CONA Guide to MPOs


Want to find out how your roads and transportation systems are planned by a little-discussed entity and—why it is important to you?

On Monday, January 11, the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations [CONA] will host Jim Bennett, the immediate past chair of the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization for a discussion of this federally-mandated regional transportation planning entity that coordinates interactions among local governments in our region, the state department of transportation, the federal highway administration and the federal transit administration—regarding the allocation of federal and local road and transportation funds—using a horizon that extends out for 20 years. Needless to say, the targets on that receding horizon are far from static and constantly subject to change and adaptation.

Mr. Bennett served on the MPO representing Venice while he was a city commissioner, until his recent resignation from the commission. Terms as chair of the MPO rotate annually and alternate between the two counties comprising our MPO. He will be joined by staff members of your MPO and representatives of the agencies with which it deals.

The Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization is comprised of elected officials from the municipalities and counties of Manatee and Sarasota, an appointed member from the airport authority, and an advisory chair for the Florida Department of Transportation District 1 secretary. Federal law dictates that any self-defined region with a population of more than 50,000 must form an MPO. In 1978, our MPO was formed because this region was projected to reach that population by 1980. Currently there are seventeen seats on the board. There also are several advisory committees that participate in the process as well. I have served on one of those since 2000, in several capacities.

The CONA program is entitled "Understanding the MPO process" and will provide insight into the complex process of this long-range planning that remains a mystery to many. CONA meetings are free and open to the public and are held at the Sarasota Garden Club at the intersection of Tamiami Trail at 1131 Boulevard of the Arts. A social at 6:30pm precedes the meeting at 7pm. See more about CONA and details about its meetings on the CONA web site,

The CONA web site discusses the MPO on its government information page. The discussion includes an assessment that “[t]ransportation networks and types are primary generators of patterns of development—a decision to build a road or a rail line, or a bus line, can have major implications for the form and type of development that will follow—and be assured, development will follow. We seem to have it backward around here, where transportation always is playing catch up to ill-planned development…” Understanding how the MPO works will enable engaged citizens to participate more fully in communicating to their elected officials about what and how development should occur in our region.

Kafi Benz is president of the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations, vice chair of the citizen advisory committee of the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization and the founder and president of Friends of Seagate.  

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