The North Carolina Association of Rural Planning Organizations strives to serve rural local governments through a collaborative working relationship with the North Carolina Department of Transportation with continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive transportation planning services.
Transportation planning service to local governments are accomplished through developing local and regional transportation plans, providing a forum for public participation in the transportation planning process, developing, and prioritizing transportation projects for the State Transportation Improvement Program, and providing transportation related information to local governments and other interested parties.
Rural Regional Transportation Planning Organizations
Since 2002, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has implemented a major re-engineering of its consultation process with rural local officials. The change was mandated under a new state law passed in July 2000 that required the establishment of rural regional transportation planning organizations (RPOs) to work cooperatively with the state to plan rural regional transportation systems and to advise the department on rural transportation policy (Senate Bill 1195. Covered under Article 17 General Statue 136-210 through 213.). North Carolina’s RPOs are nationally recognized for their innovative and ground-breaking work.
State officials worked with local officials and the existing network of regional development organizations (known locally as regional councils of government) to create 18 RPOs that serve all counties outside of the existing 19 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). Under the law, RPOs were required to serve contiguous areas of 3 – 15 counties or have a combined minimum population of 50,000. MPOs cannot be a member of RPOs. In forming the RPOs, not all of the municipalities in the region were required to join, but each county must be a member. Currently, our RPOs serve nearly 4,000,000 North Carolinians, or almost half the population of the state.
Funded by the state at $80,000 to $150,000 each year and with a 20 percent local match, RPOs provide these core services:
• Coordinate, assist and develop local and regional plans
• Provide a forum for public participation in the transportation planning and implementation process
• Develop and prioritize projects the organization believes should be included in the state transportation improvement program
• Provide transportation related information to local governments
The process has provided local officials with an enhanced framework to participate in the statewide and regional planning processes. It has also provided a forum for state and local officials to discuss and address issues requiring regional solutions.