By Mike Borger
Published in This Week Community News
Rural communities often face unusual challenges when it comes to staffing and funding requirements to complete crucial planning activities while developing important transportation projects.
Through the Central Ohio Rural Planning Organization, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is working closely with rural members to build trust and ensure they are receiving the support and guidance necessary to help them make these important improvements.
Recognizing that many of Ohio’s rural counties were not being serviced by a regional planning body, the Ohio Department of Transportation funded a pilot program with five multicounty planning organizations to conduct regional transportation planning within the state’s rural counties.
The pilot program was developed in coordination with local stakeholders, Ohio metropolitan planning organizations and ODOT. This program laid the groundwork for the development of regional transportation planning organizations – a type of rural planning organization that existed in other states but was new to Ohio. Once Gov. John Kasich formalized the RTPOs and after years of collaboration, strategic planning and stakeholder engagement, MORPC developed CORPO as Ohio’s sixth RTPO.
Since its inception, CORPO and its seven rural county members of Fairfield, Knox, Madison, Marion, Morrow, Pickaway and Union have come a long way. MORPC has developed numerous CORPO-related committees and working groups and has added CORPO as a committee of its commission.
CORPO now has a diverse portfolio of stakeholder- and member-driven planning products, including the region’s first rural-focused long-range transportation plan and a rural transportation improvement program, as well as continued assistance for its members through many planning-related projects. CORPO continues to be a voice, catalyst and facilitator of important regional conversations on behalf of their rural members.
Most recently, with guidance and funding from ODOT, CORPO was able to make available just under $1 million for infrastructure and planning projects to its members through a competitive CORPO Dedicated Funds application process – another first and important milestone for the rural regions in central Ohio. CORPO received numerous applications, and the committee ultimately funded six transportation-related projects.
Notably, during the project evaluation process, CORPO members came together to elevate the village of Richwood’s application. Fellow applicants partnered with one another to suggest forfeiting a portion of their own potential funding amounts to help fund a multiuse path in the village. When completed, this project will make it possible for elderly, mobility-challenged and residents living in poverty to have better access food and services. This, after all, is why we planners do the work that we do, and it was inspiring to see.
Development of an updated CORPO transportation plan is underway and is expected to be completed in summer of 2023. If you would like to learn about or get involved in the work CORPO does or to talk about how CORPO might benefit your community, go to morpc.org/committees/corpo/.
Mike Borger is a program manager at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. MORPC’s purpose is to bring communities of all sizes and interests together to collaborate on best practices and plan for the future of the region.