Transportation Nation

Twin Cities Planning Organization Saw 'Golden Age'

Friday, December 31, 2010

(St. Paul, Minn. -- Dan Olson, MPR) A powerful layer of Twin Cities government that many voters have never heard of has a new chair.

On Wednesday Minn. Governor-elect Mark Dayton appointed Susan Haigh to replace Peter Bell as chair of the Metropolitan Council, the regional planning board that oversees transit in the Twin Cities.

Bell is the Met Council's longest serving chair, and the Republican appointee has overseen the completion of several major transit projects. He says the Met Council experienced a "golden age" on his watch.

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Transportation Nation

Local Planners Squashed in IN; Interstate Gets Approval

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Before a room of concerned citizens, Indiana Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Samuel Sarvis explains to the Bloomington-Monroe County MPO what the state intends to do if they refuse to acknowledge Interstate 69 in their plan.

(Matt Dellinger - Transportation Nation) When last we reported from Bloomington, Indiana, members of the local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) were facing a rather difficult decision: The Indiana Department of Transportation had demanded that the MPO amend its Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to include the few relevant miles of the 1,400-mile Interstate 69 project, which local citizens had consistently and fiercely fought for years.

INDOT Deputy Director Sam Sarvis had been cagey about the importance of the TIP amendment but, as we reported, federal law is clear: An MPO has primary control over what gets built in a given urban area. (Or at least it's supposed to have primary control.) In order for a state to spend federal dollars on a project within a Metropolitan Planning Area, the project must be on the MPO’s TIP. All four elected officials sitting on the MPO policy committee—Mayor Mark Kruzan, Council Member Andy Ruff, County Council Member Julie Thomas, and County Commissioner Mark Stoops—had publicly opposed the construction of I-69, and to many highway foes around Bloomington, the modest power bestowed upon the MPO by federal law seemed like it might be the Achilles heel of the highway that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was pushing through.

The state was certainly taking the MPO's deliberations seriously. They were publicly stoic on the matter, but according to Ruff, they were privately playing hardball, threatening to withhold funds for important local projects if the MPO did not budge on I-69. “The state is bullying the MPO and even blackmailing us, in a way, to do what we as a community have decided is completely wrongheaded policy,” Ruff told Transportation Nation. The blackmail seemed to be working: Mayor Kruzan hinted in August that, given this promise of punishment, he might be forced to give in.

And he did. The vote on the matter, originally planned for September, was postponed until November 5th. That afternoon, Samuel Sarvis stood before the MPO policy committee and, in a startlingly public display of what is normally back room arm-twisting, told them what would happen if they voted against the Interstate 69 amendment.

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