Rondo looking east from Grotto, April 10, 1961

Rondo Looking East from Grotto, April 10, 1961. MnDot 61-1418. Photo courtesy of the Ramsey County Historical Society (photo 1980.20.175)

Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) originate from the 1950s during the construction of the Eisenhower Interstate System. At the time, the Federal Government was giving large grants to states to build their individual segments of the interstate system. Some state engineers, under pressure to minimize costs, made significant decisions about where the interstate highway would be built without any coordination with the cities, towns, or counties that would be impacted by those decisions. The state department of transportation simply imposed the construction on local communities. In many cases, the poorest neighborhoods were razed or segmented (such as Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood – see picture at right) because the price of land was cheaper there.

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, lawsuits seeking to block construction of portions of the interstate highway system began to appear. The Federal Government concluded that a better, more cooperative process was needed.

In 1962, President Kennedy signed into law the Federal Highway Act that required urban areas of more than 50,000 residents to create or designate an interjurisdictional planning organization responsible for carrying out a continuous, cooperative, and comprehensive (3-C) transportation planning process. These interjurisdictional organizations are known as MPOs. The Saint Cloud APO is the MPO serving the entire Saint Cloud metropolitan area, including the cities of Saint Cloud, Saint Joseph, Sartell, Sauk Rapids, and Waite Park, and portions of Stearns, Benton, and Sherburne Counties.

The primary responsibility of the APO (and any other MPO) is the cooperative development of a single surface transportation plan to which all jurisdictions, including the state department of transportation, can agree. In addition, the APO serves as a forum for the joint prioritization of transportation projects and distribution of federal surface transportation funds to specific projects. The APO was created in 1966.