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Utah

Number of Rural Planning Organizations: 4   Total annual funding: $10,000 – $20,000 (including local match); regions receive $45,000 for mobility management activities Date established: 2004 – 2008 In general, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) conducts the state’s transportation planning process in rural areas under 50,000 people that are not served by an MPO.  Rural transportation needs and opportunities are incorporated into the statewide long-range transportation plan, a project plan which is updated every four years.[1]  Rapid growth in certain parts of rural Utah have led to the state working with regional development organizations (known locally as associations of governments or AOGs) to assist in addressing rural transportation issues.  AOGs staff rural planning organizations (RPOs) to provide transportation planning support and assistance to certain rural areas that are near urbanized areas and/or are growing quickly.

Some AOGs house both an MPO and an RPO and benefit from joint collaboration within the AOG structure.  These organizations can leverage the MPO staff relationships for RPO planning, technical assistance, and advocacy.  In addition UDOT, most of the RPOs, and all the MPOs are on the same schedule for plan updates, which allows state legislators to compare all the proposed projects and financial assumptions simultaneously.[4]

Map of Utah's regional development organization (association of governments/regional council) boundaries

Click to enlarge (Map courtesy Utah Association of Governments)

The Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) serves as both an MPO (for the urbanized Utah County) and RPO (for the rural Wasatch County).  It has entered into a memorandum of understanding with UDOT to establish and maintain the Wasatch County Rural Planning Organization.  The MOU states the main responsibilities for MAG in carrying out its duties to support the RPO as it serves local communities with transportation planning.  Technical support includes data sharing with local governments, gathering 2040 population and employment data to inform a travel demand model, and participating in other regional transportation studies.[5]  The Statewide Travel Demand Model developed by UDOT in particular has helped staff to better advocate for project prioritization at the state level.  Additionally, the RPO recommends Transportation Alternative Program projects for the region.  The Wasatch RPO is funded at $10,000 from UDOT Region 3 in addition to $10,000 from the local governments split per-capita for a $20,000 annual program hosted by the Mountainland AOG.[6]

Like its counterparts, the Wasatch County RPO serves as an intermediary between the state and local stakeholders.  This includes creating an opportunity for UDOT to consult and coordinate with local elected officials, holding RPO meetings, and participating in an annual UDOT local visit.  “The local governments find the Wasatch RPO an excellent and efficient venue to work with and model traffic with UDOT for future needs and to solve immediate safety issues. It helps with communication between both technical and policy level staff,” notes Shawn Seager, MAG’s MPO Director.[7]

In summary, Wasatch County RPO’s MOU notes the value that Utah’s RPOs have in addressing the transportation needs of their regions:  “Interagency coordination between local and state governments facilitated by the RPO is smoothing the transition process between transportation planning and project development processes while ensuring that community transportation needs are recognized.”[8]

In addition to the planning tasks provided by the RPOs, five of the state’s AOGs also provide mobility management services, through FTA grants from UDOT.  The AOGs develop a coordinated human services transportation plan and may staff a coordinating council of other agencies and stakeholders to guide the development of the plan and coordination activities.[9]

[1] Utah Department of Transportation (nd).  “Metropolitan and Statewide Transportation Planning,” www.udot.utah.gov/main/f?p=100:pg:0:::1:T,V:272

[2] Personal communication with Jeff Harris, July 2016

[3] Utah Department of Transportation (2015).  2015 – 2040 Long-Range Transportation Plan: Transportation in Utah’s Rural Areas, www.udot.utah.gov/main/uconowner.gf?n=23540107153558604

[4] NADO Research Foundation (2010).  Four Corners Rural Transportation Forum:  Summary of a Peer Learning Exchange, www.nado.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/4Corners10.pdf

[5] Wasatch County Rural Planning Organization (2013). Memorandum of Understanding between the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG), FY 2014

[6] Personal communication with Shawn Seager, June 2016

[7] Personal communication with Shawn Seager, June 2016

[8] Wasatch County Rural Planning Organization (2013). Memorandum of Understanding between the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG), FY 2014

[9] UDOT (nd). Regional & Mobility Management Contacts; personal communication with Brian Carver, July 2016