The transportation planning process for state and local governments, specified in the United States Code Section 134, Title 23, requires that a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) be designated in urban areas with a population exceeding 50,000 individuals.

The Huntsville MPO, formally known as the Huntsville Area Transportation Study (HATS), was established in the 1970s by the Governor of the state of Alabama. The HATS/MPO operates under a signed agreement concerning the transportation planning process for the Huntsville Urbanized Area. The agreement, updated in 1995 and signed by Madison County; the municipalities of Huntsville, Madison, Owens Cross Roads, and Triana; the State of Alabama; and the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments, indicates that the Huntsville Urbanized Area will carry out a 3-C (cooperative, comprehensive, and continuing) transportation planning process. This is imperative, so that coordination with the planned development of the Huntsville Urban Area can occur, and so that the designated jurisdictions can qualify for federal funding assistance for transportation improvements.

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