A key Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization official said Tuesday he believes the transportation group will survive potential elimination under a bill moving through Congress.
"The dialogue has already begun with the governor's office and ... we're in a good place, but nothing is done until we have final approval," said Srikanth Yamala, the organization's transportation planning manager.
Yamala addressed the issue before members of the MPO's Policy Committee during a quarterly meeting at the Hall County Courthouse Annex.
The MPO works largely on transportation planning, including last year's completion of the area's 2040 transportation plan, which was required to comply with federal air quality standards.
It also worked closely with Hall County and Gainesville officials on plotting projects for the July 31 transportation sales tax vote.
A federal transportation reauthorization bill, released Nov. 9, calls for requiring MPOs in areas with a population of less than 200,000 to dissolve in 4-5 years unless they gain the support of the governor in their respective state and approval by the U.S. secretary of transportation.
The bill requires those MPOs to "certify to the secretary of transportation within three years of enactment of the bill that they have the staff, resources and technical expertise to conduct the necessary modeling for air quality and other issues as required by law," according to Michael Quiello of Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's office.
Quiello commented through a March 6 email to Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown.
Brown had sent Quiello a letter from Mayor Lamar Scroggs to Isakson asking the senator to "preserve the MPO planning process for rapidly growing areas like ours."
Gainesville-Hall County's population hit nearly 180,000 in the 2010 census.
Referring to the bill's requirements, Yamala told the Policy Committee.
"I am extremely confident that our MPO will be approved."
He noted the group has existed for six years and has done "a tremendous level of planning in terms of transportation."