The Bryan/College Station Metropolitan Planning Organization's policy board approved a resolution Wednesday in support of the creation of a regional mobility authority, which is being explored as a way to help address Brazos County's mounting transportation needs.
The regional mobility authority, or RMA, concept also has received support from the College Station and Bryan city councils. If county commissioners give their seal of approval, a petition will be submitted to the Texas Transportation Commission for consideration.
Doug Bramwell, senior vice president of surveying with Jones|Carter Engineering, told the policy board in a presentation that the TTC and Texas Department of Transportation would then consider the petition and, upon a successful review, issue a minute order to create the RMA. After accepting the order, the county would then form a board of directors, with the presiding officer being appointed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Mobility in Brazos County is "becoming difficult and time-consuming," Bramwell said, and creating an RMA would give the region another tool to help solve those transportation issues through identifying new funding sources and taking new approaches toward developing projects.
An RMA is a regionally focused political subdivision focused on transportation implementation, whereas the MPO handles planning. Bramwell describes it as "district within a district," as it would work with the 10-county TxDOT Bryan District. RMAs don't have taxing authority but do have eminent domain power.
While the RMA would primarily focus on Brazos County, its boundaries could later be expanded to include adjacent counties.
In addition to roadway infrastructure improvements, the RMA also could implement aviation and cyclist and pedestrian projects, parking facilities, toll roads, public transportation, bridges, railways or a number of other initiatives.
The RMA could also seek funding from a number of different sources; gifts, grants, issuing bonds, receiving loans and other contributions are all options. Bramwell said this would allow more funding to come into the district for construction.
The average commuter in the Bryan-College Station area spent an extra 16 hours in traffic in 2016 thanks to congestion, up from 12 hours in 2007. Transportation consultant Dennis Christiansen told the policy board that while an RMA would be "far from a perfect alternative" and not the solution to all of the county's transportation problems, it would allow the county to pursue more projects.
"It's clear that more infrastructure is a part of what we need, and it's also clear that city budgets and county budgets don't have the kind of money by themselves that's gonna address those needs," Christiansen said. "And if we keep doing what we're doing at the level that we're doing, we just get worse every year."