Counties join forces for stronger rural voice

(Posted June 30, 2016)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Madison County soon will have a stronger voice when it comes to communicating infrastructure needs to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). With it should come more access to state and federal funding for road projects.

In June, the Madison County commissioners approved the county’s inclusion in the new Central Ohio Rural Transportation Planning Organization (RTPO). Member counties include Madison, Fairfield, Knox, Marion, Morrow, Pickaway and Union.

Each county will develop its own short- and long-range transportation plans. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) will help to bring all of the plans together in one document. The document will be used to pitch for funding for improvement projects.

ODOT has not yet identified where the funding will come from for the new RTPO, noted Thea Walsh of MORPC. One possibility is the federal Fast Act transportation bill passed in December.

While metropolitan planning organizations have been around for a while representing areas of dense population, their rural counterparts are relatively new in Ohio. Two years ago, ODOT started with six pilot RTPOs in the southeastern part of the state near Marietta. Another one closer to Madison County involves Champaign and Logan counties.

Madison County Commissioner Paul Gross said the RTPO fills a gap, giving the county more of a chance to be heard. He hopes to see more attention paid to local projects such as a proposed widening of U.S. Route 42 at I-70, between routes 29 and 40.

Madison County Engineer Bryan Dhume said the county’s biggest transportation planning need is in Canaan and Darby townships due to a large population increase in the Plain City area.

Each county in the RTPO will form its own subcommittee, headed up by the county commissioners and county engineer. Also, each county will have two members on the collective RTPO policy board to coordinate and advocate for their county’s transportation projects.

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