ODOT Lays Out $3 Billion In Contracts

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File photo(Photo: Flickr)
File photo(Photo: Flickr)

The Ohio Department of Transportation has released a draft transportation plan for new projects in early every part of the state.

The proposed transportation plan provides a $3 billion investment that’s expected to create at least 60,000 new jobs. One of the big projects planned is a $334 million investment to improve interstate access to a key part of Cleveland.

$440 million is being set aside for the Portsmouth bypass in Southeast Ohio, and another $107 million interchange in Southwest Ohio.

The plan also calls for millions of dollars to widen some roads throughout Ohio, including I-75 in northwest Ohio, I-80 in eastern Ohio, and the 70/71 spit in downtown Columbus.

The Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, Jerry Wray, says the projects chosen scored at the top of a process that took into account many different factors.

But he says that doesn’t mean the ones that were rejected were necessarily bad.

“There are tremendous needs all over the state and all of the projects that were requested and applied for have value,” Wray says.

“They have merit based on safety, congestions, opportunities for jobs and development and when you begin to score them , they have merit. However, the resources are finite. The resources, when I talk about that, a lot of people think about money but there’s also time in what it takes to develop a project.

“So even though we have a lot of money in the eyes of folks who are looking at the department of transportation, it’s still finite and our mission is enormous. There is so much that we are expected to do all around the state and there’s just not enough money to meet all of those wants and needs.”

The Northern part of Ohio gets a lot of new projects under this plan, and Wray says that’s because the $1.5 billion in bonds that will come from leasing the Ohio Turnpike.

“We’ve followed the same process we’ve always followed but the only thing is there is the opportunity for those projects that have a proposed nexus and are within 75 miles of the turnpike, there’s a better opportunity for them to get funding because there’s money that’s available to them.”

But an advocate for public transportation in Ohio says he’s disappointed this proposed budget plan.

Gene Krebs says the fact is the department’s long tern funding still depends on the gasoline tax that drivers pay. The problem, he says, is this budget ignores an important trend.

“The youth are simply, as a cohort, driving 23 percent less than previous generation groups. The Millenials, the Y generation coming through, drive about a quarter less than their parents did,” Krebs says.

“And that’s going to translate into two things….one, less traffic on the road but also it is going to translate into substantially less dollars for ODOT to spend because this is a state where the ODOT money comes from gasoline sold. So as everyone trades in Hummers for Hondas and the youth drive substantially less than their parents ever dreamed of doing, it’s all going to have a negative impact.”

Krebs says younger Ohioans favor public transportation, not driving. Yet this budget doesn’t contain any major public transportation projects. So what happens to this plan? Ohioans can find it on the transportation department’s website and make written comments on it up until the 16th of August.

After that time, the commission will get together again and use that input from the public to finalize the final transportation plan .