Rural Transportation Logo

New Hampshire

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) partners with nine regional planning commissions (RPCs), five serving rural regions and four serving metropolitan areas, to conduct transportation planning at the regional level across the state.  State statutes, as well as federal laws and regulations, shape the transportation planning process in New Hampshire.  Regional planning commissions were established in New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (RSA) Chapter 36 for general regional planning purposes.[1]  NHDOT is directed to cooperatively develop and fund two-year unified planning work programs for rural and metropolitan regions alike consistent with federal statute   in RSA 228:99, which was adopted in 1994.[2]  The same section in the state code mandates that each RPC and MPO develop a regional transportation improvement program (TIP), which NHDOT uses to develop its statewide transportation improvement program (STIP).  RSA 240 stipulates how the state’s ten-year improvement program should be developed with input from the regional planning commissions.[3]  This occurs through the inclusion of New Hampshire’s federally required STIP as the first three years of the state’s ten-year plan, so the coordination between state and regional agencies is naturally built into the planning process.[4]

Coordination between state and regional agencies is institutionalized through several means.  In addition to practices such as regional plan development informing the statewide planning process, NHDOT planning staff meet regularly with RPC staff to promote transparency and consistency among all planning partners.  State DOT staff are also regularly invited to participate in the RPCs’ monthly executive director meetings.[5]

Map of New Hampshire's regional planning commissions boundaries
Click to enlarge (Courtesy New Hampshire Association of Regional Planning Commissions)

The rural RPCs also complete public participation requirements and serve as an important part of NHDOT’s outreach to local officials and the public, gathering input, facilitating dialogue, and developing priorities for consideration in statewide planning. NHDOT uses the RPCs’ local relationships to facilitate consideration of Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) in developing partnerships with communities and stakeholders early in the project identification and development process so that projects meet local goals.[6]

The RPCs provide local technical assistance and manage data collection related to several transportation elements.  They also support the coordinating councils that exist within the RPC regions.

Transportation demand management (TDM) has become a priority for some of New Hampshire’s rural regions, with growing interest in using alternative modes of transportation, increasing congestion in certain areas, and concern over transportation’s relationship to both climate change and health.  TDM activities may include support for Complete Streets, bicycle and pedestrian counts and planning, support for bicycle racks and bicycle sharing, implementation of the Safe Routes to School program, and providing information on mobility options including transit, rideshare, vanpool and volunteer driver programs.  Some of this work may be completed through the planning process, but at least one rural region has used philanthropic and other funding to conduct its TDM programs.[7]

Performance measurement is emerging as an increasing area of interest for the whole state, including the rural regions that do not have any federal requirements to adopt performance-based planning the way states and MPOs do.  However, one of the state’s MPOs facilitates the New Hampshire Performance Based Planning Working Group that includes rural RPC and MPO members, NHDOT, FHWA, and FTA members.  The working group was formed to share resources and create a broad knowledge base, develop a common set of core performance measures, involve regional planning partners in selecting measures and targets, and integrate performance measurement into project selection for regional and statewide planning documents.[8]  At least one rural region has adopted a performance framework in its regional long-range transportation plan, choosing measures and 20-year targets that are reported for the region and at the state level, relating to the vision, existing conditions, and implementation strategies for several different measurement areas.  A regional scorecard is also included in the long-range plan.[9]

From 2011 – 2014, the New Hampshire RPCs all participated in A Granite State Future, a statewide planning grant from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development that resulted in the development of regional master plans based on broad public dialogue on land use, transportation, economic development, energy, housing, and other issues.  This project offered the RPCs the opportunity to conduct even deeper public engagement in the regional visioning process, although the resulting master plans were not exclusively related to transportation.  Subsequent RPC long-range transportation plan updates allowed some regions to dive more deeply into the transportation system aspects of the adopted regional visions, or to update their long-range plans at the same time as a chapter of the larger regional master plan.[10] Other RPCs were able to complete special studies on specific topics of interest that emerged during the regional planning process, such as changing energy conditions and transportation.[11]

For more information about New Hampshire’s RPCs, visit www.nharpc.org.

 

[1] Regional Planning Commissions, New Hampshire RSA 36:45 (1969)

[2] Administration of Transportation Laws: Statewide Intermodal Transportation Planning and Improvement

Program, New Hampshire RSA 228:99 (1994)

[3] State 10-Year Transportation Improvement Program, New Hampshire RSA 240:3 (2010)

[4] Personal communication with Nate Miller, September 2013

[5] New Hampshire Department of Transportation (2016). Public Consultation Process for Regional and Local Officials Involved with Transportation Efforts in New Hampshire, www.nh.gov/dot/org/projectdevelopment/planning/documents/publicconsultationprocess.pdf

[6] NHDOT

[7] Southwest Region Planning Commission (nd). Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation, www.mastnh.org/home

[8] Rockingham Regional Planning Commission (nd). Performance Based Planning, www.rpc-nh.org/transportation/transportation-plan/performance-based-planning

[9] Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission (2014). “Transportation,” UVLSRPC Regional Plan 2014, regionalplan.uvlsrpc.org/files/2514/2109/5224/Chapter3_Transportation.pdf

[10] North Country Council (2015). Regional Transportation Plan – 2015 Update; UVLSRPC

[11] Southwest Region Planning Commission (2015). Transportation Planning for an Uncertain Energy Future: Creating a Resilient Transportation System for the Monadnock Region, www.swrpc.org/files/Transportation%20Planning%20for%20an%20Uncertain%20Energy%20Future_FINAL.pdf

RTPO Models

Newsletter

Click the button below to receive NADO and Rural Transportation news and information directly to your inbox.