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Franklin Co. to form RPO

January 22, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Franklin County Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved an agreement to form a Rural Planning Organization (RPO) with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to allow greater local input for planning road and bridge projects.

Until Thursday, the county was the only one in Pennsylvania that was not part of either an RPO or a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), said Michael Gismondi, a financial and contract manager for PennDOT. There are seven RPOs and 15 MPOs in the state, he said.

Franklin and Adams counties are the only ones with individual RPOs, Gismondi said.

"The department has been looking to establish this relationship with the county," Gismondi said. "It's going to really enable you to have an active role in planning."

PennDOT spends about $20 million a year on transportation projects in the county, County Planning Director Phil Tarquino said. A number of people have expressed interest in serving in the organization, which will likely have about nine members, he said.

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The creation of the RPO includes $66,000 in funding for administration - 80 percent from federal government and 10 percent each from the state and county.

The organization will be made of people from different areas of the county and different interests "to bring a broad perspective to the organization," Senior Planner Sherri Clayton said. "They're going to look what's on the TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan) and what new projects could be considered for addition to the TIP and those will depend on what funding is available."

The current TIP projects for the county are mostly for road maintenance, and bridge maintenance and repair. "There is no significant funding for added capacity projects," such as new or widened roads," Clayton said.

While PennDOT has about $1.3 billion budgeted for transportation projects in 2009-10, the department recently complied another $1.5 billion in "candidate" projects to be paid for through the federal economic stimulus package. That included about $9.5 million to resurface two sections of U.S. 30 totaling about $12 miles.

The biggest transportation issue facing the county is the need to improve Interstate 81, said Commissioner Bob Thomas. The RPO, however, will not be involved with the interstate, which is handled by PennDOT in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration.

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