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Washington

Number of Regional Transportation Planning Organizations: 14  Total annual funding: $2.2 million of state funds invested statewide in RTPO planning Date established: 1990 In 1990, the Washington state legislature passed the Growth Management Act, which in part authorized the state’s Regional Transportation Planning Program.  This program created Regional Transportation Planning Organizations (RTPOs) in both urban and rural regions of the state.  RTPOs develop a regional transportation plan and coordinate wider regional transportation planning.[1]  They maintain a Regional Transportation Improvement Program, updated every six years, and also ensure that county planning efforts meet the goals of the regional transportation plan.  RTPOs are voluntary organizations covering 37 of the state’s 39 counties, and whose members may include local governments, counties, tribes, transportation service providers, ports, and other key transportation stakeholders.[2]

The state provides annual financial support to help the regional groups implement their work programs, totaling $2.2 million per year.[3]  Organizational staffing and administration for rural RTPOs varies and may be a regional economic development organization, county public works department, or the regional Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) office.

Map of Washington state's regional transportation planning organization boundaries
Click to enlarge (Courtesy Washington State DOT)

RTPOs serve many other roles in promoting coordinated regional transportation planning.  They provide data and analysis to support local and regional decision making and also deliver planning and technical services on a contractual basis.  They assist in implementing the Growth Management Act, address environmental quality issues, and pursue other initiatives determined by the RTPO.   Finally, RTPOs serve as “consensus-builders,” working to develop community consensus on regional issues through information and citizen involvement and pursue intergovernmental consensus on regional plans, policies and issues, and advocate for local implementation.

RTPOs are a Washington state designation, while MPOs are defined and established by federal law.  RTPOs in Washington can be single or multi-county entities, and some agencies serve a dual function of housing both an RTPO and an MPO if the population meets the requirements for doing so.  WSDOT views the MPO and RTPO requirements and responsibilities as “complementary” to each other.[4]  In urbanized areas, existing MPOs receive federal funding and also serve as the lead agencies for RTPOs for their resident counties.  WSDOT also supports and funds multi-county RTPOs.

For example, the Benton-Franklin Council of Governments (BFCG) is both an RTPO and an MPO, which serves as the MPO for the Tri-Cities area in southeastern Washington State and the RTPO for locations within Benton & Franklin counties (Walla Walla County is a sub-RTPO).  BFCG’s transportation initiatives are guided by a Unified Work Program.[5]  Elsewhere in Washington, some MPOs have chosen for their designated MPO boundary to be coterminous with the RTPO boundary, while other RTPOs with separate MPO boundaries within their borders have the option of administering and planning for the programs together.  The complementary programs avoid duplication.[6]

For more information, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/planning/regional.

[1] Washington State Department of Transportation (1998).  RTPO Transportation Planning Guidebook, www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/E5A25A1A-61E0-44E8-B000-AA546E5C3BE3/0/RTPOGuidebook.pdf

[2] Washington State Department of Transportation (nd). “Regional Transportation Planning,” www.wsdot.wa.gov/planning/Regional

[3] Personal communication with Matt Kunic, July 2016

[4] Washington State Department of Transportation (nd)

[5] Benton-Franklin Council of Governments.  “Transportation Planning,” bfcog.us/transportation

[6] Personal communication with Matt Kunic, July 2016

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