The concept of Rural Transportation Planning Organizations (RPOs) originated with the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21), which was 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 Law specifically required 1) the development of long-range transportation plans in consultation with affected local officials, 2) the development of the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) in consultation with affected local officials, and 3) study the degree of cooperation between States, local officials in rural areas in the State, and regional planning and development organizations. To comply with the provisions of TEA-21, North Carolina law makers passed House Bill 1304 and Senate Bill 1195 which required the development of RPOs in the State.
To ensure participation of local officials and the public in the rural transportation planning process, North Carolina RPOs were charged with the following four core duties:
- To develop long-range local and regional multi-modal transportation plans in cooperation with area MPOs and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
- To provide a forum for public participation in the rural transportation planning process.
- To develop and prioritize suggestions for transportation projects, which the Rural Transportation Planning Organization believes should be included in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
- To provide transportation-related information to local governments and other interested organizations and persons.
Chartered by North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Lyndo Tippett, on September 26, 2001, the Mid-Carolina RPO was the first of the current nineteen RPOs to be chartered in the State. On August 15, 2001, a Memorandum of Understanding was executed by the Counties of Bladen, Cumberland, Harnett, Sampson; Mid-Carolina Council of Governments; and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Thus, creating a transportation planning region made up of 4 counties and 25 municipalities.
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 the municipal interest in each County, one member of the Mid-Carolina COG Executive Board, and a member of the North Carolina Board of Transportation. The RTAC is responsible for the following:
- Establishment of goals and objectives for the transportation planning process.
- Endorsement, review and approval of changes to adopted Transportation Plans for the Rural Transportation Planning Organization.
- Endorsement, review and approval of a Prospectus for Transportation Planning, which defines work tasks and responsibilities for the various agencies participating in the Rural Transportation Planning Organization.
- Endorsement, review and approval of Transportation Improvement Projects that support and enhance rural transportation in the Rural Transportation Planning Organization.
The RTCC is responsible for the general review, guidance and coordination of the transportation planning process for the RPO and for making recommendations to the RTAC regarding any necessary action relating to the continuing transportation planning process. The membership of the RTCC consists of the County Manager or Planner from each of the four member Counties; the Manager, Clerk or Planner from each municipality; the Mid-Carolina Executive Director and Transportation Planner; NC DOT Division Engineers from the 3rd and 6th Divisions; NC DOT Statewide Planning Representative; and the NC DOT Area 3 Traffic Engineer.
A RPO Coordinator was hired on February 1, 2002. The coordinator acts as secretary for both committees, manages the day-to-day operations of the RPO, and ensures that NC DOT requirements are met.