Metropolitan Planning Briefing — September 2021

Metropolitan Planning Briefing – September 2021

In this Briefing you’ll find the MPO’s Certification Review; news on a Wellmark Grant, access to a new Climate Action Toolbox, an update on the Transload Facility, a planning effort regarding the future of public transit, and two staff changes.

CERTIFICATION REVIEW: Commendations aplenty, no corrections

The Des Moines Area MPO had its proverbial checkup this year and received a clean bill of health from its federal partners. In brief, the MPO is functioning as it should – and commendably so.

That’s the takeaway from the Certification Review, conducted every four years by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. The review team gave the MPO seven “commendations,” three “recommendations,” and zero “corrective actions.”

The review team highlighted the MPO staff as being highly professional, skilled, and demonstrating high technical ability in developing and preparing transportation planning documents. The review team commended the MPO for properly allocating planning funds in a timely manner; innovative implementation of planning responsibilities; and sustaining focus on reaching out and partnering with important regional organizations.

NEW RESOURCE: Climate Toolbox supports applications for climate-action funding

There is an increasing amount of funding available for local projects countering climate change, and the Climate Toolbox is here to help.

Published this month, the Central Iowa Climate Toolbox contains a breadth of information, ranging from the foundations of climate planning; data on climate conditions, hazards, and vulnerabilities; greenhouse-gas inventory process information; and adaptation and mitigation strategies. Collectively, the toolbox serves as a resource for jurisdictions seeking funding for climate-action projects, and it will evolve as the practice of climate planning is refined and new funding requirements come out.

In related news, here are three funding opportunities for climate-action projects:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA and IHSEMD staff will be presenting on these funding opportunities at the upcoming meeting of the Council of Watershed Management Authorities at 2 p.m. Monday, November 8th.

Reach out to Senior Planner Allison van Pelt ( for more information about the Climate Toolbox, questions about your projects or grant opportunities, or Zoom information for the Council of WMAs meeting.

ON TRACK: Transload Facility continues build-out

Train tracks here, a warehouse there.

The major components continue coming together for the new Transload Facility, a 31-acre site at 200 SE 15th Street in Des Moines which will serve much of the state. Progress is plain to see from the side of the road now; the warehouse walls are up, the roof is on, and train tracks are being laid.

The facility is on schedule to open in early 2022, enabling the transfer of industrial goods – such as lumber, rock, salt, food products, etc. – between truck and train, or vice versa. In essence, the transload facility connects the regional interstate shipping routes to the national network of railroads. For more details on what this facility will do, take a closer look in the Annual Report.

The project was born out of planning work by the MPO, which first showed the feasibility for such a facility at that location. The MPO also raised nearly $13 million in public funds for the project, including an $11.2 million Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

WELLMARK GRANT: MPO to add five additional permanent trail counters

The paved regional trail network will soon have eight permanent trail counters, thanks to a $24,575 grant from The Wellmark Foundation.

The MPO recently funded three permanent trail counters, which have been installed on the High Trestle, the Chichaqua Valley, and the Gay Lea Wilson trails. Now, the Wellmark grant will make possible the installation of permanent trail counters on the Neil Smith, Walnut Creek, Raccoon River Valley, Great Western, and Carl Voss trails.

The MPO began the trail count program about 10 years ago. The data collected since then have shown usage trends of the major trail corridors, which inform funding decisions.

The program started with temporary, portable counters, which require staff time to set up and take down, upload data, and then transfer the data to member communities. The new counters, being permanent, will reduce staff time for both the MPO and member communities, and the daily transmitted data can be reported directly to member communities. The public will also have access to an online dashboard of the trail count data.

REGIONAL PLANNING EFFORT: Help DART plan the future of transit

Over the past several months, the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) has developed a draft vision for shared mobility using customer feedback and community input.

Now DART needs to hear from you about what changes would improve residents’ travel and what gaps remain.

View DART’s ideas and learn what changes may benefit you or your neighbors, complete a short survey, and find a full list of virtual and in-person meetings this fall by visiting

WELCOME: LaFontant joins MPO as intern

Join us in welcoming Andre LaFontant to the Des Moines Area MPO.

He is interested in the intersection of sustainable landscapes and equitable access to such environments for historically marginalized communities. Andre earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Williams College and is currently pursuing a dual master’s degree in Landscape Architecture and Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State University.

He will be working on a variety of projects with the MPO.

FAREWELL: Chakraborty moves on to new opportunity

Finally, a farewell to Sreyoshi Chakraborty. She joined the MPO as a Senior Planner in early 2019 and focused on bicycle and pedestrian planning. Among her accomplishments, she established a permanent trail counter program, updated the scoring process for Transportation Alternatives Program grant applications, and oversaw the Iowa Data Bike program.

She has accepted a position at the City of Des Moines working with the Planning and Zoning Commission.