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Number of Regional Planning Commissions: 9 Total annual funding: $54,000 – $200,000 (typically 80% federal funds, 20% local match, or match divided between state and local funds), depending on population Date established transportation program: 1976The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) works with the state’s nine regional development organizations (known locally as regional planning commissions or RPCs) and 14 MPOs to establish a coordinated approach to local, regional, and statewide transportation planning.  The RPCs serve all but five counties in the state and were formed by executive order of the governor as early as 1959.[1]  Counties’ participation in the RPCs is voluntary.[2]  They began to perform transportation responsibilities under contract to WisDOT in about 1976.[3]  For the nonmetropolitan areas, the work is generally overseen by the RPCs’ governing commission membership, including local officials from cities, counties, and Tribal nations.

The RPCs’ work supports statewide planning efforts in a variety of ways, varying according to the needs and context of the region.  This can include by providing support on rail planning issues, including providing staff and administrative support for rail transit committees within their regions, and assisting WisDOT with long-range planning efforts related to rail activities.  In addition, to facilitate local road and highway planning and programming, the RPCs provide planning assistance on regional issues and participate in discussions and assist with coordinating federal transportation performance measures and targets. The RPCs work on other transportation modes and special projects as well, with work activities on harbor, airport, transit, and non-motorized transportation planning, as well as support for Safe Routes to School or scenic byways as appropriate within the region.[4]  For some regions, a focus on alternative modes such as downtown design and streetscape, bicycle and pedestrian mobility, recreational trails, workforce transportation, and resolving on-road ATV issues form the core of the work program activities.[5]

Click to enlarge (Courtesy Wisconsin DOT)
Click to enlarge (Courtesy Wisconsin DOT)

The RPCs assist communities with participating in state and federal programs, and provide planning and development assistance to local governments.  This might include assistance with the transportation elements of comprehensive community plans, zoning and subdivision ordinances, grant writing, geographic information system map production, economic development planning and socio-economic data collection and dissemination.  They also review grant applications for federal funds to ensure consistency with regional and local plans, as well as development priorities. [6]

For more information on Wisconsin’s RPCs, visit

[1] Wisconsin DOT (nd). “Regional Planning Commissions,”; personal communication with Sheldon Johnson, June 2016

[2] Personal communication with Diane Paoni, June 2016

[3] Personal communication with Sheldon Johnson, December 2015

[4] Northwest Regional Planning Commission (2015). 2016 Rural Transportation Work Program; Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (nd), “Current Projects”

[5] Personal communication with Troy Maggied, June 2016

[6] WisDOT

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