SEWRPC began its transportation planning program in 1963 with financial aid from the former U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) under the 1962 Federal Aid Highway Act. The BPR recognized the need to conduct continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive planning in the nation’s metropolitan areas that focused on transportation needs and facilities. That early SEWRPC planning was uniquely multimodal in nature, addressing both highways and transit at a time when transit was still provided in the private sector of the economy. That original plan may be found in SEWRPC Planning Report No. 7, Land Use - Transportation Study, Volume 1 - Inventory Findings, Volume 2 - Forecasts and Alternative Plans, Volume 3 - Recommended Regional Land Use and Transportation Plans.
The Federal metropolitan transportation planning concept was continued when the U.S. Department of Transportation was created in 1967, and subsequently became embedded as a requirement of Federal law for all of the nation’s urbanized areas. SEWRPC received a gubernatorial designation as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for transportation planning for the Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Racine urbanized areas in January 1974. Later Federal legislation extended the MPO planning requirements to the boundaries of air quality nonattainment areas. Today, the SEWRPC MPO geography extends over six of the seven counties in the SEWRPC region as shown here, and includes not only the Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Racine urbanized areas, but the Wisconsin portion of the Round Lake Beach-McHenry-Grayslake urbanized area that is primarily located in Illinois. While Walworth County technically is not subject to the MPO planning requirements, SEWRPC as a practical manner includes Walworth County in all transportation planning activities.
Under the Federal MPO planning concept, agencies like SEWRPC are subjected to a relatively prescriptive planning process and significant Federal oversight. SEWRPC must prepare and maintain current a metropolitan transportation plan with a minimum 20 year planning horizon, and a regional transportation improvement program with a four year planning horizon. As the MPO, SEWRPC also has the responsibility to work cooperatively within the Milwaukee urbanized areas to select projects for Federal funding, both for highways and transit, from monies that are directly allocated to that urbanized area. More information relative to the way in which SEWRPC carries out the MPO function may be found here. Quadrennially, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) conduct a Federally required review of the metropolitan transportation planning process carried out by the SEWRPC. The objective of this review is to determine whether the metropolitan transportation process meets the Federal transportation planning requirements outlined in 23 CFR 450.300 and to assure that an adequate process exists to ensure conformity of plans and programs in accordance with the procedures contained in 50 CFR Part 51. Details of the most recent certification review can be found here.