In early March, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) unveiled their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Television news programs, newspapers and trade magazines covered the announcement for a few days and provided plenty of highlights. Within a week or so, the coverage tapered off and, as so often happens, the story receded in the public consciousness. It should not. ASCE has given us a call to action.
The ASCE Infrastructure Report Card is updated every four years and assigns simple A to F letter grades that provide a revealing look at the progress – or lack of progress – in sustaining America’s infrastructure. The Report Card is comprehensive, evaluating roads and bridges as well as transit, rail, dams, levees, inland ports, aviation and other major infrastructure categories. Additionally, ASCE provides an overview and comparison of the same infrastructure categories for individual states.
In the weeks ahead, OCIA will drill deeper into the 2017 Report Card, taking a closer look at ASCE’s assessment of roads and bridges throughout America and here in Ohio. ASCE’s Surface Transportation Infrastructure Infographic, is a good place to start. Based on data from the Report Card, the Infographic demonstrates how road conditions and a lack of adequate highway funding affect all of us as motorists and users of public transportation. It also offers specific solutions for improvement. Here are the highlights:
The takeaway point: Investment in surface transportation is not keeping up with America’s needs. Despite estimated funding $941 billion, total needs exceed $2 trillion resulting in a $1.1 trillion investment gap.
ASCE proposes the following solutions to improve conditions and ultimately raise the grades:
The ASCE recommendations are comprehensive, pragmatic and bold. They have to be. The deterioration of America’s infrastructure didn’t happen overnight but progressed gradually over many years. Reversing the situation will require major initiatives operating in unison: increasing revenue, investing in infrastructure at federal, state and local levels, and managing the investment wisely. America needs a call to action. The ASCE Infrastructure Report Card provides one that is loud and clear.
2017 will be a near-record construction season for Ohio – for the second year in a row! The Ohio Department of Transportation will invest $2.3 billion in roads and bridges across the state, nearly surpassing the $2.4 billion investments made in 2014 and 2015.
The construction season will include 1,098 projects with 26 considered Major Projects valued at more than $10 million each. Throughout the year, construction workers will pave 6,945 miles of roadway and repair or replace 1,281 bridges.
In keeping with ODOT’s plan for “Taking Care of What We Have”, 93% of the year’s construction investment is dedicated to preserving the existing transportation system while 7% is allocated toward enhancing capacity.
ODOT is also focused squarely on safety with 191 projects planned to make Ohio roadways safer. Safety is always a priority and becomes even more important as traffic deaths trend upward in the state.
ODOT’s effort helps Ohio continue to strive for excellence in its transportation infrastructure. A safe, well-maintained and uncongested system of highways and bridges is something that every resident and visitor traveling through Ohio should be able to count on.
Read the full text of ODOT’s news release, “ODOT kicks off another near-record year of construction”.
The Ohio House and Senate passed a $7.8 billion transportation bill this week after lawmakers removed $48 million earmarked for local infrastructure projects and $30 million for public transit. The two-year transportation budget will now go to Gov. John Kasich’s office for his signature.
The transportation budget is separate from the state’s main operating budget and provides funding for ODOT, the Department of Public Safety, the Public Works Commission and the Development Services Agency. The new transportation budget bill includes several fee increases and modifications as well as a pilot program to test the effect of variable speed limits on traffic congestion.
All of these measures will help increase Ohio’s transportation revenue. They may also help ease traffic congestion and utilize existing highways more efficiently. However, they still do not address the biggest highway funding issue. The new transportation bill does not offer long-term solutions to replace shrinking motor fuel tax revenue.
The state gas tax has stood at 28 cents-per-gallon for more than ten years. But with fuel efficiency increasing and more cars powered by electricity or natural gas, the annual revenue generated by the gas tax has declined. Additionally, because of inflation, each dollar of gas tax revenue buys much less today than 20 or 30 years ago. The result is inadequate long-term funding for Ohio’s infrastructure.
