The concept of Rural Transportation Planning Organizations (RPOs) originated with the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21), passed by Congress in 1998. Its purpose was to provide local officials in rural areas a voice in the transportation planning process. Among other things, the legislation specifically required:
- Development of long-range transportation plans in consultation with local governments
- Development of State Transportation Improvement Plans (STIPs) in consultation with local governments
- Studies of the degree of cooperation between States, local governments in rural areas, and regional planning and development organization
To comply with the provisions of TEA-21, NC lawmakers passed House Bill 1304 and Senate Bill 1195. These bills required the creation of RPOs across the State. To ensure participation of local governments and the public in the transportation planning process, NC RPOs were charged with four core duties:
- Develop long-range local and regional multi-modal transportation plans in cooperation with area MPOs (urban transportation planning organizations) and the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT)
- Provide a forum for public participation in the rural transportation planning process
- Develop and prioritize suggestions for transportation projects that should be considered in the STIP
- Provide transportation-related information to local governments and other interested organizations and persons
Mid-Carolina RPO Formation
In August 2001, a Memorandum of Understanding was executed by Bladen, Cumberland, Harnett, and Sampson Counties, Mid-Carolina, and the NC Ddepartment of Transportation, creating a transportation planning region made up of four counties and 25 municipalities. Chartered in September 2001, the Mid-Carolina RPO was the first of the current 18 RPOs to be created in NC.
The Mid-Carolina RPO, consists of two committees – the Rural Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC) and the Rural Technical Coordinating Committee (RTCC).
The RTAC is composed of one County Commissioner from each County, one municipal elected official representing municipal interests in each County, one member of the MCCOG Board of Directors, and a member of the NC Board of Transportation. The RTAC is responsible for:
- Establishment of goals and objectives for the transportation planning process
- Endorsement, review, and approval of changes to adopted RPO transportation
- Endorsement, review, and approval of a work plan for the various agencies participating in the RPO
- Endorsement, review, and approval of transportation projects that support and enhance rural transportation in the RPO region
The RTCC is responsible for the day-to-day review, guidance, and coordination of the transportation planning process for the RPO and for making recommendations to the RTAC regarding any necessary action related to the transportation planning process. The membership of the RTCC consists of the county manager or a planner from each of the four-member counties, the manager, the clerk or a planner from each member municipality, the MCCOG Executive Director, the RPO Coordinator, Division Engineers from the 3rd and 6th NCDOT Divisions, a NCDOT Statewide Planning representative. and the NCDOT Area 3 Traffic Engineer.
Mike Rutan currently serves as the RPO Coordinator. The RPO Coordinator acts as Secretary for both the RTAC and the RTCC, manages the day-to-day operations of the RPO, and ensures compliance with NCDOT regulations.