share

New Mexico

Number of Regional Transportation Planning Organizations: 7 Total annual funding: $106,250 (80% federal, 20% local match)   Date established: Early 1990s New Mexico has used a regional transportation planning organization (RTPO) system since the early 1990s to conduct outreach to local officials in regions not covered by an MPO.  The year 2005 marked the first time that all of the state’s regional development organizations (known locally as councils of government) provided the administrative and staff support for the state-designated RTPOs.  Known as rural planning organizations (RPOs) until 2012’s federal MAP-21 legislation led to a name-change, these entities serve a variety of functions in planning, promoting, and implementing rural transportation projects throughout the state.

Boilerplate bylaws define the structure of the RTPOs and address membership, staff functions, meeting schedules, and other issues.  The bylaws also establish a committee system for these organizations.  RTPOs have a policy committee of decision-making representatives such as local officials, New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) staff, economic developers, business owners, and members of the public.  A technical committee of professional staff including engineers, planners, and road managers serves in an advisory role and delivers technical support and recommendations for transportation planning.[1]  Some RTPOs have combined these committees into one entity.

The South Eastern New Mexico Economic Development District/Council of Government staffs the Southeast Regional Transportation Planning Organization (SERTPO).  The regional work program that guides SERTPO sets out to develop, improve and strengthen the southeastern multimodal regional transportation network.[2]  Key functions outlined in the work program include long-range planning, identifying projects through Rural Transportation Improvement Program Recommendations (RTIPR), implementing a public participation plan, and providing technical support.

Map of New Mexico's COG and RTPO boundaries

Click to enlarge (Map courtesy New Mexico Association of Regional Councils)

Major Planning Tasks

RTPO long-range planning activities “assess transportation needs and identify projects that could potentially be implemented using federal, state, and local funds that are reasonably expected to be available over a 20-year (or longer) period.”[3]  Working in conjunction with NMDOT, RTPOs assess population data, economic development trends, travel demand data, and other information to update the Regional Transportation Plan as it relates to the Statewide Long-Range Multi-Modal Transportation Plan (SLRP).[4]  With the New Mexico Transportation Plan complete, the RTPO is working to implement activities outlined in the RTP.[5]  RTPOs long-range planning is also integrated into other planning efforts, including the STIP, Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), and Capital Improvement Plans.

Each year, RTPOs develop a plan and prioritized list of potential projects which they send to the state for incorporation into the STIP.  This list is called the Rural Transportation Improvement Program Recommendations (RTIPR).  These projects are recommended by RTPO members and often include safety, planning, and roadway projects.  Ranking criteria are set by each RTPO.[6]

An important role of the RTPOs is to create a public forum for conversation and collaboration about regional transportation initiatives.  Every RTPO establishes a Public Participation Plan (PPP) that ensures a process for public engagement and outreach through hosting workshops and meetings and sharing information and resources to interested parties across all modes of transportation.[7]

The rural transportation planning process in New Mexico faces some unique complexities, including having an international border and several Tribal governments.   The Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments has carried out extensive collaboration efforts with Tribal nations to ensure consistency and compatibility among the different organizations’ plans and project priorities. NWRTPO staff has worked to get all parties together to coordinate functional classification issues within the FHWA highway classification system and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Reservation Roads Program.[10]

For more information, visit www.rtponm.org.

 

[1] New Mexico Department of Transportation, Transportation Planning and Safety Division (2013).  Planning Procedures Manual, dot.state.nm.us/content/dam/nmdot/planning/Planning_Procedures_Manual.pdf

[2] South Eastern New Mexico Economic Development District/Council of Governments (2012). Southeast Regional Transportation Planning Organization Regional Work Program, 2013 –2015

[3] New Mexico Department of Transportation (2013)

[4] South Eastern New Mexico Economic Development District/Council of Governments (2012). Southeast Regional Transportation Planning Organization Regional Work Program, 2013 –2015

[5] Personal communication with Mary Ann Burr, July 2016

[6] New Mexico Department of Transportation (2013)

[7] New Mexico Department of Transportation (2013)

[8] Personal communication with Mary Ann Burr, July 2016.

[9] South Eastern New Mexico Economic Development District/Council of Governments (2012). Southeast Regional Transportation Planning Organization Regional Work Program, 2013 –2015

[10] 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