The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Knoxville Urban Area, which is the 2000 U.S. Census defined urbanized areas of Knox, Blount, Loudon, and Sevier County. An MPO is a planning agency established by federal law to assure a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive transportation planning process takes place that results in the development of plans, programs, and projects that consider all transportation modes and supports the goals of the community. Any urbanized area or contiguous urbanized areas, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, containing a population of greater than 50,000 are required to have an MPO.
The Knoxville Urban Area MPO, now known as TPO, was established in 1977. The urbanized area initially included all of the City of Knoxville and a surrounding portion of Knox County. The 1980 Census substantially enlarged the boundaries of the urbanized area and in 1982, the TPO expanded to include more of Knox County, the Town of Farragut, the Cities of Alcoa and Maryville, and surrounding areas of Blount County. In 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated Knox County in non-attainment of the 1-hour ground level ozone standard. Due to this designation, all of Knox County was included in the TPO even though it was not included in the urbanized area. In 2000, the urbanized area again increased to include additional areas of Knox and Blount Counties as well as Lenoir City and surrounding areas of Loudon County and a portion of Sevier County in the Seymour area.
The planning boundaries of the TPO consist of all of Knox County and the urbanized portions of Blount, Loudon, and Sevier Counties, which includes the cities of Alcoa, Maryville, and Lenoir City and the unincorporated area of Seymour. This area is known as the TPO Planning Area or the TPO Area.
On April 15, 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the counties of Anderson, Blount, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Sevier and a portion of Cocke within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in non-attainment of the 8-hour standard for ground level ozone. On December 17, 2004, EPA designated Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon and a portion of Roane County in non-attainment of the fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) standard. As a result of the designations, the TPO developed a study area called the Knoxville Region for the purpose of conducting regional transportation planning and performing regional air quality conformity determinations. The Knoxville Region includes Anderson, Blount, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Sevier and a portion of Cocke Counties.
The TPO Area, located in East Tennessee, is within 600 miles of one third of the nation’s population and is located at the junction of three major interstates, I-40, I-75, and I-81. The area consists of a nationally recognized public transportation system in Knoxville Area Transit (KAT). Two Class I railroads, Norfolk Southern (NS) and CSX provide rail connections to the national rail network. Commercial navigation of the Tennessee River begins just east of Knoxville and continues to the Ohio River near Paducah, KY. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway shortens the trip between Knoxville and the Gulf of Mexico by traversing across Mississippi and Alabama. McGhee Tyson Airport handles the majority of the air cargo, commercial passenger, and general aviation air service for the area. There are also many miles of greenways/multi-use paths for bicycles and pedestrians. The centralized location along the interstate system of I-40, I-75, and I-81 coupled with the existence of these major transportation elements place the area at a crossroads for the movement of people, goods, and services across the country.
The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization's planning process functions through an active committee structure. The TPO is composed of a 13 member Executive Board and a 22 member Technical Committee. The Executive Board is comprised of principal elected officials from the Town of Farragut, City of Alcoa, City of Maryville, Blount County, Loudon County, Lenoir City, Sevier County, the State of Tennessee, East Tennessee Development District, and two elected officials from both Knox County and the City of Knoxville.
The Technical Committee is comprised of planners and engineers from TPO member jurisdictions plus representatives from Anderson County, Cocke County, Lakeway Area Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization (LAMTPO), Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), Knoxville Area Transit (KAT), Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority (MKAA), Knoxville Commuter Pool, Knox County Transit (formally Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC)), East Tennessee Human Resource Agency (ETHRA), East Tennessee Development District (ETDD), and the Knoxville- Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC). Non-voting members include representatives from the Tennessee Division of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Region 4 of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
Several special interest groups, including the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) and Title VI Working Group were created to provide feedback to the TPO on transportation related issues.
The TPO Director is designated by the Executive Director of the Knoxville/Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC). The TPO is housed within MPC and is staffed by MPC transportation planners.