Rural planning group could boost transportation

AUSTIN — Local officials are pushing for the creation of rural planning organizations to someday better answer transportation needs.

Officials said the recognition of RPOs could lead to more transportation funding for rural Texas counties.

“I think it would be good for us,” said Burnet County Commissioner Ronny Hibler.

Two bills supporting recognition of RPOs were introduced during the 81st Legislature, including one by state Rep. Joseph Pickett, D-El Paso, and state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano.

However, neither bill went to a vote during the legislative session. The next session convenes in January.

Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger, Hibler and other officials met recently to discuss rural planning organizations for rural transportation needs during the Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization meeting in Austin.

The CARTPO group discussed how rural planning organizations might boost development of rural transportation plans.

“We are still looking into it,” Hibler said.

Both the federal and state governments have already established formal ties with metropolitan planning organizations and the funding of services for MPOs during urban transportation planning.

However, the same coordination does not exist for rural planning organizations, officials have said.

The federal government allocates funds to MPOs through the Texas Department of Transportation, according to Betty Voight, the executive director of the Capital Area Council of Governments.

“RPOs are not currently in federal or Texas statutes,” Voight said.

However, formal recognition of RPOs by the federal and state government may give Burnet, Blanco, Llano and other rural counties a slice of the funding pie and a bigger voice during the development of rural transportation plans, Hibler said.

raymond@thepicayune.com

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