The original Senate version of the transportation bill allocated an additional $48 million from existing gas tax revenue to counties and municipalities for local road and bridge projects. But according to the Ohio Department of Transportation, using the money for that purpose could have a negative effect on the state’s ability to leverage federal dollars. As part of the House-Senate compromise, the additional $48 million for local infrastructure was removed from the final bill.
Despite that legislative compromise, the budget negotiations clearly recognized the revenue needs of Ohio’s local communities. According to a Cleveland.com article, Senate President Larry Obhof said lawmakers could find other opportunities to increase funding for local transportation projects as well as public transit. And the Columbus Dispatch noted that Obhof has asked the Senate Ways and Means Committee to start hearings on alternatives to the gas tax for raising revenues to fix roads and bridges. This is an important step toward Ohio’s future. Finding additional or alternative sources of transportation funding is critical to ensuring the long-term health of our infrastructure. And right now is the perfect time to begin the conversation!
On January 24, 2017, U.S. Senate Democrats released a comprehensive proposal titled A Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) helped draft the proposal which “would make a historic $1 trillion federal investment to modernize our crumbling infrastructure and create more than 15 million jobs that our economy desperately needs.”
Although national in scope, the Blueprint to Rebuild proposal has great significance for Ohio as well. Our state has one of the nation’s largest interstate systems and a major public transit network that would benefit from nationwide investment in infrastructure.
In a 1/24 news release, Senator Brown shared specifics from the national Blueprint to Rebuild and highlighted several priorities for Ohio that could be addressed through the new proposal. He addressed the subject further in the 2/1 edition of the Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune. Here are the main points:
The plan would apply Buy America rules to all taxpayer-funded public works and infrastructure projects to ensure that American tax dollars support American materials and jobs. For example, several companies such as ArcelorMittal, AK Steel and Nucor make steel in Ohio that can build and re-build bridges throughout the state.
The plan calls for $210 billion for road and bridge repairs and $200 billion for a Vital Infrastructure Program (VIP), which would direct money toward projects of critical national significance. While high-profile projects such as the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati come immediately to mind, there are also thousands of road miles and hundreds of bridges throughout rural Ohio that need to be rebuilt or repaved.
The plan calls for $110 billion to modernize outdated water and sewer systems. Dozens of Ohio communities struggle to repair outdated sewer systems that contaminate our rivers, lakes and drinking water. A recent report to Congress noted that Ohio needs at least a $14 billion investment in its clean water systems over the next 20 years.
The plan calls for $130 billion to replace and expand rail and bus systems. Sixty percent of Ohio’s buses will need to be replaced over the next 10 years at a cost of $750 million. And Cleveland’s rail system alone would require $400 million to replace its fleet of rail cars and repair its tracks.
The plan includes $100 billion to address affordable housing challenges, eliminate blighted properties that bring down local property values, and remediate lead hazards that put children at risk of lead poisoning.
The plan includes $75 billion to help modernize America’s schools without burdening local taxpayers.
The infrastructure challenges facing the nation and our own state of Ohio are immense but not insurmountable. The Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure will do much to start a national conversation. Ultimately, progress will result from a true bipartisan effort in Congress, collaboration between Congress and the President, and a disciplined approach to infrastructure investment.
The future condition of Ohio’s infrastructure is important business. The subject should concern every citizen who relies on our roads and bridges for daily commuting, shopping and recreation. Ultimately, the goal is to have a sustainable method of highway funding that Ohio can count on for the long term. But whether the best solution involves a single funding method or a combination of different mechanisms, now is the time to determine how Ohio will pay its way for a first rate transportation system that will meet today’s needs – and tomorrow’s.
Important goals for Ohio Highway Funding
Consider this scenario: A $0.05 annual increase in the Ohio Motor Fuel Tax for 3 years that would be distributed to provide extra funding to local communities on the front end.
A 15-cent motor fuel tax increase phased in as described would generate approximately $2 billion over the first 3 years and $960 million annually in subsequent years. The 15¢ increase would cost the average vehicle owner approximately $112 per year – only about $2 per week!
