We could see this coming. What with all the new funding for transportation and carbon emissions legislation passed in the last year. That includes The Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Bill (commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill) and The Inflation Reduction Act which includes some parts of Build Back Better, is due to be passed this Friday. There are now going to be necessary changes to Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission’s 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan to incorporate the new funding streams. We are entering a public participation phase when we can address NWA RPC directly and tell them what we want. We can ask for money to build passenger rail, help Ozark Regional Transit Authority buy recharge equipment for battery electric buses. Install recharge equipment for private Electric Vehicles and so on.
As far as ORTA goes, I want to be super clear. ORTA stills needs, and must have, local dedicated funding. If we voters provide a quarter cent sales tax from the four cities that will make ORTA eligible for more Federal and state funding. All the better if Washington and Benton Counties kick in another quarter cent. Therefore we must elect JP’s (if you are new to the area, in Arkansas County Court Commissioners and Justice of the Peace are combined into one office), city council members, school board members, state representatives, state senators, Governor, Lt. Governor, Commissioner of State Lands, and other high ranking state offices to make sure money from the Federal government goes to its intended purpose. In our case we want money for transportation to go to transit and not more highway or county jail expansion. You can count on this money being misapplied if we don’t vote in a responsible government in November. Register and vote. I will try to publish the platforms for all the candidates who will respond to us.
I will share three documents I received from NWA RPC that are relevant to the changes caused by new funding. The first document on the Metropolitan Transportation Plan gives us the dates and email address you need. “PUBLIC HEARING AND COMMENT PERIOD: In accordance with NWARPC’s Public Participation Plan (PPP), a public hearing will be held during the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting on Thursday, August 18, 2022. A 30-day public comment period will follow, which will begin on Friday, August 19, 2022 and run until 5:00 pm Monday, September 19, 2022. Written comments are encouraged via email, sent to email@example.com. The RPC/Policy Committee will consider the amendment and comments received following the 30-day public comment period.”
Here is the first document that announces the planned changes that includes the above information plus why the expanded funding needs to be accounted for.
There are going to be two amendments to 2045 MTP. Here is the document detailing Amendment One. Interestingly NWA is referred to as Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers-AR-MO Urbanized Area. That’s new to me. But does reflect NWA’s status as a mini-mega region since we spill over into Missouri though we also spill over into Oklahoma too. The Amendment includes alternate fueling resources including electric recharge stations and hydrogen refueling stations. Here is Amendment #1 for you to look over.
The other amendment is to the Transportation Improvement Program. It looks like we are working with the state of Missouri on employing workers. The change in funding changes the number of workers we employ in cooperation with Missouri. I have written about the need for Arkansas to join an Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. We functionally have one with Missouri now except it doesn’t cover passenger rail. But it could. Here is the public comment statement from the document:
“PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD: In accordance with NWARPC’s Public Participation Plan (PPP), a two-week public comment period for the proposed TIP Amendment #5 will begin on Monday, August 8, 2022 and run until 5:00 pm Monday, August 22, 2022. Written comments are encouraged via email, sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The proposed amendment and comments received will be considered by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on Thursday, August 18, 2022 and by the RPC/Policy Committee on Wednesday, August 24, 2022.”
Note that the email address for public comments is the same. Below is the document for Amendment #5.
I will try to gather more information so ORBTS can recommend specifically what we can effectively ask for. But for now you all need to know this is a thing. More to come.