The Plain Dealer by Ginger Christ
November 10th, 2016
CLEVELAND, Ohio – President-elect Donald Trump’s infrastructure plans leave an unclear road ahead for the future of transportation in Ohio.
In late October, Trump released an infrastructure plan that calls for a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure over the next decade. However, that investment largely would come from private sector buy-in, as opposed to direct federal funding to the states.
Under Trump’s plan, private investors would receive tax credits to incentivize them to invest in infrastructure projects with revenue streams (like bridge or highway tolls). That part of the plan would limit projects to only those with revenue streams.
The resulting investment would come at no ultimate cost to the government because the tax revenues generated from the wages and profits from the projects would neutralize the money awarded in tax credits, according to Trump’s plan.
How that plan will translate into infrastructure development for Ohio’s public transit and highway systems still is being broken down.
Trump’s plan puts a heavy focus on private partnerships and private investment, which could change how infrastructure projects move forward at the state level. It’s unclear still how exactly that plan will play out, but if it means additional investment, the Ohio Department of Transportation is ready.
Were a windfall of funds to come Ohio’s way – or a private interest in state infrastructure – ODOT has a long list of projects awaiting financial backing.
Its Transportation Review Advisory Council, or TRAC, has 86 projects on its waiting list, 28 of which are considered Tier 1 projects ready for construction.
“If additional funds were made available from the federal government, we would turn first to that list,” said Matt Bruning, ODOT press secretary.
The TRAC list allows ODOT to break projects down into three categories: those advancing for construction, those under development and those that are multi-component projects, such as the Inner Belt Bridge project in Cleveland, that are developed in stages.
“We have never sent money back to Washington. When they come around with extra money, we say, ‘Absolutely,’” Bruning said. “We always have something in our back pocket ready to go, because we certainly don’t want to send any money back.”