DOT orders long overdue review on Met Council compliance

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Washington, September 25, 2018 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Congressman Jason Lewis (MN-02) issued the following statement regarding The Department of Transportation’s issuance of a federal review of the Met Council’s compliance with federal requirements in response to a request from Lewis’ office.

“It’s high time the Department of Transportation officially reviewed the Met Council’s standing given their refusal to comply with federal law. By deliberately excluding locally elected officials from their board, the Council has utterly failed in their duty to be held accountable to the taxpayers of the seven county metro area they serve. Considering the Met Council is the only MPO in the country that has the independent authority to raise taxes as well as having a budget greater than 17 of the top 20 MPOs combined, it is grossly unacceptable for them to continue acting outside of federal compliance. The Department of Transportation under the Obama Administration even recommended that the Met Council move to have elected officials on their board—yet they still disobeyed. An official review of their structural compliance is long overdue and it’s time to finally bring transparency and accountability to the Met Council board.”

Background:

MAP-21 required that federally recognized MPOs that participate in transit improvement program planning, long-range capital plans, coordination of transit services, and that carry out other state activities, all of which rely on federal funding and grants, meet certain requirements.  These requirements include a board makeup of locally elected officials, public transportation officials, and appropriate state officials.

The Metropolitan Council (Met Council) currently has a Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) that consists of local elected officials, but in August of 2015, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration ruled that the TAB lacked any voting authority and therefore the Met Council did not meet the threshold of MPO compliance.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration used a separate clause in federal law to “grandfather” the Met Council into compliance. However, despite ruling in their favor, even Obama’s DOT agreed change is preferred, stating “we would encourage the Council to move toward the structure described in 23 U.S.C. 134(d)(2) in order to make the MPO more directly accountable to its public...”

Currently, a majority of the MN House members, Senate members, and Counties in the MPO’s covered area support an adjustment to the Met Council. 120 elected officials from MN have asked Congressman Lewis, DOT, and/or MN’s two Senators to work on reform at the federal level. Congressman Lewis formally asked the Department of Transportation to review the standing of the Met Council (letter attached).

 

Congressman Lewis successfully passed an amendment in the House this spring to require the Met Council to include elected representation on their board and bring it into compliance.

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