Photo: David Hutchison

Census Critical to Determining Transportation Funding for Sarasota, Manatee

Posted on May 03, 2020 by David Hutchinson, executive director of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization

Why, you might ask, is an accurate U.S. Census critically important to the transportation systems in our nation, state, and communities? The short answer is money, and this is spelled out in the Constitution of the United States.

One of the Constitution's first sections (Article 1, Section 2) specifies population as the basis for representation in Congress and for the allocation of federal tax funds. Today, this includes funding for transportation infrastructure, safety programs, and congestion-relief projects that greatly impact our daily quality of life.

In a typical five-year period, our region receives more than $100 million in federal funds that supplement another $900 million in state and local transportation system investments. Recent and current projects that received federal funds include additional lanes and interchange improvements on Interstate 75, the Venice Bypass, U.S. 41 safety and congestion-management projects, numerous bicycle and pedestrian facilities throughout the region, the Legacy Trail, the Regional Traffic Management System and transit services.

Although vehicular traffic is significantly reduced at the moment because of the COVID-19 emergency, this condition will not last, and we can expect transportation issues to return as a hot topic in our region. Between now and 2045, our Sarasota/Manatee regional population is expected to grow to nearly 1.1 million people. The list of needed transportation improvements will cost substantially more than anticipated revenues, so every available federal dollar will be needed.

As Florida's population continues to grow in greater proportion than that of most states in the entire nation, and as our regional population continues to rise, we should see proportionate increases in congressional districts and in federal funding — but will do so only if the census count is accurate.

If you care about traffic, safety, and other transportation issues, please do your part and participate in the census. This is an easy way for you to make a positive difference, if you haven't already done so, please respond online at Households can respond online in English or 12 other languages or by phone. Households can also respond by mail using the paper questionnaire.

The Sarasota/Manatee MPO is the regional transportation planning entity for Sarasota and Manatee counties. MPOs are established by state and federal laws and through interlocal agreements to provide a process for local governments within the region to prioritize projects and coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Federal Transit Administration. The MPO planning process is continuing, comprehensive, and cooperative.

The Sarasota/Manatee MPO is governed by a 17-member apportioned board composed of elected officials representing both counties, nine cities, and a representative of the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority. The Florida Department of Transportation District 1 secretary serves as a nonvoting adviser. Visit for more information.

To outsiders, the structure and duties of the Sarasota/Manatee MPO may, at times, seem complex, but the people of our region can contribute to progress by taking one simple step — participating as soon as possible in the 2020 Census.

Census 2020 special coverage comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and the Herald-Tribune Media Group to inform, inspire, and engage the community.

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