The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962 created the requirement for urban transportation planning and, in order to fulfill that requirement, the creation of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in urbanized areas with a population over 50,000 people. The Des Moines Area MPO fulfills this requirement for the Des Moines Urbanized Area.

In existence since 1983, the Des Moines Area MPO is a regional transportation entity comprised of local communities and transportation agencies in the region. The MPO provides a regional forum to ensure coordination between the public and local, state, and federal agencies in regard to planning issues and to prepare transportation plans and programs. The MPO develops both long- and short-range multimodal plans, selects and approves projects for federal funding based upon regional priorities, and develops methods to reduce traffic congestion.

One of the MPO’s primary responsibilities is the allocation of certain federal transportation funds. The MPO receives between $10 and $12 million annually to allocate to regional transportation projects, which are selected based on a competitive scoring process. The MPO is overseeing implementation of The Tomorrow Plan and is working on complete streets, water trails, and watershed issues as well.