With 1,207 miles of roads to maintain, with demands for trails, sidewalks and safer routes to school, and not enough money to do it all, Humboldt County Public Works Director Tom Mattson and Redwood Community Action Agency’s Natural Resources Division Co-Director Jen Rice were ready for creative solutions to tackle these challenges. With a grant from the Caltrans Environmental Justice Program, the County and Redwood Community Action Agency went to work to develop another tool to help communities overcome unfunded transportation needs and improve access to markets, services, jobs, school, and public lands by all modes of surface travel.
The Rural Transportation & Access Partnership, RTAP, is a new program that enables the County to match their support with community-driven initiative for projects located within County right-of-way (and have willing landowner support if adjacent property is involved).
”The types of projects eligible for RTAP could include street or road improvements, pedestrian and bicycle projects, safer routes to schools or transit, fixing drainage problems, all kinds of things we can’t get to with current funding constraints,” Mattson said. “It can take a lot of years to work our way down the list getting priority projects to construction, so this will help community members help us get to the project that is important in their neighborhood sooner.” He added, “this is a can-do kind of place, and our intention was to create a can-do kind of program to go with that community gumption.”
A ‘match’ provided by residents or community organizations in unincorporated areas of Humboldt County could potentially encompass a range of options including materials like gravel or asphalt, donations, and planning or engineering services, and would depend on the specifics of each project and how much support the County has available to see the project through to completion – usually in the form of staff and equipment time.
Mattson noted that the RTAP will also help the County be more competitive for grant programs. “When a neighborhood can document strong support for a project, get community organizations and individuals to pitch in to help it forward, and meet us part way, that makes a grant application much more attractive to funders.”
The Garberville Town Square project is highlighted as a “case study” in the RTAP Guide being mailed out to community organizations across Humboldt County this week. Partially complete, the Town Square is an example of a community-driven infrastructure project that was initiated before RTAP was in place, where the community raised money and materials to make it happen. Lacking a mechanism for County involvement, it has taken ten years for partial completion.
The RTAP program works in several phases, starting with an application submitted by a community organization or resident(s). If the application is accepted, and after some consultation about design with Public Works staff, a full proposal will be solicited by County staff. Each year, one or a small number of priority projects meeting RTAP criteria will be selected for implementation, depending on available County support. The program is designed to allow a flexible approach tailored to the needs of each community and project as well as to existing or available resources.
For more information about the RTAP, go to http://co.humboldt.ca.us/pubworks/rtap.asp or call 445-7421 to request a copy of the RTAP Guide.