With $5.6 billion in ODOT Major Projects currently unfunded and extensive capital needs for local projects throughout the state, $2 billion of additional revenue in the short term would provide a welcome boost. And just as important, an extra $960 million per year would help create a sustainable method of funding Ohio’s roads and bridges well into the 21st century.
Learn More About It!
To learn more about highway funding in Ohio and how transportation revenues are used, spend a few minutes with Ohio Highway Funding – Paying Our Way. Time well spent for sure!
Any discussion about the future of Ohio transportation funding must include a word about the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015. The FAST Act is a five-year, $305 billion measure that provides $286 billion for the nation’s federal highway and transportation programs. Under the FAST Act, Ohio will receive $8.77 billion over the next five years to invest in highway improvement. Unfortunately, the FAST Act fails to address the Highway Trust Fund’s permanent structural revenue deficit. As a result, the stability provided by the FAST Act will be short-lived. Without remedial action by Congress, another revenue shortfall will impact Ohio’s construction program as early as 2019.
With no provision for long term transportation funding at the federal level, it is clear that any significant revenue growth for Ohio highway construction will be driven at the state level. Now is the time to consider some options.
At the state level, the Ohio motor fuel tax has stood at $0.28 for more than a decade. And while the funding it provides has remained flat, construction and maintenance costs have increased from year to year. In fact, things that cost $1.00 in 2006 cost $1.56 today and ODOT projects 3-4% inflation per year in the future. However, with sensible adjustments for inflation, the state gas tax remains the strongest method of increasing transportation revenue in Ohio.
Supplemental fee mechanisms are also needed to ensure that owners of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles pay their fair share for highway use as well. This becomes more important each year as the penetration of hybrid and electric autos increases. And as conventional automobiles continue to become more fuel efficient, additional revenue streams will be needed to supplement the motor fuel tax in the future. Methods ranging from to user fees based on Vehicle Miles Traveled to vehicle registration fees and other local funding options are all worthy of discussion.
With the FAST Act providing some revenue stability for the next few years, now is the time to discuss the future of Ohio transportation funding. Now is the time to plan! To learn more about current conditions, funding choices and how other states are meeting the transportation revenue challenge, check out Ohio Highway Funding – Paying Our Way.
Many Ohioans would like to know more about the revenue sources that fund our roads and bridges. Most people understand that a gas tax is included in the price per gallon that we pay at the pump. But how the entire highway revenue puzzle fits together is less clear for many. Let’s take a look.
Ohio has three primary sources for transportation funding: state highway revenue, federal highway revenue and bond revenue. State and federal highway revenues are the two largest components by far, providing 42% and 44% respectively of Ohio’s $3.017 billion total revenue for fiscal year 2016. Both are generated primarily from motor fuel taxes, commonly referred to as state and federal gas taxes. Additionally, bond revenues provide 9% and a combination of other state, federal and local government sources make up the remaining 5%.
At the federal revenue level, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) federal highway program apportionment for Ohio will range from approximately $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion annually from fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2021. While the FAST Act provides some short-term stability, it does not include a plan for sustainable long-term highway funding. Rather, it supplements the $0.184 per gallon federal motor fuel tax, which has been in place since 1993, with a one-time transfer from the General Fund.
At the state level, the Ohio gas tax will generate $1.163 billion for 2016. It provides more than 90% of the state highway revenue that ODOT receives for maintenance and improvement of Ohio’s surface transportation system.
Federal and State motor fuel tax revenues are further allocated between the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Local communities. Vehicle and Truck Registrations and Title Fees also make up a substantial portion of local revenues providing $494 million in fiscal year 2015.
To learn more about highway funding in Ohio and how transportation revenues are used, spend a few minutes with Ohio Highway Funding – Paying Our Way. Time well spent for sure!
