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Augusta, Staunton, Waynesboro now a 'Metro Area' - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Growth in the Valley Turns Augusta, Staunton, Waynesboro into 'Metro Area'

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Steady growth has taken Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro to a new level.  The region is now considered a "metro area", and that could have a big impact on transportation planning and new business.

As of the 2010 census, the urbanized areas of Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro have more than 50,000 people.  So federal law requires the three localities to form a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), and they'll get more state and federal money to do their job.

Most of the thousands of drivers commuting on Route 250 probably don't know - or care - where the lines are drawn between Augusta County and its two neighboring cities.  The MPO won't focus on those designations either.

"Roads don't stop at the jurisdictional boundary," said Bonnie Riedesel with the Shenandoah Planning District.  "Sidewalks don't stop at the city limits.  So they'll be looking at roads and other modes of transportation on a regional basis."

The MPO will study and make recommendations about any major project including roads, rail, public transit, biking and walking.  The policy board will have representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation and each locality, not to mention up to $250,000 in state and federal funding.

"They have the resources and the expertise to be able to do that higher-level planning that they weren't able to do as a single jurisdiction," Riedesel said. 

The Augusta region's status as a metro area could help it level the playing field, when competing for new jobs.

"It's really how they make a lot of their decisions on locations, particularly for franchised restaurants, retail establishments and chains," said Dennis Burnett with Augusta County Economic Development.  "We would be evaluated much like a Richmond or a Charlottesville or a Harrisonburg, when a retailer or franchise would be exploring options."

Boundary lines for the MPO are still being tweaked, but it will include only the urbanized areas - that is, the two cities plus Fishersville, Stuarts Draft and Verona.

Augusta County and Waynesboro have already approved the metro area memorandum of understanding.  Staunton City Council is expected to do the same, later this week.

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