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Rural Planning Organizations: Rural Transportation Planning in Pennsylvania


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During the 2019 National Regional Transportation Conference (June 2019, Columbus, Ohio), Amy Kessler, North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission, and Carey Mullins, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, provided a presentation on how Pennsylvania established regional rural planning organizations to provide transportation planning services. Kessler and Mullins outlined major program responsibilities and benefits to planning at the regional level.

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Rural Planning Organizations: Rural Transportation Planning in Pennsylvania

  1. 1. RURAL PLANNINGORGANIZATIONS Click to edit Master text styles A Brief Overview of Rural Transportation Planning in Pennsylvania June 2019 Amy Kessler | Community Development/Regional Planning Director Carey R. Mullins I Transportation Planning Specialist/ PA Department of Transportation
  2. 2. PLANNING PROCESS  The RPO Planning Process in Pennsylvania dates back to 1997  Originally built around ARC’s Local Development Districts or LDDs  Originally 7 RPOs (two have transitioned to MPOs in 2013)  There are currently 4 Rural Transportation Planning Organizations in Pennsylvania and 1 Independent County: • North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning & Development Commission • Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning & Development Commission • Northern Tier Regional Planning & Development Commission • Southern Alleghenies Regional Planning & Development Commission • Wayne County (Independent County)  RPO status in Pennsylvania– formalized through MOU. An open process with common expectations and defined 2 –year work plans (UPWP)
  4. 4. CORE RPO FUNCTIONS  Six “Core Functions” of an RPO:  Establish a regional setting for effective decision-making  Identify and evaluate alternative transportation improvement options  Prepare & maintain a Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)  Develop a fiscally-constrained Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)  Identify performance measure targets  Involve the public  Transportation planning services  RPO administration  Coordination of RPO board and committee meetings  Ensuring compliance with federal/state planning requirements  Technical analysis and data collection  Regular coordination with PennDOT  Coordination with public transit service providers  Coordination of public participation process  Major Functions of the RPO
  5. 5. RPO PLANS & PROGRAMS  Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)  Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)  Public Participation Plan (PPP)  Title IX and Limited English Proficiency (LEP)  Coordinated Public Transit-Human Services Transportation Plan  Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP)  Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) Plan Adoption Date Update Requirements Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) June 2017 Every 5 years Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) FY 2017-2020 Every 4 years Public Participation Plan (PPP) December 2016 Periodic Review and Update Title IX & Limited English Proficiency December 2016 Periodic Review and Update Coordinated Transit-Human Service Plan August 2014 Every 5 years Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) February 2018 Every 2 years
  6. 6. RPO STRUCTURE  Elevated LDD’s to RPOs through a formalized M.O.U. with PennDOT  Funding - 80% Federal SPR, 10% state & 10% local cash match - Can compete for additional supplemental funds for corridor studies, etc. at an 80-20% match  Staff Capacity varies by RPO – North Central is currently at 2.5 FTE Northern Tier – 3 FTE; North West 1 FTE; Southern Alleghenies 3 FTE  Planning Committee vs. Executive Board  Conducts planning - Sets policy  Develops TIP and LRTP - Approves TIP and LRTP  Public Outreach  Multi-modal focus – Freight, public transportation, aviation, etc.
  7. 7. WHY DOES PENNDOT VALUE THE RPOS • From the very beginning: Utilized existing regional entities made for an easy transition • LDDs in PA were experienced in multi-county, Land use, Transportation and Economic Development Activities  Local Development Districts – ARC  Economic Development Districts – EDA  Workforce Investment Boards - WIBs • RPOs provided improved project selection and greater local collaboration • Local outreach and interaction led to increased attendance in training (i.e. LTAP) • RPOs are actually “at the table” with the State and MPOs setting direction, policy, funding, etc. Actively serve on numerous statewide planning and programming workgroups which guides the planning process
  8. 8. WHAT MAKES THE PARTNERSHIP SUCCESSFUL  Coordinated and consolidated federal, state, urban and rural planning process  PennDOT, MPOs and RPOs have jointly established and participate on several active workgroups to coordinate the overall planning and programming process throughout the Commonwealth. Some of these workgroups include:  Financial Guidance  General and Procedural Guidance  Planning Tools and GIS  Linking Planning and NEPA  IT/Accessible Database Work Group  Local Asset Inventory Work Group  UPWP Funding Formula Work Group  Transportation Alternative Set Aside Work Group  Additional workgroups that are being established/considered to address changes in FAST Act and where RPOs should be actively engaged:  Performance Measures  Freight  Safety
  9. 9. PLANNING PARTNER COLLABORATION  Jointly development of policies and procedures  Financial Guidance • MPO, RPOs, FHWA and PennDOT work together to set funding distribution formulas for each Planning Partner • Monitor federal and state funding (FAST ACT, Act 89) • Spike funds, discretionary programs  TIP Development • RPOs develop a 4-year program with locals and PennDOT District Offices • Establish project selection criteria • Monitor fiscal constraint {Joint Responsibility} • Process TIP Administrative Actions and Amendments  Linking Planning & NEPA • Streamlining project delivery • Building greater consistency with Long Range Plans
  10. 10. LINKING LAND USE, TRANSPORTATION & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT • Responds boldly to PA Policy Direction • Improves competitive position for state grants • Advances projects of regional significance • Improves front end ROI justification for investments • Emphasizes demonstrable project outcomes e.g., improved competitive position and visibility in global market place • Strengthens accountability to Board, Stakeholders, Public • Ability to evaluate other impacts/outcomes of project investments • Promotes systems thinking and broader dialogue
  11. 11. PENNDOT CONNECTS  Community Collaboration before Preliminary Engineering begins  Identify needs of communities and related issues early in project planning  Consider community transportation needs such as  Bicycle and pedestrian accommodations  Transit & Multimodal Access  Storm Water management  Green infrastructure  Planning Studies: (Regional Studies, Corridor studies, Operations, etc.)  Contextual Issues  Safety Issues and Concerns  Emergency Services Accommodations Funding Included on TIP Preliminary Engineering Final Design Utility Relocation Right-of-Way Acquisition Construction What is PennDOT Connects?
  12. 12. PENNDOT CONNECTS Multimodal transportation planning takes into account all modes of the transportation system, including auto, freight, rail, transit, biking and walking for all ages and abilities.  News/Events  Workshops  Knowledgebase  Technical Assistance
  13. 13. CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES  Acceptance at the District level  Staffing  Local matching resources  Difficulty coordinating with Land Use agencies  The Rural versus Urban Question  PennDOT Districts not aligned with planning regions  Communication and information sharing  Setting Priorities (competing interests)  Always looking for new ways to make better decisions - think outside the box
  14. 14. QUESTIONS Questions?
  15. 15. THANK YOU Name: Amy Kessler, Community Development/Regional Planning Director Agency: North Central PA Regional Planning and Development Commission Phone: (814) 773-3162 Email: Website: @NorthCentralRPO Name: Carey Mullins, Transportation Planning Specialist II Agency: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Phone: (717) 783-2265 Email: Website: