This process is done in cooperation with the State and public transportation providers and under the guidance of a robust public participation plan (PPP). Federal legislation passed in 1962 requires that any Urbanized Area (UZA) with a population greater than 50,000 shall establish an MPO. “Urban” is defined by development density within or outside municipal limits, meaning that unincorporated areas surrounding municipalities can also be defined as part of an urbanized area. MPOs are responsible for ensuring that federal-aid transportation projects in metropolitan areas result from a continuing, comprehensive, and cooperative transportation planning process. The purpose of an MPO is to ensure that federal transportation funds are being used to meet local needs and address local priorities as identified by the Policy Board of the MPO, which is comprised of locally elected and appointed officials from member government organizations. See the Committees page to learn more about the member organizations of MVP for Transportation and their committee representatives.

What an MPO does

  • It provides local control over transportation planning throughout the Urban Area.

  • Allocates resources (staff and funding) for fair and impartial decision-making within the metropolitan planning area (MPA).

  • Evaluate the transportation needs of the MPA and provide realistic options to address the issues.

  • Develop long-term transportation planning documents such as the MTP (Metropolitan Transportation Plan) for the region that are fiscally constrained.

  • Develop the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a short-term capital spending plan for transportation projects and programs.

  • Engage the public to identify and address local transportation need and gather feedback from the public.

What an MPO does not do

  • Does not give the federal or state government authority to dictate what projects are funded.

  • Does not create or impose zoning policy. The MPO is a transportation planning organization.

  • Does not create or impose a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4), MS4 is a separate process from the MPO that is also triggered by urban designation.

  • Does not impose or make any changes to local land use planning authority.

  • Does not require residents to purchase or use electric vehicles or prevent internal combustion engines from operating on municipal roadways.

  • Does not require residents to relocate to or from the urbanized area. Whether a person moves based on amenities, location, or alternative transportation is purely based on the individual's needs and desires and is not a function of the MPO.

Why does the Mat-Su need an MPO?

In the winter of 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau released the list of newly designated Urbanized Areas (UZAs) in the Federal Register. All new UZAs will have to form a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) within one year from the date of the Federal Register notice. The Mat-Su officially has until December 29, 2023, to form a federally compliant MPO. MPOs are required in urbanized areas in order to receive federal transportation funding. After designation as an MPO, MVP for Transportation will have to review and adjust its metropolitan planning area (MPA) boundary every ten years after receipt of new census data.

Mat-Su Growth

Growth in the MSB has continued since the 2010 Census. The population of the Borough has grown from 88,995 in 2010 to 107,081 based on the 2020 census. This is a growth rate of just over 20%. By comparison, the state of Alaska’s population has grown by 3.3% during that same period. The Mat-Su Borough has experienced the largest population increase in the State of Alaska.

The Mat-Su Borough has accounted for 78% of the state’s overall growth in recent decades. The 2020 Census classified the core area of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough (MSB) as an Urbanized Area, meaning that it has reached a population of 50,000 or more people. This area, officially called the Wasilla—Knik-Fairview—North Lakes, AK Urbanized Area, comprises the cities of Wasilla and Palmer as well as the North Lakes and Knik-Fairview areas of the MSB.


  1. Redistricting | Transparency (

  2. December 2021 Alaska Economic Trends

  3. December 29, 2022, Federal Register

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