Metropolitan Planning Organization  


About the WMPO

The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1962 required that transportation projects in urbanized areas of 50,000 or greater in population be based on a continuing, comprehensive, urban transportation planning process undertaken cooperatively by the states and local governments. In an effort to complete this transportation planning process in an effective manner, the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) was created in 1982. The WMPO is composed of officials from each of the Wilmington urban area counties and municipalities, as well as the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority (d/b/a WAVE Transit) and the North Carolina Board of Transportation. The current WMPO planning area boundary encompasses 408.1 square miles.

The WMPO is tasked with providing a regional, cooperative planning process that serves as the basis for the expenditure of all federal transportation funds in the area. Under Section 134 of the Federal Highway Act of 1973, the WMPO are required to prepare long range transportation plans for the planning area with a minimum of a 20-year horizon. Additionally, the WMPO prepares an annual planning work program and assists with the prioritization of projects for inclusion in the State Transportation Improvement Program (outlines NCDOT spending in seven-year cycles).

WMPO Planning Area


Transportation Advisory Committee

The body of local officials that provides policy direction and approval of all WMPO projects and proposals is the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC).  The current voting TAC membership is as follows:

  • Two members of the Wilmington City Council;
  • One member of the Carolina Beach Town Council;
  • One member of the Kure Beach Town Council;
  • One member of the Wrightsville Beach Board of Alderman;
  • One member of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners;
  • One member of the Belville Board of Commissioners;
  • One member of the Leland Town Council;
  • One member of the Navassa Town Council;
  • One member of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners;
  • One member of the Pender County Board of Commissioners;
  • One member of the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority
    (this member shall be the appointee to the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority from the New Hanover Board of Commissioners); and
  • One member of the North Carolina Board of Transportation

The following are current non-voting members of the TAC.

  • Federal Highway Administration (North Carolina Division Administrator)
  • Cape Fear Council of Governments
  • North Carolina State Ports Authority
  • New Hanover County Airport Authority
  • North Carolina Turnpike Authority
  • Other local, State, or Federal agencies impacting transportation in the planning area at the invitation of the TAC.

Technical Coordinating Committee

Each of these organizations are also represented on the Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC), a body composed of staff members which provides recommendations to the Transportation Advisory Committee.

WMPO Organization

The City of Wilmington serves as the lead planning agency for the WMPO.   Staff support to the WMPO is located in the City of Wilmington Development Services Department, Planning Division, Transportation Planning Section.

WMPO Responsibilities

The WMPO is required to complete the transportation planning process continuing, cooperative and comprehensive manner. In order to accomplish these goals, the WMPO has the responsibility to coordinate TCC and TAC activities, complete a Planning Work Program (PWP), review and approve the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program, adopt a Long Range Transportation Plan and Comprehensive Transportation Plan, approve changes to the Federal-Aid Functional Classification System and establish goals and objectives for the transportation planning process.

Coordination of TCC and TAC Activities
Per the Public Participation Policy, the TCC and TAC will hold regularly scheduled meetings and adopt a meeting schedule for each calendar year. It is anticipated that these committees will meet approximately ten times per year with all meetings being open to the public.  At the beginning of each TAC meetings, there is a public comment period.

Planning Work Program (PWP)
The Planning Work Program outlines work tasks and responsibilities for the various agencies participating in the transportation planning process. The Planning Work Program includes a budget and description of each task anticipated to be completed during the fiscal year. The Planning Work Program is adopted prior to June 30th and serves as the budget for the WMPO.

Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program
The Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP) is a short-range, seven-year multi-modal funding program that identifies transportation improvements recommended for the upcoming period. It identifies priorities, groups improvements into staging periods, includes estimated costs and revenues, and is fiscally-constrained. The MTIP provides a prioritized list used to identify projects for the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) managed by NCDOT.

Long Range Transportation Plan & Comprehensive Transportation Plan
Federal law requires the WMPO to adopt a Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) that is multi-modal, fiscally-constrained, has a minimum 20-year planning horizon, adheres to the adopted public involvement policy, and uses growth forecasts consistent with latest local land use plans. The LRTP must be updated every 5 years. The current WMPO 2005-2030 Long Range Transportation Plan was adopted in March 2005.

During the next update of the LRTP, the WMPO will also complete a Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP). In 2001, the North Carolina General Assembly amended General Statute 136-66.2 to require the completion of a CTP. The CTP will supplant the adopted WMPO Thoroughfare Plan.

Federal law stresses seven planning factors that should be considered in the development of the LRTP. 

  • Support the economic vitality of the community, especially by enabling global competitiveness, productivity and efficiency;
  • Increase the safety and security of the transportation system for motorized and non-motorized users;
  • Increase the accessibility and mobility options available to people and freight;
  • Protect and enhance the environment, promote energy conservation, improve quality of life;
  • Enhance the integration and connectivity of the transportation system, across and between modes, for people and freight;
  • Promote efficient system management and operations; and
  • Emphasize the preservation of the existing transportation system.

Federal-Aid Functional Classification System
All Federal funding is based on a roadway's functional classification which is determined in accordance with the Highway Functional Classification, Concepts, Criteria and Procedures published by the Federal Highway Administration. Functional classification is the process by which streets and highways are grouped into classes according to the type of service they provide or will provide. The functional classification hierarchy is below.

Rural areas

Urbanized areas

Small Urban areas

Principal arterials

Principal arterials

Principal arterials

Minor arterial roads

Minor arterial streets

Minor arterial streets

Collector roads

Collector streets

Collector streets

Local roads

Local streets

Local streets

Technical Review Committees
WMPO staff participate on three Technical Review Committees (TRC) throughout the urbanized area - City of Wilmington, New Hanover County and Town of Leland. In this capacity, WMPO staff review development/redevelopment proposals to evaluate: their impact on the local street network, internal circulation, relation to locally adopted transportation plans and construction projects, adequacy of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and overall design appropriateness. Comments derived from this review are formally submitted to the developer for further discussion and/or inclusion in a revised site design. WMPO staff also provide on-demand review services for other governmental agencies within the urbanized area. On average, WMPO staff review between 15 and 20 development proposals a month.

Traffic Impact Analyses
The City of Wilmington and New Hanover County currently have adopted land use regulations that require new development, redevelopment, and expansion projects, which are expected to generate more than 100 vehicle trips during peak travel hours, to provide a detailed traffic impact analysis (TIA) that illustrates the potential impacts of additional trips on roadway capacity. WMPO staff coordinate the review of these TIAs with other local agencies including the North Carolina Department of Transportation, City of Wilmington Traffic Engineering section, and planning staffs from both governmental agencies. Needed roadway improvements are commonly identified through the TIA review process. Most often, implementation of these improvements are the responsibility of the developer. The WMPO is the approving agency of TIAs within the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County. On average, five TIAs are submitted for review each month.

Transportation Planning History

Planning Area Map