VOL. 6 | NO. 51 | Saturday, December 14, 2013
EMPHASIS Regional Business
Srivastava Shapes Area’s Transportation Future as MPO Administrator
By Michael Waddell
Pragati Srivastava, administrator for the Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, is passionate about transportation and travel.
She joined the MPO six years ago with the goal of helping to create and shape transportation corridors for a region that includes all of Shelby County, the western four miles of Fayette County and the northern 10 miles of DeSoto County.
“There are so many facets that transportation is attached to, and it touches each and every sector of planning,” said Srivastava, who is responsible for long-range transportation planning for the Memphis MPO region, examining all modes of transportation, including highway, transit, freight, bicycle and pedestrian. “With Memphis as such a main hub for transportation, the impact of the four R’s – road, river, runway and rail – is enormous.”
Srivastava leads the federally mandated Memphis MPO, which formed in 1977. When a bill is passed by Congress, it requires urban areas with a population of 50,000 people or more to have a metropolitan planning organization.
“The main goal of the MPO is to do long-range transportation planning looking at the immediate needs of the region as well as what the needs will be 20 years into the future,” said Srivastava, who leads a staff of 10 full-time employees. “This is important because we get direct transportation dollars from the federal government to invest into short-term and long-term projects for the area.”
Federal funding for the MPO comes from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.
“Since we are a bi-state MPO, we get funds from Tennessee and Mississippi, and then matching of funds is provided by the local governments,” she said.
The MPO’s annual budget is approximately $1.5 million, and money available directly for implementation of major transportation projects is roughly $15.5 million for the Tennessee side of MPO’s territory and $2.5 million for the Mississippi side.
Major ongoing projects for the MPO include the TDOT-managed work at I-40/I-240 in East Memphis and the I-269 loop, primarily in DeSoto County.
“We have so many other local projects that will be happening soon, from the North Second Street Corridor Improvement Project to the Harahan Bridge,” she said.
Srivastava hopes to engage as many people as possible, from the general public to elected officials, to gather as much information as possible for future projects.
The MPO will start on its next long-range transportation plan soon, beginning with conducting a household survey to gauge travel patterns throughout the region.
“We did that exercise 15 years ago, but the region has changed quite a bit since then,” Srivastava said. “We need to make sure we have the latest data for transportation patterns involving all modes of travel.”
Next up on MPO’s agenda will be updating the area’s freight plan.
“We recently established a new freight advisory committee, and we will be reaching out to the freight community to find out what issues they are seeing and how we can address some of those needs through our planning process,” Srivastava said.
The MPO will also update the area’s bicycle and pedestrian plan soon.
“We completed that plan in 2011, and now, two years down the lane, we want to go back and look at the plan to see how many facilities have been implemented and whether we need to make any changes to the plan,” she said. “This plan will become the basis for any bike projects in the future.”
Srivastava formerly served as the principal transportation planner for the Memphis MPO for four years. She was responsible for managing the Transportation Improvement Program, Unified Planning Work Program and various transportation planning studies.
Before joining the Memphis MPO, she worked with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
Srivastava received a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in urban and rural planning from the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, India, and she also earned a master’s degree in community and regional planning from the University of Texas at Austin.