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As Bozeman expects to hit the 50,000 population mark with the results of the 2020 census, the city is preparing to increase transportation planning efforts with Gallatin County and the city of Belgrade.

Bozeman would have to form an metropolitan planning organization focused on regional and long-term transportation planning with the county and Belgrade after the city hits the 50,000 population mark.

But complicating the planning is a proposal from the federal Office of Management and Budget to change the metropolitan statistical area designation from a population of 50,000 to 100,000, which would keep Bozeman as a micropolitan area.

Melody Mileur, a spokesperson for the city, said city officials are waiting on the census population results and monitoring potential changes to the metro population designation.

In the meantime, Mileur said the city is continuing to make preparations ahead of having to form a metropolitan planning organization. Bozeman city commissioners discussed the plans during a meeting this week.

During a presentation at the meeting, assistant city attorney Kelley Rischke said there are several different options for how to structure the MPO. It could be a stand-alone organization or administered out of an existing department or committee, Rischke said.

The MPO’s role would involve making regional transportation policy and allocating transportation funds to projects or other transportation organizations in the area.

“The idea is that by working together and pooling resources, our local governments can reduce individual costs and lead to greater outcomes than each could achieve on its own,” Rischke said.

Sean O’Callaghan, Gallatin County planning and community development director, said forming the MPO will require collaboration between different departments in addition to the three governments.

O’Callaghan said he doesn’t expect the MPO will result in any major changes to the work between the three governments.

“I think we’re already working together and collaborating and having a lot of dialogue when it comes to transportation and land use and other planning issues, so I don’t think it will be a drastic change,” he said.

The county has done some preliminary research on MPOs, O’Callaghan said, but its keeping an eye on the proposed federal change to the metropolitan population threshold.

Belgrade City Manager Ted Barkley said they are also monitoring the situation.

“In some respects we’re still in denial that we’ve grown that big but here we are,” Barkley said. “One of the big upsides is that the planning process for the greater Bozeman and Belgrade metro area will be more integrated. On the other hand it will become bigger and more complicated. But, like I said, it will be more integrated and I think can produce better results for this area of the valley as a whole.”

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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