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Minnesota

Number of Regional Development Organizations: 10 Total annual funding: $88,235 (85% Minnesota trunk highway funds, 15% local match) Date established: early 1990s The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) established its Area Transportation Partnership (ATP) program to broaden input into the project selection process and to comply with new consultation requirements in ISTEA.  The state’s 10 regional development organizations (RDOs) are key partners and technical assistance providers to the ATPs around the state.  MnDOT has provided planning grants to the RDOs since the 1970s, although the ATPs were established in the early 1990s to enhance the state’s consultation process.

Regional Decisionmaking

Each ATP’s geography is based on MnDOT district boundaries, and ATP membership typically includes state DOT officials, county and municipal leaders, small MPOs where they exist, state natural resource and economic development officials, Tribal communities, transportation modal interests and private citizens. Each regional partnership has its own process and work program. Most solicit projects for certain federal funding programs, evaluate projects and seek to integrate the priorities and needs of the membership. The groups also conduct public outreach, forward a list of regional priorities to the state and review and comment on the state’s improvement and project program.[1]

Map of Minnesota's transportation planning boundaries

Click to enlarge (Courtesy Minnesota DOT)

The RDOs have a seat on the ATP serving their region and also provide regional planning support to MnDOT.  These planning support tasks may include coordinating and supporting ATP meetings and hosting a public open house where the draft Area Transportation Improvement Program (ATIP) is presented.  RDO staff assist with preparing the ATIP, including soliciting and selecting projects, conducting public outreach, and other activities).  They also assist the MnDOT districts with the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for the ATP, conducting program outreach to eligible applicants, reviewing letters of interest, assisting with project applications, and participating in the project selection process.[2]

The ATP is the decision-making body for selecting local priorities and recommending them to MnDOT.  However, the RDOs also convene a transportation advisory committee (TAC) to better connect with professionals within the region, the public, and to align programs within the RDO.  The TACs generally meet quarterly.[3]

Regional and Statewide Planning Activities

Through their regular annual contract, the RDOs also conduct regional planning tasks and support statewide planning activities.  The regional planning efforts include completing technical assistance such as traffic counts or speed studies, participating in and implementing the state’s Toward Zero Deaths initiative, reviewing and assisting with project scoping, providing transit planning assistance, and other activities related to community and economic development and health.[4]

MnDOT routinely solicits feedback from the RDOs on its statewide planning efforts, typically providing one or more seats for RDO planners on the advisory committees for statewide planning processes related to various topics and modes.   The RDO staff also played a valuable role in assisting MnDOT with completing urban area boundary reviews with local governments following the 2010 Census, as well as working to achieve consensus between local governments and MnDOT in the subsequent functional class review.[5]

For more information on Minnesota’s RDOs, visit www.mnado.org.

[1] Northwest Regional Development Commission, “Transportation,” nwrdc.org/home/transportation

[2] RDO Transportation Planning Grant Agreement Work Plan, FY2015

[3] Personal communication with Katie Caskey, 2015

[4] Personal communication with Minnesota Transportation Planners, 2015 – 2016

[5] Personal communication with Ronda Allis, April 2016.