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Purpose of MPO to be fleshed out

By Burk Krohe

City manager Ron Fehr and Riley County commissioners discussed efforts to clarify the purposes and boundaries of an impending metropolitan planning organization Thursday.

The city and county officials took up the topic a week after Manhattan, Junction City, Riley County, Pottawatomie County and Geary County representatives met with state and federal transportation officials about the organization. County commissioner Karen McCulloh raised the topic with Fehr, saying there seemed to be some confusion about the organization’s boundaries and purpose.

According to the most recent census, Manhattan’s population exceeds 50,000 people. That makes the city and the surrounding area a metropolitan statistical area. Federal statutes also require creation of a metropolitan planning organization, which would be tasked with developing long-term and short-term transportation projects by assessing the region’s current and future needs. All projects would utilize federal funds allocated through the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Fehr agreed that there seemed to be some confusion related to areas other than the organization’s main functions. To combat that potential confusion, McCulloh suggested drawing up a one-page document to summarize the purposes of the organization.

Fehr said the city would cooperate to provide an explanation for the next intergovernmental meeting on July 19.

County commissioners also stressed the importance of making it a truly regional effort. Fehr said regardless of the map that is ultimately drawn to define the boundaries of the metropolitan statistical area, the city will collaborate with stakeholders in the region. 

Dave Lewis, county commissioner, noted that there might be space in the Flint Hills Area Transportation Agency’s new facility to house the organization.

Also Thursday, Fehr updated commissioners on several projects in the city. He informed them that Claflin Road is open again after the completion of storm water project. Construction crews have also started pouring concrete for the new K-177 ramp.

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