Federal regulations require MPOs to be designated in urbanized areas with a population of at least 50,000 people and to carry out a Continuing, Cooperative, and Comprehensive (3-C) performance-based, multimodal, metropolitan transportation planning process. 

As such, the MPO’s planning partners include, but are not limited to, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), ARDOT, Garland County, City of Hot Springs (including Hot Springs Intracity Transit – HSIT), Hot Springs Village, Town of Fountain Lake, City of Mountain Pine, Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, Hot Spring County, and the general public.

The Tri-Lakes Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is a federally mandated agency responsible for coordinating transportation projects. In partnership with the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT), the MPO allocates federal transportation funds for projects that will improve the region’s transportation system.

In 1962, Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which required urbanized areas with populations greater than 50,000 to form an MPO in order to expend federal transportation dollars in that area. As a result, the Hot Springs Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) was officially designated in 2003, and adopted its current name, Tri-Lakes MPO, in 2013.