Metropolitan Planning Briefing — April 2020

Metropolitan Planning Briefing

April 2020

In this Briefing we offer updates on the MPO’s response to COVID-19 impacts to transportation, MPO funding, regional efforts to better manage stormwater, and an upcoming speaker.

COVID-19 RESPONSE: MPO advocates for federal financial, regulatory relief

Like so much of the world, the transportation sector has been significantly disrupted by the novel coronavirus.

Notably, Iowa’s Road Use Tax Fund is projected to lose $35 million per month while people are quarantining, rather than traveling, buying fuel, and replenishing the Fund. The Iowa Department of Transportation anticipates that state, city, and county road projects would have to be delayed or stopped altogether in another two months unless something changes.

This is one of several issues that the Des Moines Area MPO highlighted in a recent letter to Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Joni Ernst, Representative Cindy Axne, and U.S. Transportation  Secretary Elaine Chao. The Des Moines Area MPO advocates for a range of financial support and regulatory relief. Here are just a few examples:

  • A federal funding backstop for the Road Use Tax Fund;
  • Increasing the cap on passenger facility charges to support the Des Moines International Airport’s new terminal project.
  • Designation of U.S. Highway 5/65 as an interstate.

You can read the full letter here. If you or your organization wishes to advocate for any of these issues, please feel free to reach out to us if we can answer any questions or otherwise be of assistance.

MPO FUNDING: Grants Announced

The Des Moines Area MPO this month announced $15 million in grant awards for 16 projects around Greater Des Moines.

The MPO grants support a wide variety of projects, expanding and improving the street network, as well as supporting multimodal transportation options including transit buses and shelters, electric BCycles, and trail projects. Click here for a complete list of projects.

Through these projects, the MPO seeks to advances the region’s transportation goals: to manage and optimize existing transportation infrastructure and services, enhance multimodal transportation options, improve the region’s environmental health, and further the health, safety and well-being of all residents in the region.

“We are really pleased with this cycle of grant awards,” said Joe Gatto, Des Moines City Council member and Chair of the MPO Policy Committee. “This shows you how the region is working together to build a regional transportation network with options for all residents.”

The grants are available through the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) and the Surface Transportation Block Grant Set-Aside Program (STBG – Set Aside), which are funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and administered by the Des Moines Area MPO. The grant money becomes available for these projects in October 2023.

For more information on the projects, please call or email MPO staff at 515-334-0075 or

STORMWATER: Capital Crossroads project moves into implementation

Stormwater runoff and its impacts are a serious issue facing our region. Now, there is regional response.

A series of recommendations – including design standards, release rates, and modeling requirements – has been produced after a two-year planning process led by Capital Crossroads and Polk County. Following review and approval by multiple regional entities including the Des Moines Area MPO, these recommendations now go to local jurisdictions to be incorporated into their ordinances and take effect as early as January 2021.

The Des Moines Area MPO was one of many organizations that has worked collaboratively through Capital Crossroads since 2018 to identify this practical approach to managing stormwater more effectively across the region. The recommendations were developed after extensive workshopping with staff from cities throughout the region.

The planning process and resulting recommendations were presented to the MPO Policy Committee earlier this month, and you can view the presentation here. For more information, please email Capital Crossroads Director Emily Kessinger at

STORMWATER:  You can make a difference

Individual homeowners are already being empowered to help improve our region’s stormwater management through The Rain Campaign.

The Rain Campaign is a cost-share program available to residents of most metro cities with the aim of restoring the soil quality of residential yards, which make up a large share of our communities. Yards with improved soil serve to soak up more rainwater and reduce the effects of stormwater runoff, decrease flash flooding, and improve water quality. Also, it also has the added benefit of producing lush, green yards.

The program was developed by the Polk Soil and Water Conservation District with contracted support from the Des Moines Area MPO. For more information, visit


Next up in the Tomorrow Plan Speaker Series is Greg Shill, an associate professor at the University of Iowa College of Law. Shill has extensively researched the myriad local, state and federal laws that make driving “the price of first-class citizenship,” detailing his findings in a law review article and a magazine article in The Atlantic titled “Americans Shouldn’t Have to Drive, but the Law Insists on It.”

Please note: This event has been moved to virtual platform and registration is required.

Thursday, May 14

11:45 a.m. – Historical preview
12:00 p.m. – Keynote
Held via Zoom.
Registration required.

Hope to see you there!


The Des Moines Area MPO’s funding announcement made news, in case you missed it.

Des Moines Business Record: Des Moines MPO announces $15M for area transportation projects

That’s it for this Briefing. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to reach out. Thank you.


Gunnar Olson | Communications and Strategy Manager
Des Moines Area MPO | 420 Watson Powell, Jr. Parkway, Suite 200
Des Moines, Iowa 50309 | 515-334-0075 |