Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Clark County, Washington, portion of the larger Portland-Vancouver urbanized area. RTC is also the state-designated Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RTPO) for the region consisting of Clark County, Skamania County, and Klickitat County. Responsibility for these functions was assumed by RTC on July 1, 1992.
To encourage and promote the development of a balanced, safe, efficient and affordable regional transportation system to meet the mobility needs of people and goods, within and through this region, and minimize transportation-related air pollution.
Responsibilities as a Metropolitan Planning Organization
RTC is the federally designated MPO for all of Clark County and represents the Washington portion of the Portland-Vancouver Transportation Management Area (TMA). Federal law requires any urbanized area with a population greater than 50,000 to have an MPO. As a condition for the receipt of federal capital or operating funding into Clark County, RTC must ensure that transportation expenditures are based on a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning process. The federal funds for transportation projects and programs are channeled through this planning process and awarded to local agencies and jurisdictions dealing with transportation. These MPO functions must be carried out in cooperation with state and local agencies.
As the MPO, RTC must meet a number of federal transportation planning requirements in order for the region to be eligible for the receipt of federal transportation funds. The key federal resource documents are listed below.
- Title 23 USC Section 134 Metropolitan Transportation Planning. Title 23 United States Code is the codification of the surface transportation portion of federal law.
- Title 49 USC Section 5303 further provides federal guidance to the metropolitan transportation planning program.
RTC is the RTPO for Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties provides many of the basic transportation planning functions as an MPO, but are established by the Washington State Legislature and covers both urban and rural areas. The guiding statute for RTPO responsibilities is RCW 47.80.
The language in the statute sets the framework for RTC’s responsibilities as a RTPO, stating:
The legislature finds that while the transportation system in Washington is owned and operated by numerous public jurisdictions, it should function as one interconnected and coordinated system. Transportation planning, at all jurisdictional levels, should be coordinated with local comprehensive plans. Further, local jurisdictions and the state should cooperate to achieve both statewide and local transportation goals. To facilitate this coordination and cooperation among state and local jurisdictions, the legislature declares it to be in the state’s interest to establish a coordinated planning program for regional transportation systems and facilities throughout the state.
As MPO and RTPO for the region, RTC carries out the following duties:
- Maintain a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning process for developing plans and programs that consider all modes of transportation.
- Ensure that interstate transportation issues are coordinated between Washington and Oregon.
- Certify the transportation elements of comprehensive plans adopted by counties, cities and towns within the region conform with the requirements of RCW 36.70A.070 [Growth Management Act of 1990].
- Provide citizens, affected public agencies, representatives of transportation departments and other interested parties with a reasonable opportunity for comment and participation in the regional transportation program
- Develop a Regional Transportation Plan that serves as the region’s principal long-range transportation planning document. The RTP is the result of a comprehensive planning process among jurisdictions and establishes regional transportation policy, while recommending a balanced program of modal investments to meet future transportation system needs. The federally required plan must look 20 years to the future and be updated every 4 years.
- Develop a Transportation Improvement Program that includes a four-year project list of all federally funded and regionally significant state and local transportation projects within Clark County. The TIP prioritizes and programs funding for the set of projects to be implemented in each of the next four years. Projects in the TIP must be identified in the RTP or be consistent with the RTP project categories of preservation, maintenance, safety, freight, bike/pedestrian, and transportation system management strategies. All federally funded and WSDOT transportation projects must be programmed in the TIP in order to be eligible for the receipt of funds.
- Conduct a continuing Congestion Management Process as defined in federal regulation and serves as a systematic process that provides for safe and effective integrated management and operation of the multimodal transportation system. RTC’s CMP is collaboratively developed and implemented as an integral part of the metropolitan planning process. The CMP provides a wide range of transportation system data to help guide the investment of transportation funds toward improving congestion.
- Develop a Unified Planning Work Program that identifies the transportation planning activities in response to the region’s policies and issues, and in compliance with federal and state transportation planning requirements. The annual work program is developed in cooperation with local agencies, WSDOT, and C-TRAN. The UPWP is required in order for the region to be eligible to receive federal and state transportation planning funds.