Ohio is home to the 2nd largest inventory of bridges, 3rd largest commercial freight payload and the 4th largest interstate highway system in the nation. With nearly 122,000 road miles, more than 43,000 bridges, and Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) exceeding 112 billion miles annually, Ohio has a huge transportation infrastructure subject to continuous wear and tear. The impact on road and bridge conditions – and safety – is immense.
A total of 5,246 people lost their lives as a result of motor vehicle crashes in Ohio from 2011 through 2015, an average of 1,049 fatalities per year. In 2013, the fatality rate on Ohio’s non-Interstate rural roads was more than three times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state. Industry estimates suggest that roadway features are a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes. Appropriate improvements can reduce crashes and highway fatalities while improving traffic flow and helping to relieve congestion.
Traffic congestion causes significant delays in Ohio, especially in the larger urban areas, affecting both commuters and commerce. Congestion also adds significant costs to consumers, transportation companies, manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers and can reduce the attractiveness of a location for companies considering expansion or a new facility.
The current condition of Ohio’s massive transportation infrastructure clearly points to the need for more highway funding. Additional revenues will help Ohio rehabilitate or replace aging roads and bridges, help reduce vehicle crashes and highway fatalities, and provide for the system expansion needed to relieve traffic congestion.
Once again, the question is: How can we make these necessary improvements happen? Check out Ohio Highway Funding – Paying Our Way to learn more!
With 262,166 total road lane miles and more than 43,537 bridges, Ohio supports one of the largest and most active transportation systems in the United States. In fact, Ohio ranks 5th in total Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and freight volume is among the highest in the nation. Each year, $551 billion in goods are shipped to destinations in Ohio and another $587 billion in goods travel outbound from Ohio sites. Commercial trucking carries a majority of the load and, looking ahead, the freight volume moved by truck is expected to increase 67% by 2040.
The high volume of passenger vehicle and commercial freight traffic flowing through the state every day supports businesses, provides jobs and ultimately drives the economy. With this level of ongoing activity, Ohio deserves the safest and most up-to-date transportation system possible, one that meets today’s needs while preparing for the future.
But despite the high volume – and the promise of even greater capacity demands in the future – 90% of Ohio transportation funding is used for preservation rather than expansion. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and local communities across the state do an excellent job of maintaining the state’s existing roads and bridges. They work very hard at “making do” with available financial resources. But expanding the system is another matter. When it comes to planning and building a robust transportation network that will propel Ohio through the rest of the century, the assurance of adequate long-term funding simply isn’t there. In fact, based on revenue projections for 2016-2019, $5.6 billion in Major Projects remain unfunded.
With passage of the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” (FAST Act) in December 2015, Ohio transportation revenues will remain stable for the next few years. However, the FAST Act provides no plan for sustainable long term federal transportation funding. Without an increase in the federal Motor Fuel Tax or enactment of a new revenue source, the $14 billion annual shortfall inherent in the Highway Trust Fund will continue to grow. With this in mind, now is the right time for vigorous discussion about the future of Ohio’s transportation funding. And because revenue growth will be driven at the state level, it is also the right time to ask, “How will we pay our way?”
Check out Ohio Highway Funding – Paying Our Way to learn more about current conditions of Ohio’s transportation infrastructure and sensible strategies for meeting future needs.
As we move into late July, the lazy, hazy days of summer have certainly arrived. But we are still right in the middle of the vacation season and that means more highway traffic throughout Ohio. It is the perfect time to remind everyone to Slow Down and Move Over for all roadside workers. Ohio’s Move Over Law requires motorists to cautiously shift over one lane — or slow down if changing lanes is not possible — when passing any vehicle with flashing lights on the side of a road. Its purpose is to protect everyone who works on our roads and everyone who travels on them. This is a very easy rule to remember, but its importance cannot be overstated. Slow Down, Move Over is a lifesaver!
Check out the “Top 10 Reasons to Move Over” video below from the Ohio Department of Transportation. You can also learn more about Ohio’s Move Over law right here.