The Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission (BHJ MPC) is an Interstate Planning Commission that undertakes both the Metropolitan Transportation Planning needs for the Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH Urbanized Area, and the Regional Planning and Development Activities for West Virginia Region 11. Designated as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH Metropolitan Area, the BHJ MPO Planning Area encompasses a bi-state Appalachian area situated in the upper most region of the Ohio River Valley. The area is comprised of Brooke and Hancock counties found in the uppermost part of West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle and Jefferson County located in eastern Ohio. As such, the BHJ MPO strives to fulfill the federal Metropolitan Transportation Planning requirements of the most current authorized surface transportation legislation, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, 2015 (FAST Act). The Brooke-Hancock Regional Planning and Development Council (BH RPDC), established and organized by West Virginia Code 8-25, is responsible for the comprehensive planning and development activities within West Virginia Region 11 bounded by the geographic area of Brooke and Hancock counties.
The BHJ MPC serves three major functions:
- fulfill the metropolitan planning requirements of the most current federal surface transportation legislation known as FAST Act,
- advocate and partnering with the people of Appalachia and creates self-sustaining economic development and improves quality of life, and
- promote collaboration and innovation that strengthens the region’s physical and human resources for success in a global economy.
Ongoing administrative challenges facing BHJ MPC in the coming years are:
- Sustain and Expand Local Leadership on the Executive Board, Technical Advisory Committee, and Transportation Study Policy Committee. Through public outreach, the Executive Committee, and staff has and will continue to seek participation of all elected officials to share in the regional decision-making process.
- Engage Citizens with Public Involvement Techniques for Effective Decision-Making. Effective communication of project planning improves accountability and the value of scarce dollars spent for construction or program implementation. Such techniques could range from working directly with a collaborative task force or involving interested citizens on decision and policy bodies. Other methods may include creating substantive public information materials and media strategies through face-to-face interviews and briefings to an up to date web site or other social media outlets such as Facebook© and LinkedIn©.
- Maintain a Skilled-Workforce through Training and Technology. Create a working environment where staff is encouraged to share their individual skills and knowledge wherever possible and continue working with university “Coop” programs to develop the planners of the future. The BHJ MPC has always strived to acquire the newer computer hardware and software for specialized planning applications such as Geographic Information Systems, traffic counting and micro-simulation modeling tools. BHJ MPC must continue to present its workforce with training opportunities through online webinars and on-site workshops, as well as regional, statewide, and national planning and training conferences when practical.
- Limited Construction Allocations and Program Delivery. The BHJ MPO has a limited Ohio MPO sub-allocation budget for construction and planning projects. Construction and planning needs have surpassed available federal fund amounts. Challenges at the local sponsorship level range from a lack of local matching funds due to a downturn in local economy, increased engineering costs for environmental assessments, and an overall project construction costs.