What are Regional Mobility Authorities (RMA) and What do They do for Texas?

What are Regional Mobility Authorities (RMA) and What do They do for Texas?

Benefits of an RMA

  • Serves as a tool to help solve transportation problems by bringing new funding sources and new approaches for developing projects
  • Provides local governments more control in transportation planning
  • Helps build transportation projects sooner, which brings traffic congestion relief faster
  • Improves mobility and increases safety for motorists
  • Generates revenue for necessary transportation projects
  • Coordinates with a wide range of state, federal, and private entities

What is an RMA?

The first RMA was created in Central Texas in 2002. Since then, eight more have been created with the most recent being the Webb County RMA near Laredo. RMAs function as regionally-focused transportation development and implementation authorities with oversight from the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) and are authorized by Chapter 370 of the Texas Transportation Code.

Six of the nine RMAs are single county entities, while the remaining three span 2, 4, and 12 counties, respectively. The TTC’s philosophy toward RMAs is to encourage local control for the development and operation of transportation facilities in a region, while ensuring safety and accountability. RMAs accomplish this effort through the functions of financing, design, construction, operation, and maintenance, primarily, of roadway projects.

Unlike other authorities however, RMAs can support work on all types of transportation projects including roadways, aviation, transit, port, and rail, for both tolled and non-tolled facilities. RMAs typically target congestion reduction, but in more rural areas they are likely to target connectivity projects. The nine RMAs in Texas all function differently; there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Key Elements of an RMA

Creation

  • County Commissioners court must authorize the creation of an RMA
  • Petitions for creation must include:
    • A description of how the RMA would improve mobility in the region
    • A description of a potential candidate transportation project or system of projects the RMA may undertake depending on study outcomes
    • A commitment by the RMA to be responsible for identifying all environmental permit issues and commitments, obtaining all required environmental permits, and other required environmental approvals
    • A brief description of any other transportation projects the petitioner is currently considering to be developed by the RMA
    • The representation criteria and appointment process for board members

Governance

  • The RMA is governed by an odd number of board of directors
  • The presiding officer is appointed by the governor
  • The remaining members are appointed by the county commissioners court or city council
  • The terms are limited to two years and members may be reappointed
  • The board members cannot be elected officials or government employees

Coordination

  • RMAs are expected to coordinate with participating counties, cities, TxDOT, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPS), and other significant public agencies
  • RMA strategic projects should be included in an MPOs long-term plans. In most cases, the RMA is represented at the region’s MPO on either the policy board or technical advisory committee

Funding

  • RMAs can generate financing through:
    • Federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans
    • TxDOT-based financial assistance agreements
    • State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) loans
    • Transportation reinvestment zones (TRZs) funding
    • Bonds based on local specialty taxes
    • Inter-local agreements (bill back to MPOs, counties, and cities for planning and administrative support services)
    • Comprehensive development agreement (CDA) as limited by Senate Bill 792

Reporting and Oversight

  • RMAs submit yearly financial and project delivery information to local governments, financiers, TxDOT, and TTC
  • Financial reports will include balance sheet, statement of revenues and expenses, and a cash flow statement
  • Project delivery information will include project costs, annual budget, and strategic plans

More detailed descriptions can be found in the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s publication, “Regional Mobility Authorities in Texas: History and Current Status.”