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Missouri

Number of Regional Planning Commissions serving rural areas: 18 Total annual funding: $80,882.35 (80% federal funds, 20% local match) Date established rural transportation program: 1994Missouri uses a planning process that emphasizes ongoing engagement across state, regional and local levels of government.  Missouri’s Planning Framework was developed out of recognition that there were more transportation needs than available funds, a lack of consistency in planning and project delivery across the state, a piecemeal approach to improvements, unclear roles for planning partners, and problems with credibility in transportation due to a lack of local and public support.

In response to new requirements for local consultation in the 1991 surface transportation law ISTEA, MoDOT decided to contract with Missouri’s regional planning commissions (RPCs) to conduct planning and outreach activities for nonmetropolitan regions.  Since 1994, the RPCs have functioned similarly to the state’s MPOs to complete rural transportation planning activities.  Their primary functions are to staff a Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) that identifies and prioritizes community and regional transportation needs, coordinate transportation needs with local development plans, develop a regional transportation plan to be adopted by the RPC policy board, and educate and inform the public on transportation planning activities.

Each RPC has a regional transportation plan that contains data about the region and its long-range vision and goals.  Although there is no time horizon assigned to the plan, RPC staff do work with their localities to update the plan annually.[1]

Prioritizing Local Needs

TAC and RPC board members are often local officials and business leaders who, after discussion about transportation needs at the regional level, become champions for those priorities in their communities.  The makeup of each TAC is determined by the RPC.  For example, in 2012, the Boonslick RPC restructured its TAC to have a broader, more multimodal scope and more overlap with the region’s economic development concerns.[2]

Map of Missouri's planning and transportation boundaries

Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Missouri Association of Councils of Government)

The TACs meet quarterly, with each meeting focused on a step in the planning process.  Each RPC follows generally the same format and completes uniform tasks, but the exact process followed by the TAC is customized for each region and changes somewhat from year to year depending on available funding and other issues occurring in the state.  For Boonslick RPC, in the first meeting, the TAC receives a basic introduction to the planning process, followed by outreach in individual communities.  In the second meeting, the needs identified through the outreach process are presented to the TAC.  Before the third meeting, Boonslick RPC staff work with MoDOT to compile information on each project, including location, safety data, average annual daily traffic, and other metrics that the TAC members might want to consider.  This information is discussed during the third meeting, and then TAC members individually conduct their own prioritization of needs, ranking each project as a low, medium, or high priority, and submit their rankings to Boonslick RPC staff.  There is no required set of formal criteria for TAC members to use, but the information compiled prior to the third TAC meeting sets the context for prioritizing, and safety tends to be a focus area for the Boonslick RPC TAC. The individual rankings are then compiled, and the final quarterly meeting of each year consists of analyzing the priority list and whether it fits with the region’s goals.[3]

This annual list of project priorities essentially functions as the region’s transportation improvement program (TIP), which is then submitted to MoDOT for consideration.  Each MoDOT District includes the entire boundaries of MoDOT staff compare the RPCs’ priorities with needs determined by condition information, pavement models, and other assessments.  The two systems of identifying needs generally match up, with the data-driven process often leading to many of the same priorities that are identified through the RPCs.[4]  The RPC staff also participate in MoDOT’s “Core Team” to review projects and define project scope, often bringing a socioeconomic perspective to complement MoDOT staff engineering expertise.[5]

When needed, MoDOT District Offices can bring the RPCs that they work with together to discuss major district-level projects, although it does not necessarily happen annually.  Projects of statewide significance have rarely been proposed in recent years, as funds have declined.  However, localities with a major project that exceeds funds programmed at the MoDOT District level can present their projects at Missouri’s annual planning partners meeting, where all the planning partners jointly score projects as low, medium, or high priorities.

Other Planning Activities

The RPCs assist MoDOT with implementing some statewide activities within their regions.  These include participating in regional roundtables for the Blueprint for Safer Roadways initiative and working with local governments to identify and assist with applying for transportation alternatives program funds for local projects.  RPC staff complete sidewalk inventories of local jurisdictions, conduct road safety audits, corridor studies, traffic counts, the transportation portion of local comprehensive plans, and other planning activities through their work program.[6]  Public education is a core component of the RPCs’ work programs.  The RPCs assist with MoDOT’s public engagement activities in support of statewide long-range planning and programming, as well as conducting their own outreach to communities in the process of completing other regional plans like the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and local comprehensive plans.[7]

Some RPCs are involved in their region’s coordinated human services transportation council, including staffing a mobility management position to work with existing transportation providers to coordinate services, conduct outreach to communities on mobility needs, and assess how to best provide service through existing means.[8]

Although not necessarily a part of their transportation work, the RPCs are engaged in resilience activities through their regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy updates and through disaster recovery efforts in places affected by flooding, tornadoes, economic shocks, and other disaster events.  These resilience efforts relate to transportation, though, such as business continuity planning efforts that include working with businesses to identify major transportation corridors that could be affected by a disaster and how that would affect business.[9]

The RPCs’ work programs include support for professional development, including attending courses, national and state conferences, webinars, and other training activities.  In 2011, MoDOT and the RPCs completed a guidance manual to ensure consistency in conducting activities and administering the rural transportation programs, and a self-evaluation spreadsheet tool helps the RPCs to track their performance at meeting expectations for participating in statewide planning and conducting planning activities.

For more information on Missouri’s RPCs, visit http://www.macogonline.org.

[1] Personal communication with Jason Ray, December 2015

[2] Personal communication with Krishna Kunapareddy, May 2014

[3] Personal communication with Krishna Kunapareddy, May 2014

[4] Personal communication with Tom Batenhorst, May 2014

[5] Southwest Missouri Council of Governments (2015), Transportation Planning Work Program FY2016

[6] SWMCOG (2015).

[7] Personal communication with Krishna Kunapareddy and Angie Hoecker, May 2014

[8] Personal communication with Krishna Kunapareddy, May 2014

[9] Personal communication with Krishna Kunapareddy, May 2014; Jason Ray, June 2015