Air pollution is a public health threat in almost every urbanized area of the United States with clear ties, for example, between ozone and childhood asthma. National air quality standards are enforced at the state and local levels by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). The MPO plays a role in meeting our air quality standards by adopting transportation policies that support local pollution control efforts.
Hillsborough County is part of a larger pollution monitoring area that also includes Pinellas and Pasco Counties . While each county must work within its own National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) budget, the counties are monitored together. Thus, if one county exceeds its budget, all counties are considered in violation. In 1992, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties were named a nonattainment area, because they exceeded the NAAQS for ozone. Following the approval of its air quality maintenance plan, the County was re-designated as a maintenance area in 1996. On June 15th 2005, the Tampa Bay airshed was declared an attainment area, due to improvements in air quality and changes in national standards.
For the purpose of long range transportation planning, the MPO uses a computer model to forecast changes in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) for different transportation scenarios. The existing highway and transit network is used as a base for determining changes in air quality. Before a change is made or a project is implemented, the MPO must demonstrate that the projects will not violate VOC and NOx limits. Also, the MPO addresses air quality by implementing Congestion Management System (CMS) planning, developing bicycle and pedestrian programs, promoting mass transit and other alternatives to the single-occupancy-vehicle.
The MPO has a goal of providing a balanced transportation system that moves people without compromising their right to clean, healthy air and that protects the beautiful environment of Hillsborough County.