According to GS 136-211 (b), an RPO must consist of at least three contiguous counties with a population of at least 50,000 people. Isothermal RPO consists of three counties in Western North Carolina: McDowell, Polk and Rutherford counties with 132,845 in population.
An RPO consists of an administrative entity which provides the professional staff to the RPO, a Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC) composed of local staff from member governments and agencies and a Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) made up of elected and appointed officials.
In 2000, the State of North Carolina recognized the need for more coordinated transportation planning in rural North Carolina areas not within an MPO. Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs) were developed in response to Senate Bill 1195 by enacting amended General Statute 136, Article 17 which directed NCDOT to develop a plan to establish RPOs. NCDOT completed its report in early 2001, and 20 RPOs were established between 2001 and 2003. As defined in 136-66.210, an RPO is “a voluntary organization of local officials formed through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work cooperatively with the Department to plan rural transportation systems and to advise the Department on rural transportation policy”.
The boundaries of an RPO may coincide with, but not overlap the limits of a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) or another RPO.
- GS 136-212 identifies four primary duties for RPOs:
- Developing, in cooperation with the Department (NCDOT), long-range, local and regional multimodal transportation plans;
- Providing a forum for public participation in the transportation planning process;
- Developing and prioritizing suggestions for transportation projects the organization believes should be included in the State’s Transportation Improvement Program (STIP); and
- Providing transportation-related information to local governments and other interested organizations and persons.